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Biologue Issue 29,
October 2004


Director’s report

This has been a very busy and productive year for ABRS. A total of $1.554 million was distributed to fund 66 taxonomic research projects, many new and exciting publications are in various stages of production, and ABRS continues to place a strong emphasis on the provision of online information, e.g. the Australian Faunal Directory (AFD) now delivers information on almost 57 000 species. The Australian Biological Resources Study contributes actively to international issues, providing the interim Australian node for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) as well as being the Australian Focal Point for the Global Taxonomy Initiative.

In March this year, the Parliamentary Secretary, Dr Sharman Stone, launched two important new publications on Australia’s lesser-known organisms (Catalogue of Australian Liverworts and Hornworts and A Field Guide to Mosses and Allied Plants of Southern Australia) as well as the Flora of Australia Online database. It was very pleasing to hear Dr Stone reconfirm the Australian Government’s commitment to documenting the lesser-known components of Australia’s biodiversity, and to improving the dissemination of essential taxonomic knowledge to land managers and other clients, with increasing emphasis on online delivery.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage has approved $1.827 million to be spent this financial year on new and renewed grants and contracts, postgraduate scholarships and student travel bursaries. In addition, ABRS is very pleased to receive Natural Heritage Trust funds to continue projects on key biodiversity information sets for improved management of waterways and marine and terrestrial ecosystems and to commence a new NHT project establishing a portal for the Australian participant node for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

We were very excited to learn recently that ABRS and CSIRO Entomology have won another Whitley award from the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, this time for Evolution of Behavioural and Ecological Diversity: Australian Acacia Thrips as Model Organisms. Whitley Awards are presented for outstanding publications (in printed or electronic form) that contain a significant amount of information relating to the fauna of the Australasian region.

Staff changes

Graphic artist, Virginnia duToit, left ABRS earlier this year to resume studies. The graphics/web position has now been filled by Brigitte Kuchlmayr who has been acting in the position for several months.

Congratulations to Muhammad Iqbal on his promotion to a position in Approvals and Wildlife Division. The resulting vacancy was redesigned for an Administrative Assistant and has been filled very capably by Cathy Crozier.

Annette Wilson, manager of the ABRS vascular plants subprogramme, is currently working at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as the Australian Botanical Liaison Officer (ABLO). Annette will complete her term at the end of October 2004 and will resume duties at ABRS in November.

ABRS Advisory Committee

Dr Jennifer Andrew, one of the four stakeholder members of the ABRS Advisory Committee, submitted her resignation late last year due to personal reasons. The Committee was sorry to see Jennifer leave and expressed their gratitude for her contribution.

The former Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, appointed a new stakeholder member. Dr Caroline Crawford has over 12 years experience as a native vegetation consultant, is a Councillor with the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Council and a Committee Member on the Natural Heritage Advisory Committee (National Trust South Australia). She has extensive experience with community groups and in environmental education and is a very welcome addition to the ABRS Advisory Committee. Caroline attended her first meeting in September 2004.

A number of existing Advisory Committee members have been re-appointed for a further term, including the Chairman, Dr Ian Gould; technical members, Professor Andrew Austin (invertebrate taxonomist); Dr Tim Entwisle (algal taxonomist); Dr John Pitt (mycologist); Dr Winston Ponder (marine invertebrate taxonomist); and stakeholder members, Dr Jane Gilmour (Earthwatch Institute, a community-based non-profit NGO); Mr Guy Fitzhardinge (Landcare representative); and Professor Ron Quinn (natural product chemistry and its commercial applications).

The Advisory Committee members require a good balance of knowledge and understanding of the ABRS programme as well as of the external stakeholder environment and a willingness to tackle new challenges.

At the meeting held in March 2004, the Advisory Committee congratulated Dr Tim Entwisle on his appointment as Executive Director of the Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, and Professor Ronald Quinn on his appointment to the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

The main task at the March meeting was the assessment of applications for the 2004/05 Participatory Programme. The Committee noted that the funding of too many new grants in any one year can initiate a funding cycle whereby insufficient funds are available in subsequent years. As a pre-emptive measure, the Committee recommended that, where appropriate, some applicants should be offered less funds than requested in the first year, with the balance being offered in the second or third years. It is understood that this strategy has caused difficulty for some grant recipients, but it will help achieve a more even spread of indicative renewal funds for future years. The Minister for the Environment and Heritage approved the Committee’s recommendations concerning distribution of grant funds. For the first time grants were also awarded specifically for projects that lead to the development of discrete biodiversity information products.

International events

ABRS was not represented in the Australian delegation that attended the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its seventh meeting, held in Kuala Lumpur (9–20 and 27 February 2004). However, we did send a large number of information folders with back copies of Biologue and the ABRS Publications List and Order Forms, as well as a brochure about the new Flora of Australia Online. These apparently were very popular with conference delegates and all materials were taken.

The fourth meeting of the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) Coordination Mechanism was held on 1 May 2004 on the margins of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility Governing Board Meeting (GB8), in Oaxaca, Mexico. Mr Ian Cresswell (Assistant Secretary of the DEWHA Wildlife Trade and Sustainable Fisheries Branch and former Director of ABRS) attended. Plans for the Asia-Pacific Regional GTI workshop were presented to the meeting by Dr Karen Wilson (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney). This workshop will take place in tandem with the forthcoming GBIF Governing Board Meeting (GB9) to be held in October 2004 at the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington. The workshop is expected to review the implementation of the Programme of Work of the GTI in Asia-Oceania and to identify ways of engaging the commitment of more nations in the region. Mary Colreavy (Director, ABRS) is a member of the organising committee for the workshop.

