Pil­bara yields species new to sci­en­tists

Pilbara News - - News - Samille Mitchell Ex­plore more sci­ence news from the Pil­bara at www.sci­encewa.net.au

You may think the heady days of dis­cov­er­ing new plants and an­i­mals are over, but a big, long-term bi­o­log­i­cal sur­vey of the Pil­bara has un­cov­ered an as­ton­ish­ing 615 new species of in­ver­te­brates, at least nine new species of rep­tile and 30 new plant species.

And that doesn’t in­clude the 600 or so species of sty­go­fauna dis­cov­ered liv­ing in un­der­ground aquifers — most of them pre­vi­ously un­known to sci­ence.

The mind-bog­gling ar­ray of species was dis­cov­ered as part of the De­part­ment of Parks and Wildlife’s and WA Mu­seum’s 14-year Pil­bara Bi­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey.

The sur­vey in­volved dozens of staff and vol­un­teers work­ing at hun­dreds of sur­vey sites in some of the most re­mote, lo­gis­ti­cally chal­leng­ing and in­hos­pitable ar­eas of the State.

The sur­vey started when the de­part­ment re­alised they needed a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of sty­go­fauna liv­ing in un­der­ground aquifers, to help in­form en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ments for min­ing projects.

Thanks to fund­ing from the re­sources in­dus­try, it wasn’t long be­fore the pro­ject be­gan to ex­pand to in­clude in­ver­te­brates, ver­te­brates and plants, on land and in fresh wa­ter.

Botanists recorded 1500 of 2300 known plant species in the re­gion, col­lect­ing 80,000 sam­ples, known as vouch­ers, of which 9000 will be kept in the WA Her­bar­ium col­lec­tion.

Sur­vey bi­ol­o­gists stud­ied 304 sites to record 250 species of ants, 430 species of ground bee­tles, 290 species of spi­ders, 22 species of scor­pi­ons, 40 species of slaters, 140 species of rep­tiles, 11 species of frogs, 130 species of birds, 17 species of bats and 20 species of small mam­mals.

Pic­ture: Sci­ence Net­work

Adrian Pinder sam­ples a gran­ite rock pool.

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