Research

  • A micro-CT scan of a sponge barnacle inside its host sponge. most of the sponge tissue has been removed from the image revealing the barnacle within.

    10 Aug 2018

    Australia's Diverse Sponge Barnacles

    When people think of barnacles they normally picture a small, conical shell clinging to rocks at low tide or to ships’ hulls and normally thought of as being a nuisance. What most people don’t realise is that barnacles are crustaceans (so closely related to crabs and shrimps) that have specialised and adapted to almost every marine environment, from the depths of over 5000m to being exposed at low tide for hours a day.

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    Blog entry
    Andrew Hosie

  • 9 Aug 2018

    Museum researchers identify new populations of one of WA’s rarest and most bizarre animals

    A team of researchers led by scientists from the Western Australian Museum has identified two new populations of one of WA’s rarest and most bizarre animals, the blind cave eel.

    The finds were made in two locations in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.

    The blind cave eel, Ophisternon candidum, is one of Australia’s least-known fishes and is the longest cave fish in the world, growing up to 40cm long.

    It is one of only three Australian vertebrates known to be entirely restricted to underground waters such as caves and wells. 

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    News
    Hillary Henry

  • 18 May 2018

    Describing Fauna Before they are Lost Forever

    It is sometimes hard to comprehend just how biodiverse the planet is.

    Despite almost 300 years of progress describing the animals, plants, fungi, and other organisms, there are estimated to be over 9 million undescribed species, which is almost five times the number of described species.

    This is a huge problem for conservation, as undescribed taxa are at risk of being overlooked when shaping management strategies. Sadly, many species will go extinct before science ever discovers, describes, and protects them.

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    Article
    Joel Huey

  • photo of live specimen

    7 May 2018

    Unreliable colour patterns in seaslugs

    As part of the Net Conservation Benefits Fund project, we have discovered 18 new species of Chromodoris nudibranch sea slugs. In our paper (Flexible colour patterns obscure identification and mimicry in Indo-Pacific Chromodoris nudibranchs; Mol. Phylo. Evol. 124, 27-36) we show that many of these new species have very similar colour patterns to already described species, which can be confusing when trying to identify species. This finding suggests that these colour patterns are not very reliable.

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    Blog entry
    Joel Huey

  • Rusty skink (Eremiascincus rubiginosus) Image copyright Ryan Ellis/WA Museum

    13 Apr 2018

    Fresh lizard species out of Western Australia

    Four new species from the Kimberley and Pilbara have been described by teams led by Dr Paul Doughty, our WA Museum Herpetology Curator (reptiles and amphibians).

    Three new gecko species of the genus Gehyra from the Kimberley region (and one from the Northern territory) were discovered through the workDetailed genetic analyses were conducted at the Australian National University (ANU), led by Professor Craig Moritz and a morphological study of specimens was carried out at the WA Museum led by Dr Doughty.

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    Blog entry
    Rebecca Bray

  • 13 Oct 2016

    Conservation

    Textile conservation at the WA Museum Image copyright WA Museum 

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    Article
    Western Australian Museum

  • Extent of the Indian Ocean

    12 Jul 2016

    The Leeuwin Effect – when the Indian Ocean houses Pacific taxa

    Earlier this year, we published a paper that highlighted a number of information gaps in Indo-Pacific phylogeographic studies (Putting the ‘Indo’ back into the Indo-Pacific: resolving marine phylogeographic gaps- Invert. Syst. 30:867-94). One of the things we discussed was the unusual phenomenon of typically Pacific taxa occurring in the north west of Western Australia (WA) – in the Indian Ocean!

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    Blog entry
    Molecular Systematics Unit

  • Image of arachnid

    16 Jun 2016

    New subterranean arachnid described from the Pilbara

    The arid zone of Western Australia is a harsh landscape that harbours a surprisingly rich native fauna. To cope with the heat and lack of water, species have adapted in many ways. Perhaps the most extreme method for enduring in this landscape is the colonisation of the subterranean environment. In the caves and interstitial spaces under the surface of the Pilbara, exists a thriving invertebrate fauna, which even includes the enigmatic blind cave eel, Ophisternon sp.