A separate report outlining developments with regard to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility is included in this issue of Biologue.

December 2003 saw the publication of two further volumes of Species Plantarum Flora of the World: Part 9. Chrysobalanaceae 1 and Part 10. Chrysobalanaceae 2. These bring to 10 the number of published volumes, providing detailed species descriptions, along with identification keys, distribution maps, and illustrations. ABRS publishes and distributes this popular series for the Species Plantarum Steering Committee, an arm of the International Organisation for Plant Information.

Whitley Award

Evolution of Ecological and Behavioural Diversity: Australian Acacia Thrips as Model Organisms

ABRS, in conjunction with co-publisher CSIRO Entomology, has scooped a Whitley Award for excellence in publishing of an evolutionary text. This year’s winner is Evolution of Ecological and Behavioural Diversity: Australian Acacia Thrips as Model Organisms, written by B.J.Crespi, D.C.Morris and L.A.Mound, and including a Botanical Annexe on Classification of Acacia by B.R.Maslin.

This cross-disciplinary volume explores theories of behaviour and ecology through studies on a radiation of a group of small plant-sucking insects on the foliage of Acacia, Australia’s largest plant genus. In support of the theoretical discussions, the book includes descriptions and black and white digital images of over 200 Acacia thrips species, 140 of which are newly described and colour plates of some of the gall-inducing thrips and their galls, and of some of the extraordinary polymorphic thrips that invade and defend the galls or tied Acacia phyllodes.

The phylogenetic studies on the Acacia thrips were funded by an ABRS grant that supported David Morris on a post-doctoral fellowship, the theoretical text was written by the Canadian scholar of insect social behaviour, Bernie Crespi, and the taxonomic descriptions were prepared by thrips specialist Laurence Mound at CSIRO Entomology. Alice Wells of ABRS edited and prepared the book for publication, and funds for printing came through CSIRO Entomology. This volume, together with the earlier online publication of the information guide to Polychaetes, POLiKEY, and other texts and electronic products underway, illustrate recent changes in the direction of the ABRS Fauna programme.

The award-winning book, unmistakable with its striking cover design by graphic artist Brigitte Kuchlmayr, is true value for money at AU$55.00 — printing costs having been met from within the authors’ research budget.


ABRS bryophyte publications & Flora of Australia Online

On Wednesday 25 March, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, launched three new ABRS biodiversity information products at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra. The Secretary for the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Mr David Borthwick, introduced Dr Stone, acknowledging the Australian Government’s ongoing support for making biodiversity information available to the general community.

Two new publications were launched that deal with Australia’s bryophytes, significant but neglected elements of the Australian flora that, along with lichens and micro-organisms, play a significant role in binding and stabilising fragile soil, reducing water loss and maintaining nutrient levels in otherwise poor soils. A Field Guide to the Mosses and Allied Plants of Southern Australia was produced in partnership between ABRS and the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria and written by David Meagher and Bruce Fuhrer, and the Catalogue of Australian Liverworts and Hornworts was compiled by Dr Patrick McCarthy. These two books are essential references for land managers, naturalists and scientists.

For more information on these publications (volumes 20 and 21 of the Flora of Australia Supplementary Series) go to the ABRS website.

In addition, the Flora of Australia Online was launched. This is the world’s first national online interactive taxonomic data resource for Australia’s unique plant species, allowing flexible, user-defined searching. With Flora of Australia Online, clients such as farmers, conservationists, local government officers, landcare groups, scientists, educators, university students and school children can customise data delivery to suit their own needs.

Dr Ian Gould, Chairman of the ABRS Advisory Committee, thanked the Parliamentary Secretary for launching these products and also thanked the many taxonomists and institutions who work with ABRS to develop such high quality taxonomic and biogeographic information.

Participatory Programme Grants Scheme

Partnerships in Documenting Australia’s Biodiversity

Call for 2005/2006 Grant Applications

ABRS is now calling for applications for grants that will be provided in the year 2005/2006. The application forms, guidelines and other instructions are available from the ABRS website.

Research Project Grants

Research Project Grants are aimed at developing taxonomic understanding of the Australian biota in areas commensurate with the Australian Government’s National Research Priorities. Applications will be accepted on all groups of organisms including algae, fungi, lichens, flora, bryophytes, protists and fauna. Funding will be considered for individual applicants as well as research teams that bring together complementary expertise and/or facilities.

Where appropriate, requests that include the training of students (at honours and postgraduate levels) and early career researchers (e.g. postdoctoral level) are strongly encouraged. Where complementary expertise exists, joint supervision by academic staff in universities and researchers in museums, herbaria, CSIRO and other institutions where systematics research is undertaken, is also encouraged. Funding can be requested for a maximum of three years.

Biodiversity Information Product Grants

In recent years ABRS has expanded its role to deliver taxonomic information in a range of formats. Biodiversity Information Product Grants have been introduced specifically for projects that lead to the development of discrete products such as:

  • Identification keys, checklists and guides
  • Web based products
  • Databases
  • CD ROM products
  • Other value-added products that facilitate the easy dissemination of taxonomic information.

