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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

QUEENSLAND SCIENTISTS TO SHED LIGHT ON SPIDERS AND MITES


19 November 1997
(137/97)

Greater knowledge of Australian octopuses, spiders, flies and a raft of other species will be the outcome of 52 research projects being funded by the Australian Biological Resources Study.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has announced funding of $1.2 million for 1997-98 for vital taxonomic research into identifying and describing a range of relatively unknown Australian plants, animals and micro-organisms.

Ten projects totalling $263 000 will be conducted by scientists at Queensland universities and other institutions, and by one private researcher.

"More than 75 per cent of Australia's species remain a mystery because they are yet to be studied in detail.

"Through this national grants program, important support is provided for taxonomists to gather, synthesise and produce critical inventories of our plants and animals, particularly for species that are still completely unknown.

"Among the projects, researchers at the Queensland Museum will shed light on native hunting spiders and their venoms with a grant of $45 000, study free-living flatworms in freshwater habitats with a $20 000 grant and look at parasitic wasps with a $3 500 grant.

"An $11 000 grant to the University of Queensland will support important research into primitive mites which live in rainforest litter.

"The Australian Biological Resources Study plays a critical role in helping Australians better understand the natural environment, laying the groundwork for improved conservation strategies and potential nature-based industries.

"Apart from helping us better understand Australia's biodiversity, this work will add to the scientific basis on which large-scale conservation projects, such as those being supported by the Natural Heritage Trust, are based."

A list of the Queensland projects is attached.

Contact: Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Liz Visher (Australian Biological Resources Study) 02 6250 9554
19 November 1997
137/97

Australian Biological Resources Study
1998 Research Projects

Queensland

Survey of Halacaridae (Acarina: Prostigmata) of the Great Barrier Reef
Organisation: Australian Institute of Marine Science
Amount: $57 000
Contact: Jurgen Otto
The Great Barrier Reef is inhabited by a vast number of species of marine mites (Halacaridae) that are yet unknown to science. The project will survey the marine mite fauna of this area for the first time, and approximately 100 new species will be scientifically described. Marine mites are abundant on seashores as well as in deep sea sediments, but are very little studied due to their small size (0.2 to 2mm). They are likely to be an important link in the food chain and may contribute to sustaining economically important fish stocks.

New Spider Genera (Araneae: Amaurobioidea) from Australian Rainforests

Organisation: Queensland Museum
Amount: $6 000
Contact: Valerie Davies
The Amaurobioidea are ecologically important spiders inhabiting Australian rainforests. The project aims to identify and describe new species of the Amaurobioidea superfamily. These spiders are small, light brown, often nocturnal, reclusive, and require expert identification to differentiate the genera and families. This research will greatly aid in developing identification tools for this largely undescribed fauna.

Generic Overviews of the Hunting Spiders of the Neglected Families Clubionidae, Ctenidae, Cycloctenidae, Miturgidae, Toxopidae, Pisauridae, Zoridae in Australia

Organisation: Queensland Museum
Amount: $48 000
Contact: Robert Raven
Ground-hunting spiders are the most likely to inflict a venomous bite on humans. However, of the probable 3000 species in Australia, only about 300 have names (but we cannot recognise many with confidence) and the venoms of only six are known. Ground spiders are also an important food source for small endangered vertebrates, such as bilbies. Only when the taxonomy of these spiders is completed can their role in medical envenomations, vertebrate prey, and ecology generally be known.

Revision of 11 Genera of Myrtoideae (Myrtaceae)

Organisation: Department of Environment, Queensland Herbarium
Amount: $45 420
Contact: Gordon Guymer
This project is studying the taxonomic relationships of the several poorly known Myrtoideae genera common to Australasia, including many species previously unknown to science. The Myrtoideae are the fleshy-fruited relatives of the eucalypts, tea-trees and other better known Myrtaceae. The project encompasses research on 11 rainforest genera and approximately 83 species, and will be added to the Flora of Australia.

Checklist and Guide to Trematodes of Australian Fishes

Organisation: University of Queensland, Department of Parasitology
Amount: $7 000
Contact: Thomas Cribb
The Trematodes are a major group of flatworm parasites of Australian animals. Some species are small, while others are large and highly pathogenic. Australian fish may harbour as many as 6 000 species of trematodes, although fewer than 300 of these have been described. At present, there is no convenient way to identify these parasites. This project will produce a guide to trematodes of Australian fishes so fisheries biologists and others will be readily able to identify the parasites they find in fish.

Taxonomic Studies on the Dictyotales (Phaeophyta)

Organisation: University of Queensland
Amount: $35 000
Contact: Julie Phillips
Species of the brown algal order Dictyotales are common components of marine communities in Australia's tropical and temperate regions. Australia is a centre of diversity of the Dictyotales, including all known genera and approximately half of the total number of described species. The project aims to document the biodiversity, biogeography and evolutionary relationships of the Australian species, to redefine generic and species concepts using a comprehensive set of vegetative and reproductive characters, and to describe genera and species new to science.

Taxonomy of Australian Freshwater Microturbellarians

Organisation: Queensland Museum
Amount: $20 000
Contact: Dr Lester Cannon
This project will study Australia's free-living flatworms, particularly in freshwater habitats. The research will answer the most basic questions on the origins, evolution, relationships and biogeography of the flatworm groups. The results will greatly assist ecological and monitoring programs in inland Australia. The project will employ a postgraduate student to assist with the work.

A Revision of the Suborder Cercomegistina (Acari, Parasitiformes, Mesostigmata)

Organisation: University of Queensland, Department of Entomology
Amount: $11 000
Contact: David Walter
Australian rainforests contain a significant proportion of the earth's biodiversity, but much of it remains unstudied, especially the smaller invertebrates. Much of this fauna is unique, and does not fit classifications developed in the Northern Hemisphere. This project will study the Cercomegistina, a group of primitive mites that live in rainforest litter. About 25 per cent of the world's diversity of these mites is Australian, but so far only one species has been described. The project will shed light on an unusual and ecologically important component of Australia's biodiversity.

Revision of the Australian Hard-bodied Genera of Entedoninae (Chalcidoidea: Eulophidae)

Organisation: Queensland Museum
Amount: $3 500
Contact: Christopher Burwell
The project aims to prepare taxonomic revisions of the Australian species of 20 genera of parasitic wasps belonging to the subfamily Entedoninae of the family Eulophidae. These genera contain species which parasite, and thus exert control over, insect pests, especially moths, beetles and flies whose larval stages mine the leaves of plants. The published results of this project will provide the bases for identification of many parasitic wasps reared during economic and ecological projects.

Revision of the Hygrophoraceae of Eastern Australia

Organisation: unattached
Amount: $30 200
Contact: Anthony Young
The eastern Australian species of the fungal family Hygrophoraceae will be fully revised using both fresh and herbarium collections. Written and computer based keys and descriptions will be produced. The new data will provide further information on the origins of the Australian species and will provide the baseline study for this family. The investigation is urgently needed because species of the Hygrophoraceae are known to be extremely sensitive to agricultural practices and fertiliser and will have already become extinct in some Australian habitats. These taxa may also have a role as bioindicators.

Contact:
Liz Visher
Australian Biological Resources Study
Environment Australia
02 6250 9554

Commonwealth of Australia