Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Melanotaenia eachamensis (Lake Eacham Rainbowfish) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2012b) [Conservation Advice].
 
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Melanotaenia eachamensis (Lake Eacham Rainbowfish) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2012c) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Vulnerable (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Melanotaenia eachamensis [26185]
Family Melanotaeniidae:Atheriniformes:Actinopterygii:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Allen & Cross, 1982
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images
http://members.optushome.com.au/chelmon/Eacham.htm

Zhu and colleagues (1994) conclusively demonstrated that the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish is a valid species and distinct from the sympatric Eastern Rainbowfish (M. splendida splendida). Using mitochondrial DNA sequencing techniques, Zhu and colleagues (1994, 1998) demonstrated that the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish is distinct and is more closely related to those of a Western Australian species, Western Rainbowfish (M. splendida australis).

The Lake Eacham Rainbowfish is a small, laterally-compressed fish rarely exceeding 6.5 cm in length. It is generally silvery or bluish in colour with a dark, mid-lateral stripe and two fainter ventral bands and red fins (Pusey et al. 2004). Margins of dorsal and anal fins are almost black in breeding males. There is some sexual dimorphism: fins are longer, more pointed and more brightly coloured in breeding males (Pusey et al. 2004).

Current distribution

The Lake Eacham Rainbowfish occurs in north-east Queensland in the upper reaches of the Barron, North Johnstone and South Johnstone River catchments at altitudes above 500 m above sea level (asl) (Pusey et al. 2004), and also in Koombooloomba Dam on the Tully River (Brooks 2012). A captive population of the species is also maintained (Brooks 2012). Pusey and colleagues (1997) speculated on an even wider possible distribution for the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish, including the upper Tully River, however this was never confirmed (TSSC 2012c). Furthermore, populations occurring below 500 m asl are now known to be that of the Utchee Creek Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia utcheensis).

The Lake Eacham Rainbowfish has naturally interbred with the Eastern Rainbowfish in many locations. Sympatry is common in the Johnstone River drainage basin, although in most of the sites sampled by Pusey and colleagues (1997), the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish was the numerically dominant rainbowfish. The Dirran Creek (on North Johnstone River) and Lake Euramoo (a crater lake with no outflow or inflow) populations are the most genetically pure and therefore the most important to conserve (Zhu et al. 1998).

Historic distribution - presumed extinction and rediscovery

The Lake Eacham Rainbowfish was originally known from Lake Eacham, an isolated crater lake in the Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, and was described in 1982 (Allen & Cross 1982). It was reported as locally abundant (Allen & Cross 1982). The species became extinct in Lake Eacham by 1987 due to illegal translocations of several larger and predatory native fish. The species was then feared extinct until it was rediscovered in the private collections of aquarists (Caughey et al. 1990 cited in TSSC 2012c). Sometime between 2000-2007, Eastern Rainbowfish (M. splendida splendida) appeared in Lake Eacham (Brown et al. 2012). These fish are related to fish from a stream 500 m away (but in another catchment) and the source of dispersal is unknown but may have been natural or human-assisted (Brown et al. 2012).

Subsequent research revealed that the species still survived in the wild in Dirran Creek, a tributary of the North Johnstone River, and Lake Euramoo (Allen 1989b). Further research confirmed its status as a separate species and extended its known range into the upper North Johnstone River and tributaries, the upper South Johnstone River and the upper Barron River (Pusey et al. 1997; Zhu et al. 1998).

Translocation attempts

In October 1989, 3000 captive-bred specimens were released into Lake Eacham without any attempt to eliminate the previously released predators in the lake. Unfortunately, no specimens were collected in surveys of the lake during early 1990 indicating that the re-stocking was unsuccessful. Consideration was given to translocating stocks of Lake Eacham Rainbowfish to other suitable habitats nearby, however all suitable water bodies appeared to already contain indigenous populations of the Eastern Rainbowfish M. s. splendida (Ingram et al. 1990).

The Lake Eacham Rainbowfish is a schooling species (Brooks 2012) that prefers shallow waters with slow to moderate flow (Zhu et al. 1998). It is usually occurs among, or directly adjacent to, aquatic vegetation, submerged terrestrial vegetation and root masses (Brooks 2012) in areas with streamside riparian vegetation or grasses (including the invasive Para Grass (Brachiara mutica)) (Pusey et al. 2004).

It is usually close to the riverbed in specific locations with rock and cobble substrates (Pusey et al. 2004). The species occurs in small streams, especially smaller tributaries, and lakes, including crater lakes (Euramoo and Bromfield Swamp) and artifical lakes (Lake Tinaroo and Koombooloomba Dam) (Brooks 2012).