Normally, applications for Biodiversity Information Product Grants will be for one or two years, and more rarely for a maximum of three years. Applicants planning to apply for this type of grant are strongly encouraged to contact ABRS staff to discuss the merits and scope of the intended project.

Priority areas for Research Grants for 2005/2006

Projects funded under the Participatory Programme should support the Australian Government’s National Research Priorities, in particular the key area of An Environmentally Sustainable Australia. However, in some cases, projects may also address the goals of two other areas of national research priority, namely Promoting and Maintaining Good Health and Safeguarding Australia. Before completing the application form, applicants are strongly advised to become familiar with information on the National Research Priorities.

Within the National Research Priorities, the ABRS Advisory Committee has identified the following specific criteria for applications under the ABRS Grants Scheme:

  • Documentation of Australia’s biological diversity with particular emphasis on lesser-known groups, including micro-organisms
  • Rigorous taxonomic treatment mainly at species level
  • Contribution to regional or continental generic or higher-level systematics research
  • Groups of high conservation value
  • Groups of economic, health and/or social benefit
  • Innovative approaches for dealing with complex systematics problems.

Projects submitted for 2005/2006 funding should aim to address one or more of these criteria within the relevant section of the application form, and relate these to the goals of one of the National Research Priorities. Further information regarding the ABRS criteria and National Research Priorities may be obtained from the ABRS Business Manager, phone (02) 6250 9554 or email:

Deadline for 2005/2006 applications

Applications must be received by 10 November 2004.

Articles from Grantees

Life in a rotten log: the mysterious world of dead wood-dependent invertebrates

The endemic Australian Collembola that we are studying are among the largest springtails in the world. These ‘giants’ make their living in rotten logs, where they enjoy a daily banquet of fungi and assorted slime moulds. However, life in a rotten log is not always peachy — other inhabitants include ferocious velvet-worms (Onychophora), treacherous funnel-web spiders (Arachnida), and seriously scary predatory flatworms (Platyhelminthes). All of these shady characters are more than happy to make a meal of an unsuspecting collembolan.

However, these diverse, log-dwelling (saproxylic) invertebrates do have some common interests — they all depend on dead wood, they are all relatively sedentary, and they are likely to have a long history of co-association (i.e. a shared landscape ‘experience’). By investigating the degree of phylogeographic congruence among these (and other) co-distributed invertebrates, we aim to determine the relative influence of habitat and species biology upon the present-day spatial distribution of genetic diversity. In other words: is the population-genetic structure of log-dwelling invertebrates habitat-specific or species-specific?

Tallaganda State Forest (and adjoining Badja State Forest, collectively referred to as ‘Tallaganda’ here), located in south-eastern New South Wales, is the model system where our research programme is based. This site is an isolated, long and narrow (approximately 100 km × 15 km) stretch of continuous eucalypt forest bisected by the Great Dividing Range. It is likely to have been differentially impacted by historical climate change owing to a heterogeneous topography that has been geologically stable for more than 50 million years. From the perspective of moisture-dependent rotting log fauna, Tallaganda can be viewed as an episodically expanding and contracting collection of sometimes tiny forested refuges, embedded in a periodically glaciated, inhospitable mosaic of cold, dry, woodland or steppe.

Here, we find a wealth of diverse, saproxylic, invertebrate fauna, including the highest known densities of the globally vulnerable Phylum Onychophora. In a collaborative project involving researchers from La Trobe University, the Australian National University and Macquarie University, phylogeographic patterns of paired representatives of several taxa, including ‘giant’ Collembola (two undescribed neanurids), velvet-worms (Euperipatoides rowelli and Phallocephale tallagandensis), terrestrial flatworms (Caenoplana coerulea and Artioposhtia lucasi) and funnel-web spiders (Atrax sp. and Hadronyche sp.) will be compared with each other and with other very different members of the saproxylic community.

The present research seeks to inform forestry management practices and guide conservation strategies through delineating Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative areas for protection (thus fulfilling the requirements of the ‘CAR’ system). By identifying areas (microbiogeographic regions) that are home to evolutionarily distinct lineages of diverse log-dependent invertebrate taxa, this information will assist in maximising the conservation benefit of nature reserves. For more information about the Tallaganda comparative phylogeography project, visit:

Receipt of an ABRS bursary for student travel enabled me to attend the 34th Australian Entomological Society and 6th Invertebrate Biodiversity & Conservation combined conference ‘Invertebrates & Environmental Change’. This has had a number of notable benefits relating to my Ph.D. research. Firstly, it gave me the opportunity to give an oral presentation about my research into the population-genetic structure of an as yet undescribed, endemic, Australian ‘giant’ springtail from Tallaganda. This experience was useful for developing my communication skills and informing other researchers about the comparative phylogeography project. The presentation provoked a number of questions and constructive criticisms from audience members with diverse professional interests and backgrounds. Secondly, many of the oral presentations contained material that was either directly or indirectly relevant to my particular field of interest. Given the strong representation of research topics relating to saproxylic invertebrates, it was encouraging to see that this ecologically important community is receiving some scientific attention in Australia. Finally, as a direct result of my attendance at the conference, I was able to discuss with other scientists the design of a sub-project that would be highly complementary to my central Ph.D. research. This led to a collaborative project proposal focusing on establishing phylogenetic relationships among members of the genus Acanthanura, a poorly studied group of endemic Australian Collembola of high conservation significance. We are optimistic that this project will be funded in the near future.

