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Surprise just-in-time find of tiny native fish

David Mills, March 29, 2021 6:45PM News Corp Australia Network

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Researchers Dion Lervais and Amy Russell check nets for southern purple spotted gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa) at Third Reedy Lake, Kerang, Victoria. Picture: Doug Gimesy media_cameraResearchers Dion Lervais and Amy Russell check nets for southern purple spotted gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa) at Third Reedy Lake, Kerang, Victoria. Picture: Doug Gimesy


Reading level: green

This is both a story about a little fish in a big pond, and the one that got away – twice.

It’s a tiddler. Adults of this species weigh about 8g and grow to around 9cm.

But don’t judge this fish by its size — the southern purple spotted gudgeon is a miracle.

Its 2019 discovery in Third Reedy Lake, near Kerang, northern Victoria, marked the second time this species had come back from the dead. Declared regionally extinct in the 20th century – one of many native fish species wiped out since 1788 – it was rediscovered in the early 1990s, only to be deemed* officially extinct again in 1998.

media_cameraSouthern purple spotted gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa) held by researcher Amy Russell (from the North Catchment Management Authority) before being measured and released back into Third Reedy Lake, Kerang, Victoria. Picture: Doug Gimesy
MR Don Lervasi media_cameraFreshwater ecologist from Austral reserach and consulting, Dion Lervais. Picture: Doug Gimesy

Its most recent rediscovery happened by accident, two days before the lake was set to be drained.

“We weren’t looking for it,” said environmental scientist Dion Lervais, who made the find. “Because it had been listed as regionally extinct it wasn’t on the list to be looked for. These guys live up in as much cover as they can find. The hardest bit of habitat, up under a rocky nook* or a bit of vegetation, that’s where they are.”

The discovery prompted further searches in 100 sites, with dozens more eventually found.

“It’s a beautiful specimen*; pretty striking when you pull it up in a net. It’s pretty distinctive,” Mr Lervais said.

media_cameraPeter Rose, Project Manager, North Catchment Management Authority, wades through the shallows of Third Reedy Lake to set nets along the edges. Picture: Doug Gimesy
MR Gary Sturdy media_cameraVolunteer Gary Sturdy from Native Fish Australia helps sets a fyke net. Third Reedy Lake, Kerang, Victoria. Picture: Doug Gimesy

Peter Rose, project manager with Victoria’s Northern Central Catchment Management Authority, said the prognosis* for the future local survival of the purple spotted gudgeon was now good, thanks in part to recent funding for a captive breeding program. (Related species flourish in other parts of Australia.)

With its distinctive shimmery pattern, the purple spotted gudgeon made for a “great tank fish,” Mr Rose said.

“People choose goldfish and other exotic fish because they don’t know how beautiful our native Australian species are. This species is one of six wetland specialist fish, and they’re all quite attractive. They’re just so overlooked and unknown.”

Doug Gimesy’s photographs show the dedication of the humans involved in the painstaking* work to sustain this little Aussie battler.

“It really takes partnerships between government, community groups, researchers and passionate people to bring these species back,” Mr Rose said.

“In the region I work in, there are only 13 of 22 (native) species left, and of those six are listed as threatened. We’re starting from a low baseline, but there’s a lot of potential in our system at least to recover these fish. Things are looking up.”

media_cameraWeighing a 4.03g southern purple spotted gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa) before releasing it into back into Middle Reedy Lake, Kerang, Victoria. Picture: Doug Gimesy
media_cameraMiddle Reedy Lake, Kerang, Victoria. Picture: Doug Gimesy


  • deemed: judged to be
  • nook: crevice or hiding hole
  • specimen: example of
  • prognosis: likely cause of the situation
  • painstaking: done with great care


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  1. What sort of fish are these?
  2. Where do they live?
  3. When were they thought to be locally extinct?
  4. What was going to happen to the lake where they were found?
  5. What do the fish look like?


1. Purple Spotted Gudgeon Mascot
It’s your job to increase the likability and popularity of Australia’s own purple spotted gudgeon fish. It’s come back from the dead twice and is a miracle fish that keeps getting found alive when it was thought the species was extinct!

Think about this description … match it with a product that it could be a mascot for. A brand or product that matches its fighting spirit and that would help boost its popularity.

Think along the lines of the Rice Bubbles mascots – Snap, Crackle and Pop and the lion mascot for Paddle Pop ice-creams.

Sketch the mascot based on the purple spotted gudgeon, give it a name and link it to a product or service.

How are you planning to advertise using this new mascot for the product?

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Critical and Creative thinking

2. Extension
Describe how you think the captive breeding program will possibly save this species. What should fish-loving enthusiasts do to help the native species?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and creative thinking

An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. To start with look at the words before the nouns.

Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article

Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Extension: Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Have you used any in your writing?

Extra Reading in animals