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Scortum barcoo (Family Terapontidae)

Barcoo Grunter



The Barcoo Grunter is found in the Lake Eyre Basin and Bulloo River in central Australia (QLD, SA, NSW). They are also reported to occur in the Gulf of Carpentaria (QLD, NT), however it is not clear whether these populations are the same species, or are referrable to the Gulf Grunter (Scortum ogilby).


Barcoo Grunter grow to at least 350 mm. They have a silvery-gray coloured body that may have dark blotches on their side varying between none and 12. These blotches vary day to day and from one side of a fish to the other. The blotches tend to be more apparent in fish from clear water. They posses a relatively small mouth and tend to be deeper bodied that most other grunters they coexist with. Barcoo Grunter have fins with many sharp spines and their gill covers have sharp edges making them difficult to handle.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Barcoo Grunter are mostly found in larger rivers and their associated permanent waterholes that are typically extremely turbid. They are probably omnivorous. Spawning is thought to occur during the warmer months and is probably induced by a rise in water level. Little else is known of their ecology.

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Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The Barcoo Grunter is of sufficient size to be of interest to anglers, and their flesh does not seem leathery like other Scortum species. They make excellent aquarium subjects, although they tend to be aggressive. They have no conservation listing as they have not declined, and are moderately widespread within central Australia.

Other Comments:

Scortum barcoo was named by McCulloch and Waite in 1917. The genus name is based on Latin, scortum meaning leather or hide, in reference to their leathery flesh. The species is named barcoo after the Barcoo River.

Further Reading:

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

Merrick, J. R. & Schmida, G. E. (1984). Australian Freshwater Fishes: Biology and Management. Griffith Press Ltd. 409pp.

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.


Text: Peter J. Unmack & Rob Wager. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Gunther Schmida.

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Images and Multi-media:  
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image/gif 61214 bytes Scortum barcoo
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 61900 bytes Distribution of Scortum barcoo

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