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Fish Communities Mary River

Fish Communities Mary River

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Published by draculavanhelsing
Fish communities of the Mary River wetlands (Northern Territory)
Fish communities of the Mary River wetlands (Northern Territory)

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: draculavanhelsing on Nov 07, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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No: 31March 2002 
Fish Communities of the Mary River CoastalWetlands
Q. Allsop and P. de Lestang*, Fisheries Research, Darwin* Formerly DPIFM
The coastal, seasonally flooded wetlands of the Northern Territory are important habitats for many fishspecies. When the wetlands flood, a burst of primary production occurs as the huge amount of organicmatter, built up over the dry season, suddenly becomes available. The shallow depths and oftendensely vegetated areas of the wetlands prevent large predators from moving into the area (Lowe-McConnell, 1987). Thus the wetlands offer food, shelter and protection to a diverse suite of fish species(Bishop and Forbes, 1991). Seasonally flooded wetlands contain new habitats that reopen every year,and life history strategies of many fish have evolved to cope with these seasonal changes in theenvironment (Lowe-McConnell, 1987). Thus many species, such as barramundi and silver scats, timetheir spawning periods with the occurrence of the first floods, ensuring a productive and protectivehabitat and thus a greater survival rate for their young.The Mary River coastal wetlands are among the major seasonally inundated wetlands of the NorthernTerritory. These wetlands are situated 140 km east, north-east of Darwin, and cover an area of nearly1,300 km
. The Mary River freshwater wetlands are dominated by floral communities including largeareas of sedges, grasses and pockets of paperbarks,
spp.Over the last few years, funding from the Natural Heritage Trust has supported a Northern TerritoryFisheries Division study to investigate the fish communities of the Mary River coastal wetlands. Theproject officers caught, measured, identified and released over 13,000 fish, which represented 25families and 54 different species (Table 1) (de Lestang and Griffin, 1999; de Lestang, 2000, de Lestang,Griffin and Allsop, 2001). The study not only identified the fish community but also recorded a change inthe fish community over the duration of the wet season. Typically, the coastal wetlands of the MaryRiver are colonised at the beginning of the wet season by marine species such as barramundi, silverscats and mullet. When the wetlands are flooded, the rising waters re-link the inland permanent aquaticrefuges with the coastal wetlands (de Lestang, 2000). The maze of creeks and channels linking the twohabitats provides the means for the upstream, predominantly freshwater, species to move down ontothe coastal wetlands. Thus, as the wet season progresses, the composition of fish species changesfrom one dominated by marine fish to one representing a combination of both marine and freshwaterfish, that includes glassfish, rainbowfish and blue-eyes.Although a large number of fish species was identified across the Mary River coastal wetlands, a verysmall number was found to dominate the fish community which mainly included blue-eyes, barramundi,silver scats, mullet and rainbowfish. All these fish use the nutrient-rich wetlands not only as a refuge, butalso as a source of abundant food including, algae, insects and microcrustacea. Large areas ofsubmerged plants provide sites for laying eggs.
© Northern Territory Government, 2006 Page 2 of 9
Interestingly, the project did identify times during the wet season when the wetlands were not soproductive, and there were low numbers of fish. This happened mainly when there were very low levelsof dissolved oxygen that generally occur after the first rains, when organic material, washed into thestreams, decomposes. When there is an increase in biological oxygen demand, dissolved oxygendeclines rapidly and anaerobic bacteria proliferate (Griffin and de Lestang, 1998). This often leads to afish kill, when trapped fish suffocate.As more rains come, this deoxygenated water is flushed out to sea and the wetlands return to their well-known productive state.The results of this Natural Heritage Trust/DPIFM project have indicated that the coastal Mary RiverWetlands are an important habitat, supporting a large and diverse range of fish.
Mary RiverLoc. 1Loc. 2Loc. 3Loc. 4
Point Stuart
Figure 1.
Map showing approximate location of sampling sites
© Northern Territory Government, 2006 Page 3 of 9
Table 1.
Family, genus, species, common names and length ranges of fish identified along the wetlands
Family Genus species Common name Length range (mm)
Arius graeffei 
Blue catfish 85-389
Arius leptaspis 
Salmon catfish 85-391
Strongylura incisa 
Reef longtom 230-390
Strongylura kreffti 
Freshwater longtom 210
Lates calcarifer 
Barramundi 6-614
Ambassis agrammus 
Sailfin glassfish 6-45
Ambassis gymnocephalus 
Glassfish 15-52
Denariusa bandata 
Pennyfish 12-35
Chanos chanos 
Milkfish 325
Nematalosa erebi 
Bony bream 60-311
Elops hawaiensis 
Giant herring 218-295
Bostrychus sinensis 
Chinese gudgeon 30
Bostrychus zonatus 
Sunset gudgeon 22-26
Butis butis 
Crimson-tipped gudgeon 19-49
Hypseleotris compressus 
Empire gudgeon 12-66
Mogurnda mogurnda 
Purple spotted gudgeon 13-56
Oxuderces wirzi 
Peacock mudskipper 15-33
Oxyeleotris lineolata 
Sleepy cod 365
Prionobutis microps 
Small-eyed gudgeon 11-59
Gerres filamentosus 
Silver biddy 38
Chlamydogobius ranunculus 
Estuarine desert-goby 30-49
Mugilogobius mertoni 
Merton's mangrove goby 8-35
Mugilogobius platystomus 
Island mangrove-goby 21-31
Orange-spotted mudskipper 14-55
Redigobius bikolanus 
Speckled goby 16-24
Pomadasys kaakan 
Yellow finned javelinfish 15
Megalops cyprInoides 
Tarpon 15-357
Melanotaenia nigrans 
Black-banded rainbowfish 12-48
Melanotaenia splendida inornata 
Chequered rainbowfish 6-140
Liza alata 
Diamond mullet 23-580
Liza melinoptera 
Otomebora mullet 40-105
Liza tade 
Tade mullet 14-450
Squalomugil nasutus 
Pop-eye mullet 30-235
Valamugil engali 
Mullet 83-340
Valamugil buchanani 
Buchanan's mullet 78-122
Flathead 39-42
Neosilurus hyrtlii 
Hyrtl's catfish 71-170
Porochilus rendahli 
Rendahl’s catfish 115-132
Eleutheronema tetradactylum 
King threadfin salmon 16-185
Pseudomugil cyanodorsalis 
Blue-back blue-eye 11-31
Pseudomugil tenellus 
Delicate blue-eye 5-39
Scatophagus argus 
Spotted scat 20-30
Selenotoca multifasciatus 
Striped scat 4-112
Croaker 60
Sillago lutea 
Mud whiting 27-114
Brachirus selheimi 
Selheim’s sole 20-92
Ophisternon gutturale 
Single-gilled eel 74-94
Amniataba percoides 
Barred grunter 19-182
Amphitherapon caudovittata 
Flag-tailed grunter 13-172
Leiopotherapon unicolor 
Spangled perch 72-134
Therapon theraps 
Largescaled therapon 78
Terapon jarbua 
Crescent grunter 11-108
Marilyna meraukensis 
Marilyn’s mangrove pufferfish 9-128
Toxotes chatareus 
Common archerfish 78
25 Families 54 Species

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