Past and present ichthyological work in Central Australia.

Prior to 1894, only three species had been recorded from Central Australia. The Horn Expedition (Spencer 1896) was the first to investigate Central Australian fishes. It made a number of important observations including the lack of evidence for aestivation by desert fish and the importance of flooding for dispersal. Several new species were described and new records made of others. This expedition raised the number of species in Central Australia to ten, representing seven families.

In the years between 1894 and 1971, sporadic collecting raised the total number of native fish recorded to twenty-six species from nine families and three exotics from two families (Glover & Sim 1978a; 1978b). Detailed work on Central Australian fishes really only began when John Glover, the Curator of Ichthyology at the South Australian Museum (SAM) undertook studies on Central Australian fishes from 1967 until his death in 1992. He conducted many expeditions throughout Central Australia and made several new records and discoveries, including the fishes from Dalhousie Springs. In the last checklist of Central Australian fishes, Glover (1982) recorded 26 native species from 10 families and 4 exotic fish from 3 families. The total number of these still recognised today are twenty-two native and two exotic species respectively.

Several other workers have made, or are continuing to make contributions to Central Australian ichthyology. Hamar Midgley has irregularly sampled the larger Queensland Rivers and the Barkley Drainage since the late 1960's. Helen Larson, the Curator of Ichthyology at the Northern Territory Museum has sampled many of the drainages in the Northern Territory, adding several new records. Since 1986, Jim Puckridge from Adelaide University has been conducting a study of the fish community dynamics in relation to the hydrological regime at Coongie Lakes. Work has also been conducted since 1988 in the South Australian portion by Bryan Pierce from the South Australian Research and Development Institute. This includes further genetic analysis of fish populations, (independent of, though incorporating and expanding upon some of Glover's electrophoretic work) as well as the dynamics of fish populations, habitat assessment, management research, and other ecological work. Peter Unmack's investigations started in 1985, having since sampled most drainages and habitats in the Lake Eyre Drainage. Mark Adams from the SAM Evolutionary Biology Unit, and Terry Sim from the SAM Ichthyology Department, are continuing electrophoretic studies on Central Australian fishes initiated by John Glover. Rob Wager from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries-Fisheries, is presently involved in endangered species research at Edgbaston and Elizabeth Springs, as well as some broader survey work in Queensland. The only taxonomists to recently deal with fishes of the region were Lucy Crowley and Walter Ivantsoff from Macquarie University. Their atherinid studies have recognised several new species to central Australia.


Glover, C. J. M. 1982. Adaptations of fishes in arid Australia. In, Evolution of the Flora and Fauna of Arid Australia. Eds. Barker, W. R. & Greenslade, P. J. M., pp 241-246. Peacock Publications, Adelaide.

Glover, C. J. M., & Sim, T. C. 1978a. A survey of central Australian ichthyology. Australian Zoologist. 19(3): 245-256.

Glover, C. J. M., & Sim, T. C. 1978b. Studies on central Australian fishes: a progress report. South Australian Naturalist. 52(3): 35-44.

Spencer, B. 1896. The Horn Scientific Expedition to Central Australia. Dulace & Co., London.

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