A new crayfish species in the Tenuibranchiurus genus has been found in an unlikely location on our Reedy Creek Reserve in Queensland.
Ecology isn’t all paperwork and Latin species names. Stephen Kearney demonstrated this during a recent freshwater survey at Reedy Creek Reserve, Bailai, Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang and Taribelang Bunda Country, Queensland.
What began as the team’s effort to better understand the reserve’s freshwater inhabitants ended in the discovery of a new crayfish species, highlighting the need to protect the ecosystem as surrounding areas become popular sites for development.
“We recorded 10 species of native fish”, said Stephen, “and a couple of introduced species.”
While the tannin-stained, knee-deep water might not look particularly lively to the untrained eye, the team were excited by the results.
“There were three species of eel, Eastern Rainbow Fish (Melanotaenia duboulayi x splendida), Olive Perchlet (Ambassis agassizii), Spangled Perch (Leiopotherapon unicolor), Eel-tailed Catfish (Neosilurus hyrtlii), and three species of Gudgeons, which are smallish, 2-10cm native fish with beautiful colours.”
“While not unexpected, we also recorded two invasive species, the Eastern Gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki), as well as a Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus). Recording these invasive species, and their locations, has provided critical insights into managing them and their impacts on the wetland and species protected in Reedy Creek Reserve.”
The Eastern Gambusia, or Mosquitofish, is an infamous species known for destroying native fish populations country-wide. Notably, they threaten the Red-finned Blue-eyes of Edgbaston.
A short distance from the well-trodden paperbark forest boardwalk, visited by thousands of tourists and locals every year, Stephen Kearney, Ecologist, Dean Gilligan, Freshwater Ecologist, and Christian McCollum, Reedy Creek Reserve Manager, set up their third survey location and found something intriguing.
“In a quite shallow part of the creek amongst Melaleuca and ferns, strangely where we get lots of visitors, we managed to identify a crayfish in the Tenuibranchiurus genus which has not been recorded before.”
Only one of the species in this genus has been formally described, and to add to the mystery it is found significantly further south than Reedy Creek.
“It’s significant because we found it outside of the known range of the genus. We have a lot of broader questions: is this population a completely new and distinct species? Or is it related to the known but undescribed Tenuibranchiurus species found around Fraser Island?”
Reedy Creek protects several threatened ecological communities in an area that’s becoming increasingly popular for tourism and development, so the team’s discovery speaks to the need to protect its unique inhabitants.
The reserve is just behind the foreshore where Loggerhead and Flatback Turtles visit annually to lay eggs in the sand, and the Melaleuca paperbark floodplains where the crayfish was discovered is a threatened ecological community listed as Endangered under the EPBC act (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act).
Even subtle changes to the watercourse, vegetation or topography of the surrounding areas can have major flow-on affects and disrupt critical populations of native species, so Stephen hopes the discovery will draw attention to the conservation value of Reedy Creek and the varied ecosystems it protects. The team will closely monitor its freshwater inhabitants in the coming years in the hope that the creek’s diverse native populations continue to thrive.