Macquaria australasicaMountain perch(Also: Silvereye; White-eye)

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Geographic Range

Macquaria australasica is only found in Australia. (Paxton et. al., 1989). In it's native range, this species occurs in highest abundance in the Murray-Darling basin in New South Wales. Macquaria australasica was introduced in the Wannon, Barwon, and Yarra Rivers in Victoria, Australia, as well as the Nepean and Shoalhaven Rivers, in New South Wales. Within these areas, there are three different population areas that this species inhabits including; west of the Great Dividing Range, the Hawkesbury River, and the lower Shoalhaven River. (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Paxton, et al., 1989)

Some populations are the result of translocations, although few, healthy translocated populations remain. (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005)

Two, genetically distinct groups of Macquarie perch have been described from coastal and inland areas. Although it is likely that they represent different species, those species have not been described yet. (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005)

Habitat

This freshwater species lives in rivers and stream, preferring deep, rocky pools. (Reide, 2004). They also favor cool and clear water with slow-moving riffles or shallow running water. Macquaria australasica spawn in lakes and above holes in faster moving riffles at depths of 0 to 4 meters. (DEH, 2005). (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Merrick and Schmida, 1984; Reide, 2004)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range depth
    0 to 4 m
    0.00 to 13.12 ft

Physical Description

This species is a moderate-sized fish that is usually 25 to 40 cm in length and weighs about 1.5 kg. The coloration of Macquaria australasica varies from a dark silvery/purplish grey which looks almost black to a bluish grey or green-brown color with a ventral side that includes shades of pale white or tan with a yellow tinge on some. The fish has an elongated, deep, and laterally compressed body. Their caudal, anal and spiny dorsal fins are usually rounded. The fish have small mouths and white eyes and the irises are silver. Adult species have a humped back and also possess a rounded tail. (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    1.0 to 2.5 kg
    2.20 to 5.51 lb
  • Average mass
    1.5 kg
    3.30 lb
  • Range length
    18 to 50 cm
    7.09 to 19.69 in
  • Average length
    30 cm
    11.81 in

Development

The eggs of M. australasica are transparent and increase in size to a diameter of 4.0 mm. Once released, they are swept downstream and lodge in pebbles. The eggs usually hatch in 10 to 18 days in temperatures of 11 to 18°C. (Allen, 1989). The larvae then shelter in boulders and pebbles. Females grow much faster than males and are always bigger than males. The fish grow rapidly and their size is determined by the conditions of the water they live in. Age determines onset of gonadal maturation. For females, spawning begins at four years old and continues until the fish are ten years old. Female ovarian development begins earlier in the year around February to April, pauses until August and then rapidly resumes maturation to reach the gravid-gonad stage in late October or early November. For males the development of the testes remains unchanged until August and then a rapid maturation occurs that produces ripe males by October or early November just like the females. Larvae and transitioning juveniles are usually deep bodied with a laterally compressed head. The fish have 24 to 25 myomeres. The large gut in the fish is fully coiled and the gas bladder is over the midgut and small in size which makes it difficult to distinguish in transitioning juveniles. The large head is elongated like the body with a concave snout that is approximately the same length as the eye diameter. The eyes are small in larvae but become large in transitioning juveniles as well as adults. Small canine teeth are observed in both jaws in all larvae and adults. (Allen, 1989; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Paxton, et al., 1989)

Reproduction

Breeding fish migrate upstream and gather in schools which can last for several weeks. Males nudge the female vent region which causes the release of eggs and then fertilization. Females are oviparous and mate each year. (Merrick and Schmida, 1984). (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Merrick and Schmida, 1984)

Spawning occurs in shallow upland streams and the fish usually migrate in order to spawn. Many fish use the same river to spawn each year. This occurs in fast-flowing water over gravel beds and the eggs stick to the gravel on the bottom of the water (demersal). (Merrick and Schmida, 1984). Females produce, on average, 32,000 eggs per kg of fish. (Allen, 1989; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Merrick and Schmida, 1984; Paxton, et al., 1989)

Male M. australasica usually mature around the age of two years old and 21 cm in length while females do not reach maturity until they are three years old and 30 cm in length.