In Lake Eacham, the species was found in clear, shallow water along the shoreline. It was particularly abundant around docks, submerged logs and branches, and among aquatic vegetation. The water temperature of the lake ranges from 23-27 °C and the pH was 7.0 (Allen & Cross 1982). In aquaria, this species tolerates water temperatures of 22-27°C and a pH of 6.8-7.0 (Leggett & Merrick 1987). Tappin (1991) notes that a pH of 8.0 is still suitable for this species.

Spawning occurs from August to April when water temperature exceeds 17 °C (Brooks 2012). Size at maturity are reported to be 5.5 cm and 6 cm for females and males respectively (Leggett & Merrick 1987). Males will spawn and maintain breeding activity at 20 °C, but intensive breeding begins at 27°C (Tappin 1991). Eggs are demersal and adhesive, and are most commonly attached to submerged root masses (Brooks 2012). It has been noted that females spawned 30-50 eggs per day depending on their body size (Campbell 1985). Like those of other rainbowfishes, the eggs are initially clear and adhere by tiny filaments to the spawning medium (Tappin 1991). Eggs are produced over several days and development of eggs takes six to seven days at 26 °C (Leggett & Merrick 1987; Tappin 1991). Larvae hatched after 10 days at water temperatures of 26 °C (Campbell 1985). The fry are small (4 mm) and lack a well developed yolk sac; feeding commences shortly after hatching (Brooks 2012).

Experimental intraspecific hybridisation between the Dirran Creek population and another population produced a hybrid population with improved parasite resistance relative to the Dirran Creek population (Gleeson et al. 2000).

The Lake Eacham Rainbowfish is omnivorous, but more than 50% of the diet is composed of aquatic invertebrates (Brooks 2012).

The Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish (DSEWPaC 2011i) includes survey design principles when planning a fish survey and includes recommendations for survey methods for the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish and habitat that it occurs in (DSEWPaC 2011i). High quality photos will often separate the Utchee Creek Rainbowfish from Lake Eacham Rainbowfish, however, identification often requires genetic samples, due to hybridisation with the Eastern Rainbowfish (DSEWPaC 2011i).

Current threats

The main identified threat to the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish, and the presumed cause of its extinction in Lake Eacham, is predation by illegally translocated native fish (TSSC 2012c). It is unknown if introduced or translocated fishes are impacting the species in the creeks and lakes where it is currently known to occur (Gleeson et al. 2000). Pure Lake Eacham Rainbowfish populations are predator-naive and are extremely susceptible to translocated predatory fish (Brown 2003; Brown & Warburton 1997) and it is unknown what level of predator resistance current populations have. Unauthorised translocations of native fish have likely been occurring in the Wet Tropics region since at least the 1950s (Burrows 2002).

Potential threats to the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish include hybridisation with other rainbowfish (Brooks 2012; further illegal translocations of native fish in the stream habitats where it persists (Burrows 2002; Pusey et al. 2004); habitat degradation (siltation from grazing and sugar cane farming; changes to channel morphology by removal of riparian vegetation; and invasive weeds) (Brooks 2012; Pusey et al. 2004); smothering of riparian zones by Para Grass (Brachiara mutica) (Pusey et al. 2004).

Extinction in Lake Eacham

In the 1980s, the Mouth Almighty (Glossamia aprion), the Banded Grunter (Amniataba perciodes), the Archer Fish (Toxotes chatareus) and the Bony Bream (Nematalosa erebi), were illegally translocated into Lake Eacham. The timing of the introductions is unknown, although the Mouth Almighty was first observed in the lake in 1983, the Archer Fish and the Bony Bream in 1984, and the Banded Grunter in 1987. During surveys, the presence of juveniles and adults and the large number of fishes observed indicated that all four species had formed breeding populations. The decline of the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish and the establishment of the translocated species aforementioned occurred simultaneously (Barlow et al. 1987).

The dietary habits of the translocated species suggest that they contributed to the decline of the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish (Barlow et al. 1987). The Mouth Almighty is a carnivore, eating insects, macrocrustaceans and fishes, while the Archer Fish, although an insectivore, occasionally eats other aquatic fauna including fishes. The Banded Grunter is an omnivore consuming small amounts of fish (Bishop et al. 2001). The Bony Bream is unlikely to be implicated as it is a microphagic omnivore (Barlow et al. 1987; Bishop et al. 2001; Ruello 1976).

It is possible that the translocated species induced other impacts on the rainbowfish population. For instance, Archer Fish, which are active hunters, may have preyed on rainbowfish larvae or fry; or diseases and parasites may have been introduced with the translocated species (Barlow et al. 1987).

