Scientists from the University of Melbourne have described 20 new species of fresh water fish from the Kimberley region in Western Australia.
The species were discovered between 2012 and 2014 during nine months of field work across 17 rivers. The new species fall within three distinct groups: 16 species of Terapontidae, 3 species of Eleotridae, and one species of Atherinidae. The scientists reported their findings in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.
Twelve of the species were discovered during a 3-week period in 2013 where scientists explored some of the most remote rivers in Western Australia. During this time, James Shelley of the University of Melbourne was attacked by a fresh water crocodile (he escaped unscathed).
One of the new species, a 25 cm long Terapontidae found in the remote Prince Regent River, is set to be named after writer and novelist Tim Winton.
“It’s in recognition of his contribution to Australia’s cultural life, his love of fish which shines through in many of his novels, and his staunch advocacy for conservation in the Kimberley,” said Shelley.
Mr Winton commented: “The Kimberley is a treasure that clearly requires more study and greater protection and groundbreaking discoveries like these underline just how much there is still to learn about this special region.”
Unfortunately the team also identified 55 species of fish that may be vulnerable to extinction. Most of these species are restricted to northern Australia, a climatically sensitive and poorly researched region on the verge of major development.
The other species will receive names reflecting the aboriginal area they were collected from or from distinctive physical characteristics.