  • Breeding interval
    Macquari perch breed yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from the end of October through early November.
  • Average number of offspring
    32,000 eggs per Kg of fish
  • Range time to hatching
    10 to 18 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

During spawning females remain close to the area where they laid their eggs in groups of two or four. One or two males usually accompany the females during this time to make sure that nothing happens to the eggs. After the eggs hatch the larvae travel downstream either through swimming or from the current of the stream. (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

There has not been sufficient research on the lifespan of M. australasica, but average lifespan has been reported at 20 years with a maximum recorded age of 26 years. (ACT Government, 1999; Ingram, et al., 2000)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    26 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    20 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 years

Behavior

Macquarie perch are schooling fish. They make small, seasonal migrations upstream to spawning sites. (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Merrick and Schmida, 1984)

Communication and Perception

Research for how this species communicates and perceives its environment is insufficient. Like most fish, they probably use chemical and visual input as important modes of perceiving and communicating. (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Paxton, et al., 1989)

Food Habits

The bulk of their diet consists of aquatic invertebrates such as caddisfly, stonefly and mayfly species, with a small quantity of terrestrial insects taken as well. Adults feed at the bottom of lakes and rivers. Young are zooplanktivores, and eat water fleas, rotifers and water mites by sucking them up into their mouths. (Merrick and Schimda, 1984). (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Merrick and Schmida, 1984; Paxton, et al., 1989)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • zooplankton

Predation

Predators on M. australasica include Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) and the introduced species: rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and redfin (Perca fluviatilis). (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Paxton, et al., 1989)

Ecosystem Roles

Macquarie perch are important predators in natural ecosystems, and prey to larger animals. The introduced fish species, Salmo trutta and Oncorhynchus mykiss, may compete with Macquarie perch for food. (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Macquarie perch have been and are still fished for food. They are important members of native Australian freshwater ecosystems. (ACT Government, 1999)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

When this species is relocated to other ranges or even within its home range, diseases from other fish are sometimes spread as well, affecting other fish species and other populations of Macquarie perch. (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005)

Conservation Status

Macquarie perch are considered endangered in Australia, but this is not yet reflected in international conservation organizations. Macquaria australasica is threatened by predation and competition from exotic fish species, including redfin (Perca fluviatilis), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and brown trout (Salmo trutta). They are also threatened by dams, habitat destruction, sedimentation, heavy metal pollution, and introduced diseases. Dam removal is recommended for species recovery so that migration to spawning sites can occur. Illegal fishing occurs in some areas and overfishing is considered one of the contributing factors to the rarity of this species. (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005)

Other Comments

M. australasica is in the Family Percichthyidae. Common names include: Macquarie perch, Macquarie-aborre, Macquaries barsch, mountain perch, black bream, silberauge, silvereye, and white-eye. (ACT Government, 1999; Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005; Paxton, et al., 1989)

Contributors

Leah Kosakowski (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kevin Wehrly (editor, instructor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

freshwater

mainly lives in water that is not salty.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

migratory

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

visual

uses sight to communicate

zooplankton

animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)

References

ACT Government, 1999. "Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica): An Endangered Species" (On-line). Action Plan No. 13. Accessed October 08, 2005 at http://www.environment.act.gov.au/Files/actionplans13.pdf.

Allen, G. 1989. Freshwater fishes of Australia.. Neptune City, New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications, Inc.. Accessed October 08, 2005 at http://fishbase.org/References/SummaryRefList.cfm.

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005. "Macquaria australasica, Macquarie Perch" (On-line). Accessed October 07, 2005 at http://www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=66632.

Ingram, B., J. Douglas, M. Lintermans. 2000. Threatened Fishes of the World: Macquaria australasica, Cuvier 1830 (Percichthyidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 59: 68. Accessed October 09, 2005 at http://www.springerlink.com/media/e3d05mtqmg3ktxn7qu5m/contributions/h/6/3/2/h632wk7188x61340.pdf.

Merrick, J., G. Schmida. 1984. Australian freshwater fishes: biology and management. South Australia: Griffin Press Ltd. Accessed October 08, 2005 at http://fishbase.org/Ecology/FishEcologySummary.cfm?StockCode=10889&GenusName=Macquaria&SpeciesName=australasica.

Paxton, J., D. Hoese, G. Allen, J. Hanley. 1989. Pisces. Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Zoological Catalogue of Australia, Vol. 7: 665. Accessed October 08, 2005 at http://fishbase.org/References/FBRefsummary.cfm?id=7300.

Reide, K. 2004. Global register of migratory species - from global to regional scales. Final Report of the R&D-Projekt 808 05 081. Bonn, Germany: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. Accessed October 08, 2005 at http://fishbase.org/References/SummaryRefList.cfm?ID=10566&GenusName=Macquaria&SpeciesName=australasica.