Genetics to provide insight into endangered Barred Galaxias

The Barred Galaxias (Galaxias fuscus), a native Australian fish endemic to Victoria, has declined dramatically over the last 100 years, with populations now only found in a small upland area of central Victoria.

To compound the drop in numbers, these fish are also at risk of stochastic events such as the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which decimated large areas of their natural habitat.

Captive breeding and translocations are likely to be integral to the future management of this species.

Understanding the genetics behind these small freshwater fish will be a critical component of successful captive breeding and translocation.

A National Recovery Plan has been developed to facilitate the Barred Galaxias’s recovery and survival and is being implemented by the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research at Heidelberg (DSE-ARI).

As part of the recovery process, DSE-ARI contracted cesar to undertake a comprehensive population genetic assessment of tissue samples collected by DSE-ARI.

Among other things this study will uncover any areas of concern such as inbreeding and a lack of genetic diversity, which is a likely scenario according to Dr Adam Miller from cesar:

“There are currently 12 isolated small populations of the Barred Galaxias, so there could possibly be these genetic diversity issues, which will need to be considered in management decisions.”

The outcomes of the genetic study will guide DSE-ARI’s recovery efforts such as:

  • assisting in planning programs to maintain and/or expand genetic diversity
  • translocation strategies, whereby fish with particular genetic make-ups are moved between populations
  • captive breeding protocols, whereby genetics informs who should breed with who.

The Barred Galaxias is endemic to the south-eastern portion of the Goulburn River system in Victoria. Bushfire, drought and predation by and competition with trout species are major threats.

Cover image: Photo by Andrew Weeks, Cesar Australia

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