Three grants awarded to the Western Australian Museum to describe new species in Western Australia

Article | Updated 10 months ago

An eel-tailed catfish Neosilurus sp
Caption: An eel-tailed catfish Neosilurus sp
Credit: WA Museum

Through the BushBlitz 2020-21 Taxonomy Research Projects offered by the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment, the Western Australian Museum has received three grants that will answer questions arising from previous BushBlitz field trips.

The BushBlitz program is an Australian Government initiative that coordinates field trips and taxonomic descriptions, mainly through museums and herbaria. The Western Australian Museum is key to organising these programs within Western Australia which include collaborators from across Australia.

Key points

  • Many new species of Western Australia’s biodiversity to be described
  • Taxonomic descriptions and species identification can take a long time
  • The Western Australian Museum is a leading institution in taxonomic descriptions
  • Mapping WA’s biodiversity is important for conservation management

New Pseudoscorpion species

Synsphyronus christopherdarwini Harvey, 2012, from Charles Darwin Reserve, Weste

Caption: Synsphyronus christopherdarwini Harvey, 2012, from Charles Darwin Reserve, Western Australia
Image copyright WA Museum

Dr Mark Harvey, Senior Curator of Arachnology, and Dr Joel Huey, Research Scientist, have been awarded a grant of $16,500 to document new species of the arid zone pseudoscorpion genus Synsphyronus (Pseudoscorpiones: Garypidae) collected during previous Bush Blitz expeditions. There could be nine new species described.

Through this grant, the team will welcome back Dr Karen Cullen to assist in documenting the nine new species.

Pseudoscorpions are ubiquitous, small, terrestrial predators that are globally distributed, occurring from the seashore to the highest mountain ranges. There are 25 families placed in three suborders of which 19 families have been recorded from Australia.

The genus Synsphyronus currently contains 32 named species, and was comprehensively revised by Dr Harvey in 1987. This was followed by the description of four new species by Dr Harvey and his collaborators Dr Kym Abrams and Dr Mieke Burger between 2011 and 2015.

Although puzzling in their nature, pseudoscorpions are of considerable conservation significance and one species of Synsphyronus (S. elegans) has been the focus of population monitoring in south-western Australia due to loss of habitat.

Learn more about Christopher Darwin’s Pseudoscorpion by following this link.


New Kimberley Catfish

An eel-tailed catfish Neosilurus sp

Caption: An eel-tailed catfish Neosilurus sp
Image copyright WA Museum

Dr Glenn Moore, Curator of Fishes, and Dr Michael Hammer of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) have been awarded a grant of $15,000 which will allow fresh field collection, imaging and description of a new species of ‘eel-tail’ catfish that they discovered in 2014 in remote sites in the rugged terrain of the East Kimberley.

Eel-tail catfishes are important contributors to ecological function of most freshwater systems in Australia (and elsewhere).

While few are considered threatened, they generally spend most of their lives in a very small area and are at risk of localised disturbances.

As a consequence, it is important to understand the taxonomy and distribution of these species among the highly fragmented drainage systems of the Kimberley.

This project will also enable re-engaging with Aboriginal Rangers and traditional owners and involve two-way learning with Rangers and community.


New True Bug species

Dr Nik Tatarnic, Curator of Entomology, and Dr Joel Huey, Research Scientist, have been awarded $11,940 to photograph and DNA barcode all Heteroptera (True Bug) species collected during the Cape Range Bush Blitz (along with targeted specimens from other Bush Blitz Trips).

Almost 100 species will be imaged and sequenced through the Museum’s Molecular Systematics Unit, and the results will be compared to existing data generated from previous Bush Blitz surveys, the Net Conservation Benefit program, and published studies.

This will aid elucidation of the taxa, facilitate the naming of species and provide important baseline data for ongoing studies and identifications.

Four new species have been selected for rapid description pending the outcome of the molecular analyses. In the longer term, our results are expected to enable future taxonomic and systematic work for years to come.


Meet the WA Museum Scientists

Meet Dr Mark Harvey

Dr Mark Harvey, Western Australian Museum’s Senior Curator of Arachnology

Caption: Dr Mark Harvey, Western Australian Museum’s Senior Curator of Arachnology
Image copyright WA Museum

Dr Mark Harvey is the Western Australian Museum’s Senior Curator of Arachnology. Mark’s research includes the systematics of arachnids and myriapods, including their phylogenetic history and evolutionary relationships, as well as the taxonomy of arachnids and myriapods, and especially the documentation and description of new species.

Learn more about Mark’s work by following this link.

Meet Dr Joel Huey

Dr Joel Huey, Research Scientist

Caption: Dr Joel Huey, Research Scientist
Image copyright WA Museum

Dr Joel Huey is a Research Scientist with the Molecular Systematics Unit at the Western Australian Museum. Joel’s research includes phylogenetics, phylogeography and population genetics, exploring the evolutionary history of species, delimiting species using molecular data, and understanding the drivers of diversification.

Learn more about Joel’s work by following this link.

Meet Dr Glenn Moore

Dr Glen Moore, Curator of Fishes

Caption: Dr Glen Moore, Curator of Fishes
Image copyright WA Museum

Dr Glen Moore is the Curator of Fishes at the Western Australian Museum. Glenn’s research includes systematics and biogeography of Western Australian fishes (especially marine species), evolutionary processes (genetics) influencing the speciation and distribution of fishes, marine fishes of the Kimberley region, and reproduction and sexual selection in seahorses.

Learn more about Glenn’s work by following this link.

Meet Dr Nik Tatarnic

Dr Nik Tatarnic, Curator of Entomology

Caption: Dr Nik Tatarnic, Curator of Entomology
Image copyright WA Museum

Dr Nik Tatarnic is the Curator of Entomology at the Western Australian Museum. Nik’s research includes sexual selection, the evolution of insect mating systems, and the role of sexual conflict in driving male and female behaviour and morphology, systematics of bugs and grasshoppers, including their phylogenetic history and evolutionary relationships, and coevolution and speciation.

Learn more about Nik’s work by following this link.

Read this 'Statement from Australia's Natural History Museum Directors' regarding the climate change crisis.