Pilbara yields species new to scientists
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.
Adrian Pinder samples a granite rock pool.