|A mountain galaxias (Galaxias olidus)|
The Galaxiidae are a family of mostly small freshwater fish in the Southern Hemisphere. The majority live in Southern Australia or New Zealand, but some are found in South Africa, southern South America, Lord Howe Island, New Caledonia, and the Falkland Islands. One galaxiid species, the common galaxias (Galaxias maculatus), is probably the most widely naturally distributed freshwater fish in the Southern Hemisphere. They are coolwater species, found in temperate latitudes, with only one species known from subtropical habitats. Many specialise in living in cold, high-altitude upland rivers, streams, and lakes.
Some galaxiids live in fresh water all their lives, but many have a partially marine lifecycle. In these cases, larvae are hatched in a river, but are washed downstream to the ocean, later returning to rivers as juveniles to complete their development to full adulthood. This pattern differs from that of salmon, which only return to fresh water to breed, and is described as amphidromous.
Freshwater galaxiid species are gravely threatened by exotic salmonid species, particularly trout species, which prey upon galaxiids and compete with them for food. Exotic salmonids have been recklessly introduced to many different land masses (e.g. Australia, New Zealand), with no thought as to impacts on native fish, or attempts to preserve salmonid-free habitats for them. Numerous localised extinctions of galaxiid species have been caused by the introduction of exotic salmonids, and a number of freshwater galaxiid species are threatened with overall extinction by exotic salmonids.
About 50 species are in the family Galaxiidae, grouped into seven genera:
- Subfamily Aplochitoninae Begle 1991
- Subfamily Galaxiinae [Paragalaxiinae Scott 1936]
- Genus Brachygalaxias Eigenmann 1928 (two species)
- Genus Galaxias Cuvier 1816 [Saxilaga Scott 1936; Galaxias (Agalaxis) Scott 1936; Agalaxis (Scott 1936); Lyragalaxias Whitley 1935; Austrocobitis Ogilby 1899; Mesites Jenyns 1842 non Schoenherr 1838 non Geoffroy 1838; Nesogalaxias Whitley 1935] (34 species)
- Genus Galaxiella McDowall 1978 (three species)
- Genus Neochanna Günther 1867 [Saxilaga (Lixagasa) Scott 1936; Lixagasa (Scott 1936); Saxilaga Scott 1936] (six species)
- Genus Paragalaxias Scott 1935 [Querigalaxias Whitley 1935] (four species)
Species by geography
Galaxiids are found around the south eastern seaboard of Australia and in some parts of south western Australia. The galaxiids and the temperate perches (Percichthyidae) are the dominant native freshwater fish families of southern Australia. Species common to all areas include:
- Common galaxias or jollytail galaxias, Galaxias maculatus
- Spotted galaxias, spotted mountain trout, or spotted minnow, Galaxias truttaceus
South east Australian mainland
- Climbing galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis
- Mountain galaxias, Galaxias olidus
- Flathead galaxias, Galaxias rostratus
Threatened species are:
- Galaxias fuscus (Victoria), also called barred galaxias or brown galaxias
- Dwarf galaxias, Galaxiella pusilla (South Australia, Victoria)
- Tasmanian mudfish, Neochanna cleaveri (Wilsons Promontory, Victoria)
- Western galaxias, Galaxias occidentalis
- Mud minnow, Galaxiella munda
- Black-stripe minnow, Galaxiella nigrostriata
Tasmania Fifteen species of galaxiids have been found in Tasmania. The most common species are:
- Climbing galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis
- Common galaxias, Galaxias maculatus
- Spotted galaxias, Galaxias truttaceus
Tasmanian endangered species include:
- Saddled galaxias, Galaxias tanycephalus
- Pedder galaxias, Galaxias pedderensis
- Swan galaxias, Galaxias fontanus
- Swamp galaxias, Galaxias parvus
- Golden galaxias, Galaxias auratus
- Dwarf galaxias, Galaxiella pusilla
- Clarence galaxias, Galaxias johnstoni
- Tasmanian mudfish, Neochanna cleaveri
- Western paragalaxias, Paragalaxias julianus
- Great Lake paragalaxias, Paragalaxias eleotroides
- Arthurs paragalaxias, Paragalaxias mesotes
- Shannon paragalaxias, Paragalaxias dissimilis
Twenty-three species of galaxiids have been discovered in New Zealand, and prior to the introduction of non-native species such as trout, they were the dominant freshwater fish family. Most of these live in fresh water all their lives. However, the larvae of five species of the genus Galaxias develop in the ocean, where they form part of the zooplankton and return to rivers and streams as juveniles (whitebait), where they develop and remain as adults. All Galaxias species found in New Zealand are endemic, except for Galaxias brevipinnis (koaro) and Galaxias maculatus (inanga).