Advancing our knowledge of Dermocybe and mycological systematics in Australia

As an undergraduate at the University of New England I was fortunate enough to participate in the Internship Programme initiated by Bob Makinson at the Australian National Botanic Gardens Herbarium in Canberra. Of the many scientists to whom Programme participants were introduced, I found members of the cryptogam community particularly motivated and generous, to the point that I left Canberra with the foundation of my mycological library. Several years later, at a conference in Adelaide, I met other mycologists, and subsequent discussions and reading of articles on the paucity of taxonomic information on Australian fungi made the decision of a topic for Ph.D. research an easy one. As the recipient of an ABRS Postgraduate Scholarship and a student of the School of Botany at the University of Melbourne, in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, I embarked on a project to investigate the relationships of Australian members of Cortinarius subgenus Dermocybe.

The small to medium-sized, often vividly coloured toadstools of C. subg. Dermocybe play an important role in a diverse range of Australian ecosystems by forming mutualistic associations with the roots of forest vegetation such as eucalypts, tea-trees and myrtle beech trees. The high level of endemism seen in Australian vegetation is also reflected in Australian dermocybes, with the majority of recognised species occurring only in Australia. Some recognition of the significance of Australian fungi was the inclusion of one member of C. subg. Dermocybe in the 1981 Australian Fungi series of postage stamps.

Although C. subg. Dermocybe is known to occur on most continents, and is well studied in the Northern Hemisphere, there is little reliable taxonomic information on the Australian species. Of the comparatively few records that exist here, a number were previously assigned to Northern Hemisphere species and others were prematurely named, being based on limited knowledge of infraspecific variation. As such, dermocybes are one of the many groups of Australian gilled fungi for which the alpha taxonomy requires revision before evolutionary relationships can be explored. Information from morphology and pigment chemistry was used in the initial part of my project to establish species limits. Representatives from these species groups were then incorporated into an examination of evolutionary relationships, constituting the first suite of Southern Hemisphere dermocybes to be included in phylogenetic analyses.

In a taxonomic sense, fungi aren’t the easiest of organisms to work with. Much valuable information is lost upon drying or if material is badly handled. It is therefore important to record information, particularly colour, from fresh material. No surprises then that a number of misidentifications were made by non-resident mycologists in the early days of mycological research in Australia! For my project, a comprehensive and consistent set of macroscopic characters was recorded from fresh material. Colour was recorded using a standardised colour chart, and studio and field colour photographs as well as line drawings supported a written description of each collection. Field collections were augmented by a number of collections on loan from various herbaria, including all available type collections.

The simple and plastic structure of toadstools means that taxonomic information from morphology is relatively limited. Fortunately, C. subg. Dermocybe is characterised by the presence of pigments known as anthraquinones and their derivatives. These pigments can be extracted with relative ease and analysed using thin-layer chromatography, providing pigment profiles that are more or less species-specific. Pigment chemistry thus provides a welcome source of taxonomic information in addition to morphology. It follows that many hours of the project were spent in the chemistry lab through collaboration with the School of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne.

Although information from morphology and pigment chemistry can be used to examine the evolutionary relationships of dermocybes, rapid advances in techniques that allow the utilisation of information from DNA have led to molecular data being widely used in phylogenetic studies of the group. Access to molecular data for members of C. subg. Dermocybe and relatives in other subgenera of Cortinarius from the Northern Hemisphere allowed me to not only examine relationships among Australian species but to also assess the relationships between Northern and Southern Hemisphere representatives.

Outcomes from this project have much to offer both amateur and professional mycologists. Eighteen species were identified, of which eight correspond to previously published taxa and 10 are putatively new. All previous records of Northern Hemisphere taxa in Australia were shown to be misidentifications. A key, along with comprehensive descriptions of recognised species are a dream-come-true for field mycologists who have been known, with all good intentions, to misapply names or to misidentify species such as those in the red-coloured group. For a number of taxa, information from morphology and pigment chemistry was necessary to provide a confident determination. In one case, detailed assessment and interpretation of the morphology and pigment chemistry of type collections was essential to ensure the correct application of a species name according to the rules of nomenclature.

This study confirms the usefulness of appropriate molecular methods for the elucidation of phylogenetic relationships of Australian dermocybes, with a number of relationships being supported by pigment chemistry. Results of cladistic analyses based on ITS rDNA sequence data indicate that C. subg. Dermocybe is monophyletic, i.e. all members have a common ancestor and the group includes all descendents of that ancestor. A unique evolutionary history is indicated for Southern Hemisphere members of C. subg. Dermocybe which, with the exception of C. olivaceopictus from the Northern Hemisphere, form a separate clade to Northern Hemisphere members. The much larger group, comprising Cortinarius in a broad sense, is shown to be paraphyletic.

Thus, through the provision of funding for this project, ABRS has facilitated considerable advancement in our understanding of C. subg. Dermocybe systematics in Australia. Outcomes from the project provide reliable information for incorporation into databases and catalogues such as the Interactive Catalogue of Australian Fungi, and interactive identification tools such as Lucid-based keys. This information will enable us to now pursue conservation measures for a number of taxa that are known from relatively few collections on the Australian mainland. From this position, I look forward to a increasing involvement in mycological matters, and the provision of contributions on various aspects of Australian fungi.