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    Blog entry
    Joel Huey

  • Image of Pseudoscorpion

    16 Jun 2016

    Western Australian Museum scientists describe new species of arachnid from Barrow Island, Western Australia.

    Barrow Island is a Class A nature reserve, located approximately 56 km from the mainland of Western Australia. The island shares a geographical affinity with the Pilbara bioregion, with a recent historical connection to the mainland and Cape Range during lower sea levels approximately 8,000 years ago. Despite this recent connection (at least in evolutionary terms), the island harbours many endemic vertebrate species and subspecies (e.g. Barrow Island Euro, Barrow Island Boodie, Barrow Island Black-and-White Fairy Wren).

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    Blog entry
    Joel Huey

  • Spider

    18 Jan 2016

    The role of DNA in species discovery

    To the surprise of some, most of the earth’s biodiversity remains undiscovered and undescribed. In 2011, Camilo Mora and colleagues calculated there are approximately 8.7 million eukaryotic species on earth (eukaryotes are those organisms that we normally think of, like plants, animals and fungi), and of these, 85% remain undescribed and/or unknown to science.

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    Blog entry
    Molecular Systematics Unit

  • Picture of Myzostome parasite, from crinoid host.

    22 Jun 2015

    Parasites are fun!

    Although most people will cringe when they think of having parasites inside them but as a biologist, I am fascinated by these tiny (and not so tiny) hangers-on. On our recent trip to the Montebello Islands, we came across some amazing animals.

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    Blog entry
    Nerida Wilson

  • Scientists processing specimens on back of boat

    17 Jun 2015

    Always take the weather with you

    This would have been good advice for the marine field trip we organised in April this year, to collect specimens for our Pilbara Conservation Systematics project. Initially we thought we'd managed to dodge the bad stuff. Our trip started only weeks after Ex-Tropical Cyclone Olwyn went through Exmouth as a Category 3, the starting point for our expedition. But only a few days into our two-week trip, an unseasonal patch of weather had us hiding at anchor at the Montebello Islands. 

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    Blog entry
    Nerida Wilson

  • a tiny brown mammal eats a moth on red stony soil

    6 May 2015

    Exciting postgraduate research projects studying the genetic diversity of Pilbara fauna

    The Western Australian Museum Molecular Systematics Unit is supporting the research of four PhD students, who are supervised by Research Scientists Dr Joel Huey and Dr Nerida Wilson, and funded through the Net Conservation Benefits fund. Each student and their research project will be introduced in these blog entries and we will provide exciting updates as their research progresses. To start, here is my blog.

    Linette Umbrello - PhD student at the University of Western Australia

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    Blog entry
    Lintette Umbrello

  • Male Mygalamorph spider of the genus Aname

    5 Nov 2014

    DNA Barcoding

    Traditionally, identifying which species a specimen belonged to required observing its morphological features, and referring to species descriptions and “keys”. However, this method is limited in some circumstances. What if only a feather of a bird was available, like the recent rediscovery of the Night Parrot? Or, for many spiders, only adult males have diagnostic features, so females and juveniles cannot be identified.

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    Blog entry
    Molecular Systematics Unit

  • 31 Jul 2014

    Biodiversity comes in all shapes and sizes

    When you think of a biodiversity survey, you might imagine a group of scientists going off to remote places, climbing mountains, scaling cliffs, or diving to deep coral reefs.  You may imagine a checklist that contains sighting of large mammals and birds, or of rare lizards and frogs…

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    Blog entry
    Molecular Systematics Unit

  • A model of the DNA double helix

    24 Jun 2014

    Welcome to the Western Australian Museum’s Molecular Systematics Unit Blog

    At the Western Australian Museum (WAM) we work hard to collect, describe and understand Western Australia’s rich natural heritage, and to understand its place in the world. In the collections facility based at Welshpool, we are amassing animal specimens from across the state, country and planet, from scorpions to cockatoos, and snails to whales. We collect these specimens so that we can answer basic questions about the natural world, such as:

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    Blog entry
    Molecular Systematics Unit

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