A ‘zombie’ fish has been spotted for the first time in 20 years after being officially declared extinct.
Hopes to bring back an entire species from what was thought to be extinction are now very much alive thanks to a remarkable discovery at a country lake in Australia.
In 1998, the southeastern state of Victoria declared the southern purple-spotted gudgeon, extinct, Daily Mail reports.
But scientists were forced to rethink the status of the species in 2019 when one was found in a lake near Kerang.
The shock sighting sparked an investigation from excited authorities which recovered another 79 nearby.
The freshwater fish which Victoria’s North Central Catchment Management Authority has nicknamed a ‘zombie fish’, will now be revived through a captive breeding program.
Adrian Martins of Victoria’s Environment, Land, Water and Planning Department said: “Most of our team have worked their whole lives dealing with the decline of threatened or endangered species, so to have an opportunity to be witnessing the opposite is something special.
“This is a really incredible and exciting find.
“We couldn’t believe it when we started finding so many at Middle Reedy [lake].”
Elsewhere in South Australia, the species remains extinct but over the state border in New South Wales its status is elevated to endangered and numbers are higher still in Queensland’s warmer river systems.
According to the New South Wales Department of Industry, the southern purple-spotted gudgeon inhabits areas of still water, around weeds, rocks and snags in rivers, streams and billabongs where it feeds on smaller fish, insect larvae, worms, tadpoles and plants.
Mr Martins added: “We have a great chance now to not only bring the southern purple-spotted gudgeon back from the brink, but to help build its numbers and distribution back up to what they were before European occupation, river regulation, and the introduction of pest species.”
News of the zombie fish has given enthusiastic Tasmanian tiger hunters renewed optimism of finding the predator which was declared extinct several decades ago.
One commenter wrote online: “Extinct species can come back.”