Image: The oldest fish in the Australian Museum Collection

The oldest fish in the Australian Museum Collection

The oldest fish in the Australian Museum Collection, a dried Orangeblotch Surgeonfish, Acanthurus olivaceus, collected by Scottish naturalist John MacGillivray in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), 18 December 1858. The fish is registrated as AMS IB. 6315.

Carl Bento
© Australian Museum

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Tags fishes, ichthyology, oldest fish, Acanthurus olivaceus, Orangeband Surgeonfish, Orangeblotch Surgeonfish, Acanthuridae, marine, dried, yellow, brown,


Mark McGrouther - 8.03 AM, 28 March 2011

Hi Timikin,  My pleasure!   I had to do a bit of research on MacGillivray to answer your question, so we both learned something.

timikin - 11.03 AM, 26 March 2011
Thanks Mark... Very interesting!!
Mark McGrouther - 10.03 AM, 23 March 2011

Hi again timikin.  I realised after posting my comment that I didn't fully answer your question.  To be honest, I don't know if the fish was obtained as a straight donation or an exchange.  I have looked at the hand-written record in the old register but there is no indication of how the fish was obtained.

Mark McGrouther - 10.03 AM, 23 March 2011

Hi timikin.  Thank you for your enquiry.  The fish was collected by Scottish naturalist John MacGillivray who despite applying on at least one occasion was never a staff member of the Australian Museum.  MacGillivray participated in numerous expeditions to parts of the south Pacific on a number of vessels, including the Fly and Rattlesnake.  While in Vanuatu, MacGillivray was involved in the sandalwood trade and regularly sent natural history specimens back to London.

timikin - 1.03 PM, 22 March 2011
Hi there, Is it known if this specimen was collected by Amu staff in the field in 1858, or if it was a donation or exchange? Cheers Tim
Jen Cork - 9.09 AM, 02 September 2010

Great! Thanks Mark.

Mark McGrouther - 1.09 PM, 01 September 2010

Hi Jen,

Thank you for your question.  The way the a specimen is photographed depends upon the use to which the image will be put.  Most of the time we don't need (or cannot take) a beautiful, high-resolution image.  In many cases we need to take a quick photo of the live (or freshly dead) colouration of the fish. This is often done in the field when it is not possible to take professional photographic equipment.  Quick photos may also be taken of a feature of a fish to send to a researcher to aid in his/her research.  In these cases one of us 'fishos' will usually take the photo with a small hand-held camera.

If a high resolution image is required, such as when the image will be printed in a hard-copy publication or used for publicity, staff of the Australian Museum's Photography Section will take the photo.  In these cases professional gear is set up to achieve excellent results.

Taking a photo does not damage the specimen.  The main danger to the specimen is handling.   Extreme care is taken when moving a very old specimen such as the one in the image on this page.

I hope this answers your question.

Jen Cork - 11.09 AM, 01 September 2010

Hello Fish Section!

Question... When photographing these specimens do they get damaged?

What is the normal process in photographing them?

Love your work!!

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