Rare or under recorded?
This common inshore fish can be difficult to identify in the wild due to the presence of 2 other similar dragonet species in Irish inshore waters, the common (Callionymus lyra) and spotted (Callionymus maculatus) both of which have much larger dorsal fins. The short black dorsal fin on a reticulated dragonet makes the species very easy to identify when extended (Fig 1.). Additionally, there is a distinctive saddle patterning on adult fish that can appear reddish with blue spots underwater (Fig 2).
However, these two species also highlight one of the issues with citizen science recording. As many identification books contain only the common dragonet, dragonets that have not been identified to species are often recorded erroneously as common, whereas the reticulated dragonet appears in books that state the difficulties in identifying dragonets in the field. Thus distribution maps show the common dragonet as being far more widespread than the reticulated despite them occurring in similar habitats and often at the same sites together.