On this page...


Every year many students visit the Australian Museum as part of their Honours or PhD research.


Yi-Kai Tea recently completed his PhD at the University of Sydney, on the evolution and systematics of the Cirrhilabrin labrids. He completed his Honours degree in 2018, where he examined specimens of Microcanthus at the Australian Museum.

He is interested in the taxonomy, systematics, and historical biogeography of coral reef fishes, with a particular focus on the family Labridae (Wrasses, parrotfishes and weed whitings).

In 2019 Yi-Kai was awarded the Australian Museum Postgraduate Fellowship in 2019. During this period, he examined specimens of wrasses from the genera Pseudojuloides, Cirrhilabrus, and Paracheilinus.

Yi-Kai has been a consistent contributor to the AMRI blog and seminar series. Please see below for links to Yi-Kai's contributions

Fairy Wrasses and Fairy tales seminar

Fairy Wrasses and Fairy Tales blog

Angels in disguise blog

Boomeranging around Australia ! blog


Yi-Kai Tea
Yi-Kai Tea PhD candidate USYD/AMS Image: Kerryn Parkinson
© Kerryn Parkinson

The fairy wrasses are among the most diverse of the Labridae, with their 61 species accounting for nearly 10% of the family. Photo credit: Yi-Kai Tea.
The fairy wrasses are among the most diverse of the Labridae, with their 61 species accounting for nearly 10% of the family. Image: Yi-Kai Tea
© Yi-Kai Tea

The most taxonomically complete phylogenetic tree of the fairy wrasses yet, with nearly 80% of all species represented. Photo credit: Yi-Kai Tea, Rudie Kuiter, Michael Hammer, Benjamin Victor, Gerry Allen, and the late John Randall.
The most taxonomically complete phylogenetic tree of the fairy wrasses yet, with nearly 80% of all species represented. Image: Yi-Kai Tea, Rudie Kuiter, Michael Hammer, Benjamin Victor, Gerry Allen, and the late John Randall.
© Yi-Kai Tea, Rudie Kuiter, Michael Hammer, Benjamin Victor, Gerry Allen, and the late John Randall.


Indiana Riley from UNSW completed her honours degree in 2021 focusing on using integrative taxonomy to differentiate cryptic halfbeak (Hemiramphidae) species and interpret distribution patterns, fisheries landings, and speciation. Supervised by Dr Joseph DiBattista (AM), Dr John Stewart (SIMS), Prof Iain Suthers (UNSW) and Dr Hayden Schilling (UNSW). Below is the abstract from Indiana's thesis:

Species classification disputes can be resolved using integrative taxonomy, which involves the use of both phenotypic and genetic information to determine species boundaries. We applied an integrative taxonomic approach to two commercially important cryptic species of halfbeak (Hemiramphidae) whose distributions overlap in south-eastern Australia, to clarify species boundaries and assist fisheries management. Mitochondrial DNA and morphological data exhibited small but significant differences between the two species. The low level of mitochondrial DNA divergence, coupled with the lack of difference in the nuclear DNA, suggests these species diverged relatively recently (ca. 500,000 years ago) when compared to other species within the Hyporhamphus genus (>2.4 million years ago). Genetic differences between the species were accompanied by differences in modal gill raker counts, mean upper jaw and preorbital length, and otolith shape. Based on these genetic and morphological differences, we propose that Hyporhamphus australis and Hyporhamphus melanochir remain valid species.


Indiana Riley
Indiana Riley Honours Student Ichthyology 2021 Image: Kerryn Parkinson
© Kerryn Parkinson


Younis Menkara is an Honours in Marine Science with Prof Simon Ho from the University of Sydney and Dr Tony Gill from the Chau Chak Wing Museum and Australian Museum. Younis is focusing on a taxonomic revision of Acanthistius ocellatus, the Eastern Wirrah and potentially redescribing Acanthistius paxtoni, the Orangelined Wirrah.

The Eastern Wirrah – nicknamed ‘Old Boot’ due to its poor table quality – is a shallow to deep water rock cod that is commonly encountered by anglers and divers. The Orangelined Wirrah is a species that is known to exist from only two specimens, both collected and described in 1982.

Using morphological and molecular evidence from both species, we aim to better understand the taxonomy of the species and their relationships with each other. We suspect that A.paxtoni is not as rare as once thought and are being misidentified as A.ocellatus.


Younis Menkara
Younis Menkara Honours student Ichthyology July 2022 Image: Kerryn Parkinson
© Kerryn Parkinson