New species remain unclassified due to international taxonomists shortage

Scientists are unable to name a newly-discovered spider that walks on water found in WA's Kimberley because there is a shortage of taxonomists.

An unnamed spotted wolf spider. The West Australian Museum says there's not enough taxonomists to describe and document new species discovered. (AAP)

An unnamed spotted wolf spider. The West Australian Museum says there's not enough taxonomists to describe and document new species discovered. (AAP) Source: SBS

Hundreds of newly discovered animals remain unclassified due to an international shortage of taxonomists.

Head of the West Australian Musuem's department of terrestrial zoology, Mark Harvey, said there's not enough taxonomists to describe and document all of the new species discovered.

The shortage is delaying the naming of a spotted wolf spider found last week in WA's Kimberley region during a Bush Blitz expedition, which is part of Australia's largest nature discovery project.

The expedition also discovered several other species believed to be completely new to science including a rainbow fish, a pseudoscorpion and a butterfly.

Dr Harvey said the spider was found once before during a 2012 Bush Blitz expedition to the Northern Territory's Pungalina reserve, but was not scientifically classified because of the taxonomist shortage.

"There has been a steady decline across the country and internationally (of taxonomists) as scientific research has focused on other disciplines," Dr Harvey said.

"There are hundreds of new spider species waiting to be described and named in the scientific literature, and each description can take days to complete and prepare for publication."

Dr Harvey said the discovery of the new spider was significant because it walked on water but was not a water spider.

"This particular spider species appears to be a new species of wolf spider that has been recorded from the edges of pools in the Northern Territory and north-western WA," he said.

"Some species of wolf spiders have the ability to run on the surface of ponds and puddles, where they hunt small aquatic insects for their prey.

"Documenting the many new species of spiders that we have discovered is important to understand where these spiders are found and what their habitat preferences are."

The Bush Blitz is a three-year multi-million dollar partnership between the federal government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia to document species in properties across the National Reserve System, which covers more than 11 per cent of the continent.

Since its launch in 2010, more than 700 new species have been discovered including 272 species of true bugs, 130 species of spiders and scorpions, 36 species of bees and 11 species of vascular plants.

Australia is home to more than 560,000 native species, many of which are not found anywhere else on earth, but it is believed only one-quarter of them have been scientifically documented.

3 min read
Published 6 June 2014 at 1:59pm
Source: AAP