Salaria on Cyprus? | A search-find survey

The History

In 2013, the first investigations began in hope to determine if the ancient population of the Freshwater Blenny Salaria fluviatilis still remains on Cyprus island. The history goes all the way back to 1909 with the culmination of a 4-5 year search resulting in the discovery of the species in just a handful of torrents in Lemesos / Limassol district, Cyprus, by the naturalist Roland L. N. Michell; our brief article written in 2015 outlines story in detail.

The Previous Research

In 2014, after considerable efforts by the HCMR (Hellenic Centre for Marine Research) in collaboration with the Natural History Museum London, an article was published in the science journal Taylor & Francis by our FLP colleague Stamatis Zogaris and his team, they outlined in great detail the results of their comprehensive search to find the species in 170 sites on the island, but to no avail…

Our Surveys

In November 2017, a small Freshwater Life Project team embarked on another trip to cover some of the ground within the Lemesos district which was not previously investigated. Our aim was not only to try and find any lost relic populations that may somehow have gone unnoticed, but to determine if suitable habitat still existed within the original range of the species in order that the possibility of re-introduction would be authentic and could be deemed achievable; a map of our first preliminary investigation sampling 19 sites for Salaria fluviatilis in 3 river systems is presented below (indicated by the colours Purple, Red & Blue)

Terrain Map showing research sites in Lemesos district from November 2017

In October 2018 we returned to Cyprus to continue our search for evidence of, and suitable habitat for Salaria fluviatilis. We covered some of the remaining area which was previously un-researched on our last trip, but also expanded our search into two more rivers. This time we connected with some volunteers and a team from Cyprus University of Technology to conduct what we understand may be the first environmental DNA analyses from Cypriot rivers; research sites are represented by blue, red and green pins (yellow pins represent dry tributary river beds).

Satellite map showing research sites in Lemesos district from October 2018

The Findings

In 2017, of the 19 sites sampled, zero were found to contain individuals of Salaria fluviatilis or any evidence of their presence. However, both river systems sampled contained habitats which could be deemed highly suitable for Salaria fluviatilis. More importantly, it renders the species a strong candidate for re-introduction to the inland waters of Cyprus in the event that its extinction is confirmed and providing the appropriate action can be taken to restore some or all of its former habitat.

In 2018, of the 25 sites sampled in three rivers, we once again were unable to find any physical evidence of Salaria but observed large areas of ideal habitat and conducted eDNA sampling at multiple localities. All river systems were influenced in varying degrees by effluent, mostly from agriculture and in some areas levels recorded were so high that they considerably exceeded the measurable scale.