Fungi Catalogues for the 21st Century

A complete catalogue of Australian fungi was published by Daniel McAlpine in 1895. Since that time numerous new species have been discovered, and there have been many changes to accepted names. A project to catalogue Australian fungi now brings together the literature records of Australian fungi under currently accepted names. Two volumes have been published in the Fungi of Australia series (volumes 2A & 2B); the first covering the agarics (gilled fungi), boletes, and their truffle-like relatives, and the second covering diverse macrofungi such as slime moulds, puffballs, stinkhorns, birdsnest fungi, coral fungi, polypores and jelly fungi. Further volumes covering the remaining fungi, such as disc and cup fungi and the microfungi (moulds, mildews, rust fungi, smut fungi, etc.) are in preparation.

Each name is provided with the full details of authorship and publication necessary for nomenclatural and taxonomic considerations. Many Australian fungi remain to be named, and many of those already named are poorly characterised. These publications will save much time for those engaged in revising the taxonomy of Australian fungi. Under each species is provided a listing not only of publications about taxonomy, but also a comprehensive selection of references to Australian fungi in relation to biology, ecology, conservation, plant and animal pathology, human health (poisonings and disease), and natural products chemistry. Where records contain illustrations, this is also noted.

A collection of original publications and photocopies is maintained at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, including copies of all protologues (the original descriptions of species) for names of fungi originally described from Australia. Support from the Australian Biological Resources Study has been essential for the massive task of combing this literature for names and records.

In a collaboration between ABRS and RBG Melbourne, an interactive version, Interactive Catalogue of Australian Fungi , has been produced and is now online. The interactive version allows updating on a regular basis, to take account of changes in accepted names, and to track the many new species of fungi being described and recorded from Australia. The Interactive Catalogue currently includes 3719 accepted names, under more than 9000 binomials. There are more than 3000 entries in the accompanying bibliography.

In the Interactive Catalogue, the text of the printed Fungi of Australia volumes 2A and 2B has been converted to a relational database, and the data can be accessed through various search options, such as on the species name, and also through the higher classification (family and order). Updates planned for the Interactive Catalogue include conversion of the bibliography to a searchable database, and links to such items as illustrations, herbarium specimen distribution maps and electronic versions of protologues.

These print and online catalogues of Australian fungi provide, for the first time in 100 years, ready access to the names and literature on Australian fungi. They will underpin the considerable effort that is required to fully document Australia’s very considerable fungal biodiversity, from mushrooms to moulds.

A taxonomic revision of Australian Thelotremataceae (Lichens)

More than 20% of the known species of fungi form stable, self-supporting, symbiotic associations with algae or cyanobacteria which are called lichens. The vast majority (c. 98%) belong to the euascomycetes, resulting in almost half of the Ascomycota species being lichenised. Thus, lichenisation is one of the most important lifestyles of fungi. Lichens occur worldwide and in all ecosystems from the tropics to the polar regions. They play important roles in different ecosystems, including fixation of atmospheric nitrogen, stabilising soil surfaces in semi-arid regions, providing an environment for small arthropods, or making rocky surfaces habitable for other organisms by accelerating weathering and decomposition. Despite their importance for a variety of ecosystems, their exact contribution is poorly understood. This is mainly due to the lack of information on numerous important groups, especially crustose groups from the tropics.

Our project aims to provide a Flora of Australia treatment of the crustose and currently poorly known family Thelotremataceae. This family occurs in Australia in all vegetation types and is especially diverse in tropical areas where species represent an important part of the tropical diversity of lichens in rainforests and gallery forests. They are not only very common in the tropical rainforests of Queensland but are also quite diverse in the temperate rainforests of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania. Therefore, knowledge of the species occurring in Australia, their distribution and ecological preferences, are scientifically important. Indeed, species of this group could be used as bioindicators to characterise rainforest types. In our project, morphological, anatomical, and chemical characters are examined in order to differentiate and characterise the species.

Inadequacies of the early literature and subsequent misapplication of names has led to many taxonomic and nomenclatural problems in the Thelotremataceae. Our recent investigation of the genus Diploschistes in Australia has exemplified this (Lumbsch & Elix, 2003). Several new criteria, resulting from the examination of secondary metabolites, and attributes of the fruiting bodies, including their ontogeny, are being used in an effort to solve these problems. In our studies, previously overlooked characters, such as the amyloidity of the apothecial margin or special structures of the ascospores were found to be excellent discriminators for circumscribing taxa.

Currently about 13 genera are accepted in the family (Eriksson et al., 2004), twelve of which occur in Australia (McCarthy, 2003). The circumscription of the genera, however, is controversial. In the traditional classification, ascospore septation and colouration was used schematically to distinguish genera. Since the work of Salisbury (1972), the genera in the family have been delimited mainly by the structure and colouration of the fruiting body margin. The usefulness of these characters, however, has never been tested using molecular methods. Based on our examinations at the species level, supplemented by molecular studies in connection with a separate project on lichen phylogeny (Lumbsch et al., 2004a, b; Martín et al., 2003), we are attempting to circumscribe monophyletic groups within the family. The molecular studies employ genetic markers from the nuclear and mitochondrial genome to ensure that the inferred phylogenies represent the evolution of the organisms.

