Sahul Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia sahulensis Hammer, Allen, Martin, Adams & Unmack 2019

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Melanotaenia sahulensis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Oct 2020,

Sahul Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia sahulensis Hammer, Allen, Martin, Adams & Unmack 2019

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North-east Cape York Peninsula and Torres Strait, Australia: northern tip and east coast of Cape York from the Jardine River, Bamaga area, Shelburne Bay area and south to Scrubby Creek, and Moa Island, Torres Strait, Queensland. Elsewhere the species occurs Papua New Guinea from the Pahoturi to Bensbach river systems including the mid-Fly River, and the Merauke area, West Papua, Indonesia.


Male and female fin morphology conspicuously different; adpressed first dorsal fin extending beyond base of second dorsalfin spine in male and to base of spine in female; adpressed posterior rays of dorsal and anal fins extend well beyond middle of caudal peduncle in male and about midway in female; first soft anal ray of both sexes longer than remaining rays in female, but longest rays at posterior end of fin in male; lateral scales usually 32 or more, vertebrae usually 33 or more, anal fin rays 15 or more; maximum size 48–53 mm SL
Dorsal and anal fins of male with light outer margin and dark submarginal band (northernmost portion of Cape York Peninsula and Moa Island, Australia and Trans-Fly region of New Guinea


Side of body with series of 7–8, well-contrasted dark stripes (blackish to dark brown in life; males usually with noticeable dark markings on second dorsal fin; lateral scales 30–34 (most frequently 31–33) (Australia and southern Papua New Guinea). . . .


The species is named sahulensis in reference to the Pleistocene-era continent Sahul which comprised the land masses of Australia and New Guinea connected under low sea-level and is reflected in the modern distribution of the species. It is also a tribute to the Australian and New Guinea Fishes Association (which maintains the journal Fishes of Sahul) that has done much to promote and document native fishes of the region, especially rainbowfishes.

Species Citation

Melanotaenia sahulensis Hammer, Allen, Martin, Adams & Unmack 2019, Zootaxa 4701 (3): 218, figs 5 & 7. Type locality: Pahoturi River, Sigabadu (09° 14.75ʹS, 142° 44.05ʹE), <1.0 m.


Bray, D.J. 2019

Sahul Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia sahulensis Hammer, Allen, Martin, Adams & Unmack 2019


Hammer, M.P., Allen, G.R., Martin, K.C., Adams, M. & Unmack, P.J. 2019. Two new species of dwarf rainbowfishes (Atheriniformes: Melanotaeniidae) from northern Australia and southern New Guinea. Zootaxa 4701(3)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37245028

Max Size:Freshwater

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CAAB distribution map