Despite the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish's type locality and occurrence in lake systems, the species is primarily stream dwelling and future conservation actions should take this into account (Brooks 2012). A considerable proportion of the species distribution is protected within the Wet Tropics region. Genetically pure populations in Dirran Creek and Lake Euramoo should be protected from introductions of other rainbowfishes or piscivorous fishes (Zhu et al. 1998). Proposed research for the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish includes (Brooks 2012):

  • An extensive inventory of the Atherton Tablelands to determine the distribution of the species.
  • Determination of conditions that favour the Eastern Rainbowfish and whether this is to the detriment of the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish, given the threat of hybridisation between the two species.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Restricted geographical distribution (area of occupancy and extent of occurrence) Melanotaenia eachamensis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006or) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition, predation and/or habitat degradation by fish Implication of translocated fishes in the apparent extinction in the wild of the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia eachamensis. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. 38:897-902. (Barlow, C.G, A.E. Hogan & L.J. Rodgers, 1987) [Journal].
Ecological studies on the freshwater fishes of the Alligator Rivers Region, Northern Territory: Autecology. Supervising Scientist Report 145. (Bishop, K.A., S.A. Allen, D.A. Pollard & M.G. Cook, 2001) [Report].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Competition, predation and/or habitat degradation by fish Melanotaenia eachamensis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006or) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality Melanotaenia eachamensis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006or) [Internet].

Allen, G. R. (1989b). Lake Eacham rainbowfish rediscovered?. Fishes of Sahul (Journal of the Australia New Guinea Fishes Association). 5 (3):217-219.

Allen, G.R. & N.J. Cross (1982). Rainbowfishes of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Page(s) 141. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Barlow, C.G, A.E. Hogan & L.J. Rodgers (1987). Implication of translocated fishes in the apparent extinction in the wild of the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia eachamensis. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. 38:897-902.

Bishop, K.A., S.A. Allen, D.A. Pollard & M.G. Cook (2001). Ecological studies on the freshwater fishes of the Alligator Rivers Region, Northern Territory: Autecology. Supervising Scientist Report 145. Supervising Scientist, Darwin.

Brooks, S. (2012). Lake Eacham Rainbowfish Melanotaenia eachamensis Allen & Cross, 1982. In: Curtis, L.K., A.J. Dennis, K.R. McDonald, P.M. Kyne & S.J.S. Debus, eds. Queensland's Threatened Animals. CSIRO Publishing.

Brown, C. (2003). Habitat predator association and avoidance in rainbowfish (Melanotaenia spp.). Ecology of Freshwater Fish. 12:118-126.

Brown, C. & K. Warburton (1997). Predator recognition and anti-predator responses in the rainbowfish Melanotaenia eachamensis. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology. 41:61-68.

Brown, C., Y. Aksoy, H. Varinli & M. Gillings (2012). Identification of rainbowfish in Lake Eacham using DNA sequencing. Australian Journal of Zoology. 60:334-339.

Burrows, D. (2002). Fish stocking and the distribution and potential impact of translocated fishes in streams of the Wet Tropics region, north Queensland. Report to the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Cairns.

Campbell. R. (1985). Melanotaenia eachamensis. Fishes of Sahul. Journal of the Australia New Guinea Fishes Association. 2, No.3:81.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011i). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 . [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement. Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-fish.html.

Gleeson, D.J., H.I. McCallum & I.P.F. Owens (2000). Differences in initial and acquired resistance to Ichthyophthirius multifiliis between populations of rainbowfish. Journal of Fish Biology. 57:466-475.

Ingram, B.A., C.G. Barlow, J.J. Burchmore, G.J. Gooley, S.J. Rowland & A.C. Sanger (1990). Threatened native freshwater fishes in Australia - some case histories. Journal of Fish Biology. 37:175-182.

Leggett, R. & J.R. Merrick (1987). Australian Native Fishes For Aquariums. Merrick, Sydney.

Pusey, B.J., J. Bird, M.J. Kennard & A.H. Arthington (1997). Distribution of the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish in the Wet Tropics Region, North Queensland. Australian Journal of Zoology. 45:75-84.

Pusey, B.J., M.J. Kennard & A.H. Arthington (2004). Freshwater Fishes of North-Eastern Australia. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing.

Ruello, N.V. (1976). Observations on some massive fish kills in Lake Eyre. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. 24 (4):667-672.

Tappin, A.R. (1991). Keeping and breeding the "extinct" rainbowfish Melanotaenia eachamensis. ANGFA Bulletin (Bulletin of the Australia New Guinea Fishes Association). 10:3-4.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2012c). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Melanotaenia eachamensis (Lake Eacham Rainbowfish). [Online]. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Canberra, ACT: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/26185-listing-advice.pdf.

Zhu, D., B.G.M. Jamieson, A. Hugall & C. Moritz (1994). Sequence evolution and phylogenetic signal in control-region and cytochrome b sequences of rainbowfishes (Melanotaeniidae). Molecular Biology and Evolution. 11:672-683.

Zhu, D., S. Degnan & C. Moritz (1998). Evolutionary Distinctiveness and Status of the Endangered Lake Eacham Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia eachamensis). Conservation Biology. 12, No.1:80-93.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Melanotaenia eachamensis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Mon, 15 Sep 2014 14:59:56 +1000.