Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

QM’s Jeff Johnson identifies Qld grouper

The new species lacks the distinctive markings of other groupers (Queensland Museum).

Harry Cockburn, Mystery fish being eaten by Australians found to be unknown to science, Independent, 5 November 2019

‘Tasty’ grouper found being sold in Queensland was completely new species

A fish previously unknown to science has been discovered – on Australians’ plates.

People in southeastern Australia had apparently been happily catching and eating a reportedly tasty type of grouper, without realising the somewhat unremarkable fish had not been officially documented.

The discovery was only made when Queensland Museum fish expert Jeff Johnson was contacted by a fisherman who had sent him a photo of a grouper, also known in Australia as a “rockcod”, which he had never seen before.

When Mr Johnson asked for the fisherman to send him the sample to examine, he was told the fish had already been sent to market.

So Mr Johnson decided to undertake his own detective work, and eventually he found five of the large fish for sale at a market in Brisbane’s North Lakes.

“As soon as I saw them, I thought they were probably a new species, so I purchased all five and began the hard work of formally proving they were a new species,” Mr Johnson said.

“Queensland Museum geneticist Dr Jessica Worthington Wilmer ran some tests in Queensland Museum’s molecular lab and after comparing them with other specimens in various museum collections, had enough evidence to prove it was a new species.”

In a statement, the museum said the new species, Epinephelus fuscomarginatus, can be found off the central section of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland at depths of about 220 metres.

Mr Johnson said he had previously been alerted to this particular fish, but had been unable to acquire the specimens required to formally identify and describe it.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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