Original story at Bush Telegraph
One of the oldest fish species in Australia that predates the breaking up of Gondwanaland, is under threat.
The salamander type fish is found in an isolated pocket of Western Australia in an area known as the Southern Acid Peat Flats, west of Albany.
The fish, and another minnow type fish, are under threat because of a drop in rainfall and the sudden appearance of an introduced pest.
Brad Pusey is a Research Professor at the University of Western Australia. He has been studying the fish for close to three decades.
He says the fish hibernate underground in sandy soil for up to seven months of the year.
‘The flat swamps fill up in winter when it rains and that’s when the two species, the lepidogalaxias salamandroides and the galaxiella nigrostriatus, surface,’ he said.
But Professor Pusey says the amount of rain falling in autumn is in decline, which is forcing the fish to stay underground in dry conditions for much longer.
If the fish are forced to stay underground for longer than seven months, it leads to higher mortality rates.
Adding to the fishes woes is the unexpected presence of an introduced fish.
‘For the first time we’ve found mosquito fish in the area which is a pest and responsible for decimating native fish around the world,’ Professor Pusey said.
Last month Professor Pusey and colleagues visited a particular section of the peat flats and at times struggled to find the two fish species.
He says at this stage they’re not sure if it’s because fish numbers have dropped or if they have always been less common in that section of the peat flats.