- Roundhead galaxias, Galaxias anomalus
- Giant kokopu, Galaxias argenteus
- Climbing galaxias, koaro, or short-fin galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis
- Lowland longjawed galaxias, Galaxias cobitinis
- Flathead galaxias, Galaxias depressiceps
- Dwarf galaxias, Galaxias divergens
- Eldon's galaxias, Galaxias eldoni
- Banded kokopu, Galaxias fasciatus
- Gollum galaxias, Galaxias gollumoides
- Dwarf inanga, Galaxias gracilis
- Bignose galaxias, Galaxias macronasus
- Common galaxias, inanga, or common jollytail, Galaxias maculatus
- Alpine galaxias, Galaxias paucispondylus
- Shortjaw kokopu, Galaxias postvectis
- Longjawed galaxias, Galaxias prognathus
- Dusky galaxias, Galaxias pullus
- Common river galaxias or Canterbury galaxias, Galaxias vulgaris
- Brown mudfish, Neochanna apoda
- Canterbury mudfish, Neochanna burrowsius
- Black mudfish, Neochanna diversus
- Northland mudfish, Neochanna heleios
- Chatham mudfish, Neochanna rekohua
- Aplochiton taeniatus (Chile, Argentina, Falklands Islands)
- Common galaxias or puyen, Galaxias maculatus (Chile, Argentina, Falkland Islands)
- Brachygalaxias bullocki (Chile)
- Brachygalaxias gothei (Chile)
- Galaxias globiceps (Chile)
- Galaxias platei (Chile)
- Cape galaxias, Galaxias zebratus (Cape Province, South Africa)
The juveniles of those galaxiids that develop in the ocean and then move into rivers for their adult lives are caught as whitebait while moving upstream and are much valued as a delicacy. Adult galaxiids may be caught for food, but they are generally not large. In some cases, their exploitation may be banned (e.g. New Zealand) unless available to indigenous tribes.
In addition to serious impacts from exotic trout species, Australian adult galaxiids suffer a disregard from anglers for being "too small" and "not being trout". This is despite the fact that several Australian galaxiid species, though smallish, grow to a sufficient size to be catchable and readily take wet and dry flies, and that one of these species — the spotted galaxias — was keenly fished for in Australia before the introduction of exotic trout species. A handful of fly-fishing exponents in Australia are rediscovering the pleasure of catching (and releasing) these Australian native fish on ultralight fly-fishing tackle.
- McDowall, R. M. (2006). "Crying wolf, crying foul, or crying shame: Alien salmonids and a biodiversity crisis in the southern cool-temperate galaxioid fishes?". Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries. 16 (3–4): 233–422. doi:10.1007/s11160-006-9017-7. S2CID 11504101.
- McDowall, Robert M. (1998). Paxton, J.R.; Eschmeyer, W.N. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-12-547665-2.
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2021). "Galaxiidae" in FishBase. July 2021 version.
- "New Zealand large galaxiid recovery plan, 2003-13: shortjaw kokopu, giant kokopu, banded kokopu, and koaro (Threatened Species Recovery Plan 55)" (PDF). Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand. 2004. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
- "New Zealand non-migratory galaxiid fishes recovery plan (Threatened Species Recovery Plan 53)" (PDF). Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand. 2004. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- New Zealand native freshwater galaxiid fish TerraNature, Auckland 2010