3000 species! Woohoo!

I have a confession to make. This journal entry was supposed to be ready weeks ago, but what I imagined would be a simple matter turned out to be anything but.
The story began when I noticed that the species count for the Australasian Fishes Project had reached the lofty height of 3000. I wanted to write a simple journal post to let you all know this milestone had been reached and also to state what percentage of the total Australian/New Zealand fish fauna this figure represented. Sounds easy, right? I thought so too.
The first step was to obtain checklists of the fish species that occur in both countries. Thank you to Clinton Duffy (@clinton) and Doug Hoese for providing these data for NZ (as a PDF checklist) and Australia (as an Excel file).
The next step was to manually extract the valid species from the NZ PDF then add the data for both countries to separate columns in a new Excel spreadsheet, the Australia column containing 5183 rows (species) and the NZ column containing 1298 rows (see photo, above). Next came the tricky part. I couldn’t just add the totals, I had to subtract the duplicates.
You probably wouldn’t believe how many videos about Excel are on YouTube! After viewing a few that looked promising, but weren’t, I found one that supplied a delightful little formula that when added to the spreadsheet told me that there were 838 duplicates. I could now say that 65% of NZ species also occur in Australian waters. I know that the geeks among you are just desperate to know which formula I used. For your edification, here it is, =COUNT(MATCH(A1:A5183,B1:B1298,0)).
The combined species list for both countries, minus the duplicates ‘weighs in’ at 5643 species. So, in the 5 years that the Australasian Fishes Project has been running we’ve accumulated observations of just over half (53%) of the total fish fauna of Australia/NZ. I think this is sensational milestone.
Why isn’t this figure higher I hear you ask? There are quite a few reasons for this including that many species are small, cryptic or rarely encountered. Observations in some habitats such as the deepsea are rare. Some places come with their own challenges – I’m thinking of crocodiles. And some locations, such as a huge stretch of the Great Australian Bight are hard to get to and thus seriously under-observed (View map).
Having said that, in the time it took me to prepare this journal entry the number of species has increased to 3074. Much of this impressive leap can be laid at the feet of Ken Graham (@kengraham) who is continuing to upload observations of fishes trawled off NSW (View the journal entry).
Thank you, fish fans, for all of your efforts. At the rate observations are currently being added we’ll crack 4000 species in no time. With this aim in mind, for your next holiday I encourage you to go to the Great Australian Bight or perhaps hire a submersible. 😊
PS The number of recognised species from both Australia and New Zealand is steadily increasing. The numbers go down when species are synonymised (combined) and up as new species are named or already named species are recorded from our counties for the first time. We still have heaps to learn about our fish fauna and I thank you all for playing your parts.
Posted by markmcg markmcg, January 20, 2022 04:44

Comments

Mark, thanks for recognising the milestone. Too bad we can't easily celebrate this important event amongst the project members as it the result of so many people making this possible. I hope that each project member and supporter has a feeling of success and satisfaction in achieving such a high number of species, in such a short period of time. It is through your work that such a data base is possible and the project’s ability to deliver such important information to the scientific community.

Posted by harryrosenthal 4 months ago (Flag)

Thank you Harry. You are spot on. So many people have worked together to make this happen. :)

Posted by markmcg 4 months ago (Flag)

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