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Mogurnda thermophila (Family Eleotridae)

Dalhousie Mogurnda, Dalhousie Purple-spotted Gudgeon


The Dalhousie Mogurnda is found in Dalhousie Springs on the edge of the Simpson Desert in northern South Australia (SA).


Dalhousie Mogurnda is a stocky cylindrical fish that grows to around 150 mm. The genus Mogurnda can usually be recognised by their conspicuous red spots on a bluish background along their sides, often with a series of five to ten lighter or yellowish short vertical bars. Males, females and juveniles are similarly coloured. Most fins have red spots towards the fin base with a yellow outer band. They have a moderately large mouth for their size. Gudgeons can often be distinguished from other fishes by their elongated cylindrical shape. The various Mogurnda species are never found together except in one small area. They are otherwise difficult to distinguish.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Dalhousie Mogurnda inhabits around 19 springs. These range from large warm pools and outflows, with discharges up to 140 litres per second, to small shallow swampy outflows. The Dalhousie Mogurnda can usually be found inhabiting the shallow margins of pools and outflows. Almost nothing is known of their ecology, however, it is probably similar to the ecology of other Australian Mogurnda species. Dalhousie Mogurnda will eat algae, small invertebrates, insects and fishes. It is not known whether they breed year round or seasonally. Males guard a small territory, usually in a hole or cave. They attract females to their territory with bright flashy displays. Females may lay up to several hundred eggs on the roof of the cave. Males vigorously guard their eggs that take seven days to hatch. Offspring mature in 4–6 months. Dalhousie Mogurnda have broad physiological tolerances and can withstand temperatures over 40°C.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This species is rarely available in the aquarium trade. They make excellent aquarium specimens, which are easily bred in captivity. They can be a bit aggressive at times though. Their habitat was incorporated into Witjira National Park in 1985. Previously it was part of Mount Dare cattle station. They are formally listed as restricted due to their limited range. The main long-term threat is lowering of groundwater pressure. Additional threats could come from the introduction of exotic fishes into the springs such as Gambusia holbrooki (Damnbusia), which could prey upon and compete with Dalhousie Mogurnda. Nearby flowing bores have been capped that should help to prevent groundwater pressure lowering.

Other Comments:

Mogurnda thermophila was named by Allen and Jenkins in 1999. The genus name is based on the Aboriginal word mogurnd, which is a word some Aborigines use to identify this fish. The species name is based on the Greek word thermo that means heat and phila meaning loving, due to the unusually warm water they live in.

Further Reading:

Allen, G. R., Midgley, S. H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Perth. 394pp.

Leggett, R. & Merrick, J. R. (1987). Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. J. R. Merrick Publications. Sydney. 245pp.

Unmack, P. J. (2003). Australian Desert Fishes.

Wager, R. & Unmack, P. J. (2000). Fishes of the Lake Eyre Catchment of Central Australia. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane. 90pp.

Zeidler, W. & Ponder, W. F. (1989). Natural History of Dalhousie Springs. South Australian Museum, Adelaide. pp 125.


Text: Peter J. Unmack & Rob Wager. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Ross Felix.

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