The IPFC8 over, and number 9 probably located to Japan in 2011, it is soon time to bid farewell to Australia. Not much of fishes have we seen, but the Sydney Aquarium was interesting and had many fishes on exhibit both salt and fresh. I got my first closeup of a dugong, the real mermaid.
Saturday and Sunday I was invited by Heiko Bleher, famous in the aquarium world for travelling everywhere in the world in search of interesting freshwater fishes, to come along on a trip to photograph Lepidogalaxias salamandroides.
We had a nice journey from Fremantle south, guided by a map with likely localities already marked. Lepidogalaxias salamandroides is a very special fish. It is the only fish that can turn its head in different directions, just like humans can move the head relative to the neck. In the fish, this is accomplished by an extended distance between the anterior vertebrae, providing room for muscle movements otherwise impeded by the relatively stiff normal fish vertebral column. It is confined to, but not uncommon in a relatively narrow stretch of coastline in southwestern Western Australia, and more precisely to swamp regions that dry out in the summer, and carry water only in the winter. The fish aestivates buried in the ground, and comes out only when it rains. Generally in is the only species in the pools where it is found, along with some freshwater crayfish.
And, yes, we were quite successful in finding the salamander fish, south of Northcliffe (population 200, in the middle of nowhere), where it was in all roadside pools, over white sand bottom, in clear, red-coloured water, with a typical vegetation I do not know to name. In one place we found it together with Galaxiella nigrostriata, which is also a small species, but probably not able to aestivate. Heiko will make available images and detailed information elsewhere, in the meantime enjoy the exclusive habitat of the species.
Habitat of Lepidogalaxias salamandroides near Northcliffe, Western Australia.
Photo Sven O. Kullander. CC-BY-NC
Hello Sven, we may have met in Northcliffe in 2009? I was with Peter Unmack; Heiko was photographing what we thought was Galaxiella nigrostriata, it turned out to be Galaxiella munda. I just read your post and felt I had to comment. You mention that Galaxiella nigrostriata probably cannot aestivate – well actually it does. It lives in much the same habitats as Lepidogalaxias salamandroides and aestivates in the substrate, possibly entering through crayfish burrows. It has a slightly wider distribution than the salamanderfish, with remnant populations near Bunbury and just north of Perth. Galaxiella nigrostriata has been the subject of my Masters research for the last two years. I have recently completed experiments investigating their aestivation habits, by enclosing small areas with fine mesh lentocorrals within dry wetlands and collecting the capture fish after the wetland has begun to inundate. I am hoping to produce a manuscript on my results in the next 6-12 months.
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