Fish (Ichthyology) Section

Collections | Updated 4 days ago

The Museum’s Fish collection comprises nearly 200,000 specimens from some 280 different families. The collection holds marine and freshwater fish, bony fish and cartilaginous fish (sharks and rays) and includes everything from tiny fish to very large fish. It is primarily focused on Western Australian fishes, but contains extensive specimens from other parts of Australia and from elsewhere in the world, especially our nearest neighbours, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Fish specimens have been collected since 1896, as part of the Museum’s earliest vertebrate collections. From 1912 a separate fish collection was established with its own handwritten catalogue of fish specimens. Some of the oldest remaining specimens are an angelfish from Shark Bay, a sea dragon from Bunbury and a pygmy perch from the Vasse River, Busselton. The smallest specimens are tiny gobies that grow to only 1 centimetre while the largest specimen is a megamouth shark at more than 5 metres long. Most of the marine fish specimens in the collection are from nearshore, shallow water reef habitats or are inshore, trawl caught, but a growing number of deepwater species from beyond the continental shelf have been added to the collection in recent years. The collection has steadily increased since 1912, with most collection activity occurring in the last forty-five years. Almost all of the fish records are now stored in an electronic database and made publicly available through the Atlas of Living Australia. The collection is globally significant due to the huge number of species (more than 4,000) that inhabit the vast Western Australian coastline and the unique fish fauna, many of which are endemic (found nowhere else in the world). It also houses more than 10,000 type specimens, of which 460 are primary or name-bearing types. This number is constantly growing. Fish specimens are used for taxonomic research by scientists at the Museum and elsewhere in Australia and overseas. Specimens are regularly sent on loan to other fish specialists around the world. New species remain hidden in the collections, just waiting for an expert to discover them. The Fishes section, including research associates, is an active research group. Through fieldwork, collaborations and research on the collection it maintains a steady flow of publications covering field guides, new species descriptions, biodiversity and biogeography, evolution and ecology along with museum specific technical subjects.


Number of items
Approximately 51,000 specimen lots that represent around 175,000 individual specimens