Lake Torrens, a large (similar to 6000 km(2)), episodic, saline playa lake in arid central Australia, filled for the first recorded time in March 1989. This unique event followed unprecedently heavy rain over its catchment. Water remained in the lake until early 1990. Salinities remained low (< 40 g l(-1)) until November 1989, then increased rapidly to > 200 g l(-1) before the water evaporated completely. Na and Cl probably dominated the ions. Twenty-nine taxa of aquatic animals were recorded. Crustaceans dominated and of these Parartemia minuta (anostracan), Daphniopsis queenslandensis and Moina baylyi (cladocerans), and several species of ostracods were the most important. Other significant taxa included Tanytarsus barbitarsis (chironomid), Brachionus plicatilis (rotifer) and Craterocephalus eyresii (fish). The fauna was dominated by widespread forms that are either part of a distinct assemblage found widely in central Australian salt lakes (especially P, minuta, D. queenslandensis, M. baylyi and Trigonocypris subglobusus [ostracod]), or cosmopolitan forms (B. plicatilis), or forms found widely in Australian salt lakes (e.g. Diacypris compacta, Tanytarsus barbitarsis). However, possibly three new species also occurred: a new species of a new genus of mytilocypridinid, Branchinella nov.sp. and Heterocypris is nov. sp. Their occurrence is anomolous. It is suggested that further work will show that they too are widely distributed. Both genera of the latter two taxa are typical of temporary waters and specimens may have been washed in from nearby water-bodies. Sixty-four species of bird were recorded when the lake contained water, many breeding. The breeding of the banded stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus) was notable; breeding of this species had been unknown in South Australia since 1930. A large population built up until breeding was stopped by predation from the silver gull (Larus novaehollandiae). When dry, the lake has a depauperate but well-defined and regionally restricted 'terrestrial' fauna (scorpions, spiders, beetles, ants).