With the exception of the genus Diploschistes (Lumbsch & Elix, 2003) and the chroodiscoid taxa in Tasmania (Kantvilas & Vezda, 2000), the Thelotremataceae of Australia have never been examined critically. Indeed there has been no attempt to revise the entire family for any continent due to the large number of species involved. The current Catalogue of Australian Lichens (McCarthy, 2003) lists 107 species. Within the last three decades, several regional revisions have been published that are an important basis for our investigations of the Australian species. However, the taxonomic knowledge at the species level in this group is poor, as exemplified by the two recent studies on Australian Thelotremataceae. Lumbsch & Elix (2003) accepted 15 taxa of Diploschistes in Australia. Prior to this study, 10 species were recorded for Australia (Filson, 1983), of which four were synonyms and one a misidentification, reducing the number of legitimate taxa to five; i.e. one third of the number of currently accepted species. A study by Kantvilas & Vezda (2000) showed that the state of knowledge of some allied groups is even poorer. In their investigation of Tasmanian chroodiscoid species, they accepted nine taxa, eight of which were newly described. Given that the centre of distribution of the Thelotremataceae is in tropical regions, a large number of undescribed species and new records can be expected for the Flora of Australia treatment.


Eriksson, O.E., Baral, H.-O., Currah, R.S., Hansen, K., Kurtzman, C.P., Rambold, G. & Laessøe, T. (eds) (2004), Outline of Ascomycota – 2004, Myconet 10: 1–99.

Filson, R.B. (1983), Checklist of Australian Lichens. National Herbarium of Victoria, Melbourne.

Kantvilas, G. & Vezda, A. (2000), Studies on the lichen family Thelotremataceae in Tasmania. The genus Chroodiscus and its relatives, Lichenologist 32: 325–357.

Lumbsch, H.T. & Elix, J.A. (2003), The lichen genus Diploschistes (Thelotremataceae) in Australia, Bibliotheca Lichenologica 86: 119–128.

Lumbsch, H.T., Schmitt, I., Palice, Z., Wiklund, E., Ekman, S. & Wedin, M. (2004a), Supraordinal phylogenetic relationships of lichen-forming discomycetes (Lecanoromycetes) based on a combined Bayesian analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial sequences, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31: 822–832.

Lumbsch, H.T., Mangold, A., Lücking, R., Garcia, M.A. & Martín, M.P. (2004b), Phylogenetic position of the genera Nadvornikia and Pyrgillus (Ascomycota) based on molecular data, Symbolae Botanicae Upsaliensis, in press.

Martín, M.P., LaGreca, S., Schmitt, I. & Lumbsch, H.T. (2003), Molecular phylogeny of Diploschistes inferred from ITS sequence data, Lichenologist 35: 27–32.

McCarthy, P.M. (2003), Catalogue of Australian Lichens, Flora of Australia Supplementary Series No. 19, Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra.

Salisbury, G. (1972), Thelotrema Ach. Section Thelotrema, 1. The T. lepadinum group, Lichenologist 5: 262–274.

Life after an ABRS Postgraduate Scholarship

John Dowe received his Ph.D. from James Cook University of North Queensland in 2001. His Ph.D. research, supported by an ABRS Postgraduate Scholarship, was on the genus Livistona (Arecaceae), with an investigation of its systematics, cladistics, biogeography and reproductive biology, and with extensive field work undertaken in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Thailand.

In 2002, John commenced work with the Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, at James Cook University, Townsville, as an Associate Researcher investigating the effects of cattle upon riparian vegetation, in collaboration with Dr Neil Pettit. Since mid 2003, he has occupied the position of Botanist with ACTFR and has expanded his focus to riparian floristics, research into the population structure of the rare riparian palm Livistona lanuginosa, development of a method of rapid appraisal of riparian condition, and a study of the botany of Ludwig Leichhardt. John has also maintained an interest in palm taxonomy and systematics and is presently finalising the treatment of the Arecaceae for the Flora of Australia.

Floristics of the Burdekin River catchment, Ludwig Leichhardt’s legacy, and taxonomic intrigues

The Burdekin River is one of Australia’s largest river catchments, only surpassed in area by the Murray/Darling and Fitzroy River systems. The climate is tropical sub-monsoonal, and rainfall can be exceptionally variable between years. Parts of the catchment receive some of Australia’s highest rainfalls, while other areas are distinctly semi-arid. Thus, the flora occurring within the catchment is diverse, including habitats such as rainforest, vine thickets, closed and open woodland, savannah, semi-arid shrubland and grassland. Cattle grazing dominates the middle and upper catchments, while the delta has become Australia’s most productive sugarcane-growing area. Accordingly, there are no areas within the catchment where the effects of pastoralism or farming have not been experienced to some degree.

Against this backdrop, impose the exploration activities of Ludwig Leichhardt, the first European to traverse the catchment, during the Overland Expedition of 1844–45. The Burdekin River was named by Leichhardt ‘in acknowledgment of the liberal assistance which I received from Mrs. Burdekin of Sidney, in the outfit of my expedition’. Leichhardt, an accomplished botanist, provided an insight into the flora as it existed immediately prior to European settlement, by recording both habitat types and species distribution as part of his diary and published journal of the expedition (Leichhardt, 1847a). The first European settlers arrived in the catchment in the early 1860s, and their impact was wide-ranging and profound. Many of the species that Leichhardt matter-of-factly described were soon to experience European style land management practices, and the floristic make-up of the area was to be impacted upon by cattle and their custodians.

To determine the changes that might have occurred to the flora since settlement, floristic profiles of those habitats that were most often observed by Leichhardt were developed. The profiles were compared with the species reported by Leichhardt and an estimate of the degree of change over time was gained. By necessity, Leichhardt had to stay close to streams where water was available, and it is indeed the riparian vegetation that received most of his attention. Of the habitat types within the catchment, the riparian areas are considered to have been most able to withstand the impact of cattle.

