‘Zombie fish’ makes comeback in Australia

The southern purple spotted gudgeon was thought to be extinct in Victoria but has now been found in several lakes in the Australian state.

The southern purple spotted gudgeon
The southern purple spotted gudgeon

A fish that was thought to have gone extinct in 1998 has been found alive and well.

The southern purple spotted gudgeon, native to parts of Australia, was declared extinct in Victoria more than 20 years ago, but two were found in Third Reedy Lake near the town of Kerang during a survey in late 2019.

That prompted further research, which turned up nearly 80 more in nearby lakes, including 66 in one – Middle Reedy Lake – alone.

“We couldn’t believe it when we started finding so many at Middle Reedy,” said Adrian Martins of the Victoria Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning.

“Most of our team have worked their whole lives dealing with the decline of threatened or endangered species, so to have an opportunity to be witnessing the opposite is something special.”

The fish was described as “Victoria’s zombie fish” by the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

The southern purple spotted gudgeon made a similar comeback in other parts of the country in the early part of the decade, when it was found in parts of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Scientists will now begin a captive breeding programme with some of the fish found in Victoria.

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