Wilhem Blandowski's contribution to ichthyology of the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia

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Abstract

Wilhelm Blandowski is best known for the scandal that surrounded his attempts to name a number of new species of freshwater fish after prominent members of the Victorian scientific establishment. Although this 19th Century anecdote is diverting, it belies, I believe, the significant contribution that the first paid Victorian government zoologist made to the ichthyology of the Murray-Darling Basin. Although his claim to new species was exaggerated, his collections, assisted by Gerard Krefft were the most diverse to that date. There is no doubt ' because Blandowski tells us as much ' that the expedition's success in collecting so many species, as well as information on distribution, habitat, size and diet, can be attributed to the knowledge of the local Aboriginal people, the Nyeri Nyeri. That Blandowski realised that this knowledge existed and acknowledged it, is unusual for the time. The information provided, although broadly consistent with what we know of the species' current habits, is scanty and there is some uncertainty as to the location where most of the species were collected. Interpretations based on illustrations, written descriptions and extant specimens suggest that many species that were collected in 1856/57 no longer occur in that region of the Murray-Darling Basin. Blandowski's collections also hint at the possibility that the distribution of the spotted galaxias, Galaxias truttaceus Valenciennes 1846, normally considered coastal,may have formerly extended much further up into freshwater.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-108
Number of pages19
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria
Volume121
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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