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

STH AUSTRALIANS TO SHED LIGHT ON ANTS AND WASPS


19 November 1997
(137/97)

Greater knowledge of Australian octopuses, spiders, ants 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.

Four projects totalling $19 400 will be conducted by researchers in South Australia.

"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, the South Australian Museum receives a $2 000 grant to develop an easier way of distinguishing between the estimated 120 species of ants in one of the most common ant groups, called Camponotus ants.

"A researcher at the University of Adelaide will use a $4 000 grant to study one of the largest families of parasitic wasps in Australia, while private researchers will study species of terrestrial mites and the tropical Acanthus plant family with grants totalling $13 400.

"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 South Australian 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

South Australia

Revision of Camponotus ephippium and rubiginosus Groups
Organisation: South Australian Museum
Amount: $2 000
Contact: Archibald McArthur
This project will assist the identification of species in two groups of Camponotus ants. At present it is impossible to identify most of the 120-odd taxa in Camponotus, one of the most common Australian ant groups. Species diversity in ants is being accepted by ecologists as an indicator of the biological activity and hence the well being of environments.

Revision of Australian Parasitengona (Acari)

Organisation: Unattached
Amount: $1 400
Contact: Ronald Southcott
The project is studying the taxonomy and biology of the terrestrial mites Parasitegona, with particular reference to life histories and parasitizations. The Parasitegona are notable for having parasitic larvae which prey on insects or even on vertebrates. The research results have medical or veterinary significance, and could lead to development of biocontrol agents, for example, to control harmful insects.

Revision of the Endemic Australian Braconid Wasps Betylobraconinae and Mesostoinae

Organisation: University of Adelaide
Amount: $4 000
Contact: Dr Andrew Austin
The Braconidae is one of the largest families of parasitic wasps in Australia. This project will finalise the revision of these diverse species of wasps and assist with completion of illustrated keys and distribution maps.

Acanthaceae for Flora of Australia

Organisation: unattached
Amount: $12 000
Contact: Robyn Barker
The Acanthus family is largely tropical and is represented in Australia by both native and exotic plants which have been able to escape the constraints of the garden and, in many cases, become troublesome weeds, such as Thunbergia in the Cairns area, and Ruellia in the Top End. Contrasting with these aggressive intruders are the little known native plants. Some are very restricted in their distribution and qualify for rare and endangered status, for example, Xerothamnella of southern Queensland and Dicladanthera of the Hamersley Region of Western Australia. They are very old relicts whose closest relatives are unknown.

Contact:
Liz Visher, Australian Biological Resources Study, 02 6250 9554

Commonwealth of Australia