Periodic, dynamic floods are a feature of the Burdekin River catchment. On average, a major flood event will affect most parts of the catchment every 15 years. In the middle and upper areas of the catchment, these major floods appear to act as ‘re-setting’ agents for the riparian areas, and the effects of the floods tend to obscure and ameliorate the impacts of pastoralism. Conversely, in the delta where sugarcane farming is intense, the floods have little residual effect as the landscape has been adapted, with the construction of dams and weirs, to mitigate flood damage. This is, indeed, a much altered landscape bearing little resemblance to natural environments.

Comparison of Leichhardt’s botany, contained in his diary, journal and other publications, with that of the modern flora was complicated by the fact that most species at the time of Leichhardt’s expedition had not been formally described. Leichhardt could only supply a description, or at best identify the plant to family or genus. Many of Leichhardt’s descriptions were sufficiently detailed for the species to be identified, while others were meagre, and left the identity of the species open to question. To resolve this, all of the botanical entries in Leichhardt’s journal related to the Burdekin River catchment were annotated. About 360 entries were critically examined, and identification of species was attempted with the aid of herbarium collections and known distribution records. This resulted in a list of about 110 species that Leichhardt had recorded for the catchment. Approximately 40 of these have not appeared in any recent species lists for the Burdekin River catchment. Of these, 15 represented name changes or other taxonomic anomalies, and the remaining 25 species mentioned by Leichhardt have not been recorded in recent surveys. Could it be that these species are no longer present in the area, or is it an artefact of limited surveying or other causes that have prevented their detection and documentation? The quantitative discrepancy between what Leichhardt recorded and what occurs today indicates a loss of about 23% of the original flora. The conservation implications of this situation become apparent when one considers that less than 1% of the Burdekin River catchment is protected in National Parks or other conservation reserves.

One result of examining Leichhardt’s botany was the ‘exposure’ of plant names used by Leichhardt within the text of his publications, and which have not been taken up and are otherwise names of no taxonomic standing. It is accepted that names used in such sources are not validly published and should be discarded, but it is also evident that some attempt should be made to investigate the legitimacy of their rejection. Leichhardt used two such names for plants he saw during the Overland Expedition, namely Acacia equisetifolia and Grevillea lanceolata (Leichhardt, 1847b). Using the available taxonomic databases and access to Leichhardt specimens in various herbaria, no subsequent use of those names was found, and indeed they should be rejected. About 2000 Leichhardt specimens were located in Australian and European herbaria during this research, but few were related to the Overland Expedition. Further investigation of Leichhardt’s journal revealed that he had to discard between 3000 and 5000 specimens during the expedition because of the drowning of his packhorses. Of the two manuscript names used by Leichhardt, it is likely that if specimens were collected by Leichhardt, they may have been among those subsequently discarded, thus precluding any connection between the name and the specimen that might, eventually, have validated it. Of the surviving specimens of the Overland Expedition which were subsequently distributed to herbaria, two have been designated as the type specimens of Urena armitiana F.Muell. var. armitiana (as Urena lobata var. grandiflora Benth.: Malvaceae) and Tribulus minutus Leichh. ex Benth. (Zygophyllaceae).


Ecologists rarely consider the connection between the constraints of land management and its economic imperatives and the abstruse world of plant taxonomy and nomenclatural dilemmas. Leichhardt, somewhat by chance, has provided the basis upon which a comparison can be made between the pre- and post-settlement environments, and changes to the natural environment can be estimated, at least from the aspects of species composition and distribution. This can assist with land management practices that attempt to maintain a ‘natural balance’ and therefore provide some protection for ecological integrity, and ultimately conservation of endangered habitats or species (Pettit & Dowe, 2003). This particular research has also prompted the resolution of some taxonomic intrigues, and hopefully, when published, it will contribute to continuing stability of the nomenclature of Australia’s flora.


Leichhardt, L. (1847a), Journal of an overland expedition in Australia, from Moreton Bay to Port Essington, a distance of upwards of 3000 miles, during the years 1844–1845, T. & W. Boone, London.

Leichhardt, L. (1847b), Lectures on the geology, botany, natural history, and capabilities of the country between Moreton Bay and Port Essington, Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science 3(2): 81–113.

Pettit, N.E. & Dowe, J.L. (2003), Distribution and population structure of the vulnerable riparian palm Livistona lanuginosa A.N.Rodd (Arecaceae) in the Burdekin River catchment, north Queensland, Pacific Conservation Biology 9: 207–214.

