Our Uniquely Otago Galaxiids
The streams and rivers which flow through Otago are home to a group of fascinating native freshwater fish which are uniquely Otago, and found nowhere else on earth. These species belong to an ancient, scaleless, fish family called Galaxiidae – named so by discoverer’s who likened their beautiful gold flecks and patterns on their backs to a ‘galaxy’ of stars.
Unlike their famous whitebait cousins which migrate to sea, these non-migratory galaxiid species differ by living out their entire lives in the stream or river in which they hatched. Galaxiid populations became isolated through glaciation and geological events such as mountain building and faulting. Over hundreds of thousands of years these isolated populations evolved into distinct species, each with their own individual features and stories. Today, Otago is a biodiversity ‘hot spot’, housing the majority of New Zealand’s most endangered native fish.
By Lan Pham
Around 10-25 cm
In small streams
Hiding among stones
Juveniles - known as whitebait
Silvery-gold spots look like stars in a galaxy
For further information about galaxiids contact your local Department of Conservation office. www.doc.govt.nz. Or see McQueen and Morris (2013) A guide to freshwater fishes of New Zealand. New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd, Auckland, NZ.