Cryptic biodiversity in the freshwater fishes of the Kimberley endemism hotspot, northwestern Australia

The prevalence of unrecognised species is a real problem for estimating true biodiversity and hampers conservation planning. The remote and spectacular Kimberley region in northwestern Australia, with its rugged landscape and deep gorges, harbours some of the most diverse and unique animal and plant communities in Australia. Recently, many new cryptic species have been found on land, raising the question of whether the rivers and streams are also full of unrecognised species. We sampled fish from rivers right across the Kimberley and assessed different molecular genetic data for the Kimberley’s most species-rich fish family, Terapontidae. Clear evidence exists to describe 13 new fish species. Many of these new species are only found in a single river. Our findings show that the fish biodiversity in the Kimberley is severely under-represented, with significant implications for ecological research, conservation and management.