AN Albury-based academic has co-authored a book considered the first to outline the science of Australia’s hundreds of freshwater fish species.
Ecology of Australian Freshwater Fishes was launched at Charles Sturt University’s Thurgoona campus yesterday afternoon.
Senior ecology lecturer Paul Humphries and retired University of Adelaide academic Keith Walker spent four years on the book.
The co-authors sourced articles from more than 20 freshwater fish experts from across the country.
“Essentially there’s quite a few field guide-type books, where they all focus on individual species,” Dr Humphries said.
“You can go to these field guides and you can look up Murray cod or golden perch and you’ll find a bit about its biology and what it eats and how long it lives.”
But Dr Humphries said anyone wanting to understand freshwater fish “in a bigger picture” had to go to a hundred different journal articles and half a dozen different books to get that information.
The book can give an insight into fish habitats and how these vary from one region and one season to the next.
It can answer questions such as how to work out the age of a 30-kilogram Murray cod.
“Despite the diversity and harshness of the Australian environment in which the species have evolved, populations of these fish have been decimated over the past 200 years, with up to one-third of these species now threatened with extinction.”
Dr Humphreys said the book was not intended to be a layman’s guide, though the aim was still to make it accessible.
“But quite a lot of the terminology and the focus of the various chapters are for people who have more than just a passing interest in fish,” he said.
“For example, if you go into the nature and conservation chapter you’ll find out a lot about how many species have some sort of poor status, which groups are the most at risk, why they are at risk and what we can do about it.”
Dr Humphries, a researcher in fish biology with the Institute for Land, Water and Society, said this was done in a fairly scientific way “so it’s not something that a 12-year-old could dip into”.
“It’s primarily a scientific text, targeted at early undergraduate university level and above but high school students would get a lot out of it as well,” he said.
Dr Humphries admitted he could have easily given up at times during the past four years, “but you just stick with it”.
“I think the result is excellent and it will be a lasting reference book.”