The Redfin Blue Eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis) is a freshwater fish in the small (approximately 18 species) family Pseudomugilidae, the Blue Eyes, all of which are endemic to Australia, Papua New Guinea and neighboring islands. The Redfin Blue Eye was discovered in 1990, as the only member of the genus Scaturiginichthys and the smallest freshwater fish endemic to Australia, at a total length of 3 cm. Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis is found only in 5-6 shallow spring pools that are part of a unique wetland comprised of an ancient and isolated complex of 40+ interconnected artesian springs vegetated by tussock grasses and sedges in Edgbaston Reserve, formerly a cattle station in central western Queensland. The springs are surrounded by arid desert, and because the temperature of these shallow pools fluctuates between 0-40 degrees Centigrade over the course of a day, these fish have evolved the ability to withstand impressive temperature extremes.
Since they were discovered in 1990, the population of Redfin Blue Eyes is thought to have declined considerably, and they have become extinct in several of the springs they once inhabited. They are at risk of competition and predation from the far more aggressive invasive mosquito fish Gambusia holbrooki, which was introduced to Australia in 1930s-40s to control malaria-bearing mosquitos. They are also threatened by trampling and habitat destruction from agricultural and feral animals, and by water shortage due to human use and diversion of the Great Artesian Basin, the water source water for this spring system. Their population size is unknown exactly, but thought to number between 2000-4000 individuals. The IUCN declared this species critically endangered in 1996, and one of the 100 Most Endangered of the world’s species in a 2012 report in conjunction with the Zoological Society of London. Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis was also listed as endangered on the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA Qld) and on the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Efforts to protect Redfin Blue Eyes and their habitat are ongoing; the non-profit conservation organization Bush Heritage Australia recently acquired and now oversees the part of this spring complex part that encompasses Edgbaston Reserve. Conservationists are working to restore the land and control Gambusia, feral pigs, and other destructive animals with a near-term goal of increasing the numbers and range of S. vermeilipinnis through re-introductions, but lack funding for this endeavor.
(Bray and Thompson 2011; Baillie and Butcher 2012; Wagner 1996)
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