A ‘zombie fish’ which was declared extinct more than 20 years ago has left conservationists baffled after a colony of 66 of them were found in a lake in Victoria, Australia.
The southern purple-spotted gudgeon was declared extinct in 1998, but it would appear the species has now been brought back from the brink.
In 2019, scientists discovered two of the small, colourful fish in Middle Reedy Lake in the wetlands of Kerang. Two years on, and dozens more ‘mysterious’ fish have been uncovered in the dense reeds, thanks to the hard work of a group of experts.
Find out more in the following news clip:
The Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon Advisory Group was established following the initial discovery of the first two fish, comprised of experts from a wide variety of government departments and organisations.
As per a press release from North Central CMA, group chair Adrian Martins, from the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (DELWP), explained:
It was a big group because it had a big job to do. We were tasked with coming up with a plan that worked towards the long-term survival of the species, while enabling the reinstatement of Third Reedy Lake to a more natural state.
The drawdown of Third Reedy was put on hold, water for the environment was delivered to keep the water level stable, and the team then worked relentlessly to find out as much as we could about the distribution of fish in Third Reedy and other nearby waterways.
The group’s work threw up further surprises. A third southern purple gudgeon was quickly discovered at Third Reedy, while another three were found at Kangaroo Lake and eight at Racecourse Lake.
Astonishingly, a colony of 66 southern purple-spotted gudgeon fish were uncovered at Middle Reedy Lake, right by where the original fish were spotted.
We couldn’t believe it when we started finding so many at Middle Reedy.
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.
Further eDNA sampling will help the team work out if there are any other ‘zombie fish’ living further afield in the state.
A captive breeding program is now reported to be underway to ensure that the Southern Purple Spotted Gudegon remains protected, with funding from the Department of Environment, Water, and Planning’s Icon Species program.
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North Central CMA