Leafy_Seadragon. Image: Greg Rouse.

The Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus eques, a spectacular member of the seahorse and pipefish family found in South Australian coastal waters.

The South Australian Museum’s Ichthyology Collection has a strong regional focus, with freshwater fishes of southern and central Australia and Southern Ocean fishes including deep-sea species, well represented.

The collection is comprised of more than 13,000 registered lots. A ‘lot’ may be a single specimen or a number of specimens, of the one species, collected from a certain locality at the same time.



Biological collections such as this are the ultimate ‘documentation’ of the biodiversity of a region and changes that may occur over time. The oldest South Australian specimens in the fish collection date from the late 1800s, and in some cases these species no longer occur at the recorded collecting localities.

The collection serves as a repository for specimens collected by researchers, and these voucher specimens are an important means of verifying or re-analysing results.

A small subset of the registered specimens held comprises the extremely important ‘Types Collection’. Types are the actual specimens upon which the published scientific descriptions of new species are based and, as such, are irreplaceable. Types must be lodged with a museum to be retained in perpetuity for taxonomists to re-examine as the need arises. Approximately 200 lots are held in the Ichthyology Types Collection at the South Australian Museum.


Recent Contributions

Interesting additions to the South Australian fish fauna are still documented through the efforts of fishermen and beachcombers.

One significant, recent find was of a 1.5 metre Louvar (Luvarus imperialis) washed up on an Adelaide metropolitan beach and collected for the Museum by Fletcher Kennedy. The species grows to 2 metres in length and feeds primarily on jellyfish and plankton. It is found around the world in temperate and tropical waters, and considered rare throughout its range. It is very seldom seen in Australian waters, with only a few collected off the east coast. This is the first record of the species from Australia’s southern coast.

Louvar Fish

Louvar fish, Louvaris imperialis.

The Gulf St Vincent fish die-off in March 2013 resulted in many species being collected from beaches and brought to the Museum by members of the public. These samples are valuable in documenting the event and the species affected. A representative selection of specimens will be tissue-sampled and retained in the collection. 


Do you do research on fish?

Those conducting fish research in South Australia are strongly encouraged to lodge representative voucher samples with the South Australian Museum’s Ichthyology Section. The Museum welcomes approaches by bona fide researchers from other institutions to access the Ichthyology Collection for research purposes.

To find out more about our collections the data can be accessed via the Online Zoological Collections in Australian Museums (OZCAM). OZCAM is the key repository for fauna collections from Australian collections institutions. The same data can also be found at the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) site, where a wide range of biological data from museums, herbaria and even microbiology collections are available online.


Staff in Ichthyology