Sunday, March 13, 2016

Residents surprised to find tiny fish in puddles following rainfall at remote Australian cattle farm

Much needed rain in drought-stricken Queensland, Australia, brought not only delight to locals but also confusion, with the mysterious appearance of small fish far from any water holes. Tahnee Oakhill from Bernfels station said she was stunned to see a number of fish flapping on a gravel road in front of her home on Wednesday. The fish appeared after 75 millimetres of rain fell on the Oakhill's property, 70 kilometres north-west of Winton in western Queensland. "It's pretty crazy, getting that much rain was pretty shocking and then that happening after that ... it's been a weird week," Ms Oakhill said.

Ms Oakhill said her husband found the fish and raced inside to tell her and their children. "If he tells me it's just rained fish I'm going to go out and have a look because he's either mad or it's [really] just happened," she said. Ms Oakhill said her children spent hours rescuing the fish. "They had a ball, they were going a little bit bat crazy in the house with the rain and the wet day," she said. "[Then] they were out there in the mud for hours after that, collecting them up and putting them in a container with some water and trying to figure out what they were going to do with these fish. They were pretty amazed, I think it was very exciting for them."

Ecologist Dr Peter Unmack from the University of Canberra said it was unlikely the fish had fallen from the sky. He said the fish appeared to be spangled perch. "This is the most widespread fish across Australia, almost anywhere there's water in northern Australia you can find this fish," Dr Unmack said. "In central Australia it's ubiquitous, it's pretty much everywhere and they are amazing dispersers." Dr Unmack said the spangled perch was an aggressive fish and very adept at moving across big distances in a short period of time - even in a small amount of water.

"When water comes they want to get away from their brothers and sisters because they've all been beating each other up horribly for a long time," he said. They just want to get away as fast as they can the first chance that comes along." However, he said it was possible for fish to fall from the sky in very rare circumstances. "The other key point is if you did get massive updrafts of water and fish that got carried up into the clouds, everything up there is frozen because it's too cold," he said. "So if you dropped the fish from the sky they'd be frozen solid, not flapping around. So it is theoretically possible, but it's difficult to see many situations where fish get picked up by strong winds and can survive."

There are videos of the fish being found here and here.

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