September 29, 2009.
850 new species found in Aussie outback.
A Dytiscid beetle was among the 850 species found in the four-year study. Photos courtesy of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity, University of Adelaide.
Over 400 of them need a name
MORE than 800 species ranging from blind fish to diving beetles have been discovered in outback Australia, but half of them need your help to find a name.
The unnamed animals are among 850 new species found in a four-year study. The species found include insects, crustaceans, spiders and worms, and are only the tip of the iceberg, scientists say.
"Up to five times more species could still be left undiscovered," scientists said.
Most of the critters are blind and live in subterranean water, caves and micro-caverns.
"What we've found is that you don't have to go searching in the depths of the ocean to discover new species of invertebrate animals — you just have to look in your own backyard," researcher Andy Austin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide, said.
"Virtually all are blind and completely lack eyes, and lack pigment, so they are pale or white in color," Dr Austin told LiveScience.
"The species are quite delicate and the insects in caves often have long legs and antennae — most sense vibration and use chemical senses, as they cannot see in the pitch black."
But only half of the new species have been named, Dr Austin said.
Until the creepy crawlies have been examined by their relevant scientific bodies, the species have been given the generic names “stygofauna” for animals found in underground water and “troglofauna” for those found in caves and micro-caverns.
Think you can come up with better? Check out the new species and leave your suggestions in the comment box below. The best will be sent off to the scientists for their thoughts.
Dr Austin said the critters fled underground due to climate change around 15 million years ago.
"Central and southern Australia was a much wetter place 15 million years ago when there was a flourishing diversity of invertebrate fauna living on the surface," Dr Austin said.
"But the continent became drier, a process that last until about one to two million years ago, resulting in our current arid environment. Species took refuge in isolated favorable habitats, such as in underground waters and micro-caverns, where they survived and evolved in isolation from each other."