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Distribution and status of Banded Rainbowfish Melanotaenia trifasciata (Melanota

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Keith C. Martin and Susan Barclay: Distribution and status of Banded Rainbowfish Melanotaenia trifasciata (Melanotaeniidae) populations in north-eastern Queensland, pp. 54-65

The Banded Rainbowfish Melanotaenia trifasciata has a wide but patchy distribution across northern Australia. It reaches its southern range limit in north-eastern Queensland, where it has been historically recorded from a number of locations from the Normanby River in the north, to the Hull River in the south. In this study, all recorded localities of the species in the region were re-surveyed to determine the current extent and status of populations in the region. Melanotaenia trifasciata populations were confirmed at 15 sites within four drainage systems including two small streams draining the Mount Stuckey massif, the McIvor-Morgan Rivers system, streams of the Wyalla Plain and Cooper Creek in the Cape Tribulation area. The population in the McIvor-Morgan system appears to be extensive, but populations in the other three drainage areas, especially Cooper Creek are extremely limited and likely vulnerable to environmental change. Records from sites where M. trifasciata had been previously recorded, but could not be confirmed are most likely attributable to either misidentifications of similar species (particularly M. splendida and M. utcheensis), failed translocations or historical extinctions. There is some evidence that the species previously had a wider distribution in the region. Melanotaenia trifasciata populations in north-eastern Queensland are particularly fragmented and habitat specific. All populations occur in coastal lowland situations and prefer clear, heavily shaded, perennially flowing streams. None of the populations occur within currently protected areas.

Melanotaenia trifasciata (adult males) from north-eastern Queensland: a) stream near Mount Stuckey; b) McIvor River; c) Wyalla Plain (Russell Creek); and d) Cooper Creek. Photos by K. C. Martin.