By Garry Ogston
I approached the task of finding an Honours research topic and potential supervisors with trepidation; however, upon setting foot in the office of the Freshwater Fish Group, all nerves and fears were put aside. My supervisors for the research project, Dr Stephen Beatty, Dr David Morgan, and Dr Brad Pusey were everything one could hope for, supportive, informative, and always approached tasks with a good sense of humour. It also helps that two out of three were Freo supporters like myself.
Me sampling for salamanderfish in a roadside pool south of Northcliffe Western Australia (Photo: Stephanie Mugliston)
My Honours research aimed to determine how climate change has impacted on the aestivating fishes of the south-west of Western Australia, and how it would continue to do so into the future. One of my model species, the salamanderfish, soon became my favourite. I will never forget the excitement of pulling up a seine net and finding a salamanderfish for the first time. The salamanderfish itself may not be the most beautiful and brightly coloured freshwater fish, but if there is anything I have learned by studying it, it is just as fascinating as any other freshwater fish out there. From surviving in ephemeral acidic wetlands (pH of 3 – more acidic than wine!), to its ability to aestivate, its unique morphology (including its bizarre neck-bending ability), and its phylogenetic placement, the mystery of this species only deepens.
Typical salamanderfish habitat during the wet (top) and dry (bottom) seasons – displaying the ephemeral nature of the wetland
I was soon hooked and hoped to find more salamanderfish with each successive drag of the seine net. Unfortunately this was not always the case and one pull of the seine net turned into six, before moving on to the next wetland. My results painted a rather bleak view for the outlook of the enigmatic species, with large range reductions observed, predictor variables for presence directly linked to climate, and global climate models predicting a further drying within the region. I am hopeful however, that the findings from my research will allow for better management strategies to be implemented, as it would be a real shame if this fish was not around for future generations to admire and work with, like I have had the privilege.
Three female salamanderfish in a holding bucket prior to being measured
Ogston, G. (2015). Implications of climate change on the aestivating Salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides Mees and the Black-stripe Minnow, Galaxiella nigrostriata Shipway (Honours Thesis). Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia.
Editor’s note: Make sure you catch up with Garry at the upcoming ASFB conference in Sydney, despite him being a Freemantle supporter (Got your back Morgs).