It’s hard to believe there could be new populations of species discovered these days, especially in a busy Provincial Park such as Sandbanks, but Scott Reid, an aquatic endangered species research scientist with the MNRF, and his team did!
While studying the Pugnose Shiner, a fish species at risk, MNRF staff stumbled upon a species least expected; the Eastern Sand Darter. These small benthic fish are found scurrying along the sandy bottoms in search for benthic invertebrates such as midge and blackfly larvae and crustaceans.
Previously, Eastern Sand Darter was believed to exist in two distinct areas within Canada, 500km apart. Populations are known from the Grand, Thames, and Sydenham rivers of southwestern Ontario, and to the northeast in the St Lawrence River and Lac Champlain drainages of Quebec. This discovery is the first documented population in the Lake Ontario Basin, specifically in West Lake within Sandbanks.
Eastern Sand Darter numbers are declining with four out of the eleven populations believed to be extirpated. However, with this new discovery, there may be other undiscovered populations in Eastern Ontario. Further studies are underway on the West Lake population, and will hopefully help this native species at risk.
This story truly demonstrates that a scientist’s work is never done and how there’s still new discoveries out there waiting for us to stumble upon!
Want to help with these discoveries and studies? Check out our article on how to become a citizen scientist.