Molecular phylogeny and morphotaxonomy of Australian gymnodinioid dinoflagellates

Dinoflagellates are microscopic, single-celled protists (mostly 20 to 200 µm in size), including photosynthetic species (often referred to as algae) as well as heterotrophic species (often included among the zooflagellates). Their microscopic size belies their global importance as the preferred food for economically important larval fish, as the basis for coral reef (zooxanthella) productivity, and as the causative organisms of red tides than can kill fish and potentially even human consumers of seafood products. Dinoflagellate taxonomy currently is primarily based on the morphology of the cell wall, including features such as amphiesmal vesicles, apical groove, girdle displacement and cellulose plate tabulation. In this work we used molecular, morphological and biochemical techniques to resolve the taxonomic relationships among the difficult to identify, fragile gymnodinioid dinoflagellates which lack a cellulose wall. This group comprises organisms responsible for aquaculture fish kills as well as the phenomena of Paralytic and Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning. Taxonomic characters in use for this group date back to the 1921 monograph by Kofoid & Swezy which emphasised the degree of girdle groove displacement: >1/5 of cell length in the genus Gyrodinium; <1/5 of cell length in the large genus Gymnodinium. Instead, and using molecular sequencing as a guide, we focused on the shape of the apical groove on top of the cell (straight in Karenia and Karlodinium; horse-shoe shaped in Gymnodinium sensu stricto; sigmoid in the new genus Takayama), in combination with chloroplast pigments (no chloroplasts in Gyrodinium; peridinin as the major carotenoid in Gymnodinium, fucoxanthin & derivatives in Karenia, Karlodinium and Takayama).

The small (10–20 µm) fish-killing species Karlodinium micrum was conclusively identified from Lake Illawarra and Sydney Harbour, NSW, Tasmanian waters and the Swan River, WA. A new species, Karlodinium australe, with which it commonly co-occurs, was also characterised from southern Australian lagoonal waters. A species similar to Gymnodinium pulchellum, originally described from Port Phillip Bay, VIC, where it caused fish kills in the 1950s, was successfully cultured from Tasmanian and New South Wales waters and used to typify the new genus Takayama (type species: Takayama tasmanica). A closely related species was also cultured from Tasmanian and South Australian waters and described as Takayama helix, also known from South Africa. The non-toxic species Gymnodinium aureolum (often mistaken for the north European fish-killer Karenia mikimotoi) was confirmed from Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. The real Karenia mikimotoi was previously reported from Port Phillip Bay, while a morphologically similar Karenia species cultured from Tasmanian waters was newly described as Karenia umbella. The latter taxon is also found in South Australia and Western Australia, and was associated with a gymnodinioid bloom event in southern Tasmania in May 2003 which killed $4 million of cultured salmon. This latter bloom event also included the butterfly-shaped Karenia papilionacea previously described from New Zealand and the newly described Karenia asterichroma with star-shaped chloroplast arrangement.

Other widespread, larger, but non-toxic gymnodinioid species in Australian waters include the Gymnodinium uncatenum/instriatum-complex from Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, Akashiwo sanguinea from Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, and Gymnodinium falcatum from South Australia and Tasmania. The chain-forming species Gymnodinium catenatum, a causative organism of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, is now known from Tasmania, Port Phillip Bay, Port Lincoln, SA, and the Hawkesbury Estuary, NSW. It can be confused with the smaller, chain-forming non-toxic Gymnodinium impudicum known from New South Wales, Western Australia and Port Phillip Bay. Gymnodinium microreticulatum is widespread in Australian temperate and tropical waters and produces a microreticulate cyst similar to Gymnodinium catenatum. The molecular sequences generated in this project are currently being developed into quantitative PCR dinoflagellate gene probes to protect Australian aquaculture, environment and public health.

Further Reading

Bolch, C.J. (2001), PCR protocols for genetic identification of dinoflagellates directly from single cysts and plankton cells, Phycologia 40: 162–167.

Hallegraeff, G.M. (2002), Aquaculturists’ Guide to Harmful Australian Microalgae. The Print Centre, Hobart.

de Salas, M.F., Bolch, C.J.S., Botes, L., Nash, G., Wright, S.W. & Hallegraeff, G.M. (2003), Takayama gen. nov. (Gymnodiniales, Dinophyceae) a new genus of unarmoured dinoflagellates with sigmoid apical grooves, including the description of two new species, Journal of Phycology 39: 1–14.

de Salas, M.F., Bolch, C.J.S. & Hallegraeff, G.M. (2004), Karenia umbella sp. nov. (Gymnodiniales, Dinophyceae), a new potentially ichthyotoxic dinoflagellate species from Tasmania, Australia, Phycologia 43: 166–175.

de Salas, M.F., Bolch, C.J.S. & Hallegraeff, G.M. (2004), Karenia asterichroma sp. nov. (Gymnodiniales, Dinophyceae), a new potentially ichthyotoxic dinoflagellate species associated with finfish aquaculture mortalities in Tasmania, Australia, Phycologia 43: in press.

de Salas, M.F., Bolch, C.J.S. & Hallegraeff, G.M. (2004), Karlodinium australe sp. nov. (Gymnodiniales, Dinophyceae), a new potentially ichthyotoxic unarmoured dinoflagellate species from lagoonal habitats of south-eastern Australia, Phycologia: submitted for publication.

Taylor, F.J.R., Fukuyo, Y., Larsen, J. & Hallegraeff, G.M. (2003), Chapter 15. Taxonomy of harmful dinoflagellates. In G.M.Hallegraeff, D.M.Anderson & A.D.Cembella (eds), Manual on Harmful Marine Microalgae, UNESCO Monographs in Oceanographic Methodology 11: 389–432.

Islands of subterranean water in the desert—the rise and rise of stygofaunal diversity

Over the last two decades there has been increasing appreciation that subterranean animals represent a very significant component of Australia’s biodiversity, and that subterranean ecosystems are themselves very diverse and occur widely through the country. This applies to those species inhabiting both the air-filled and water-filled compartments of this underworld, and which are respectively referred to as troglofauna and stygofauna (groundwater animals). While the Australian subterranean faunas are unique, the component species often belong to lineages with widely disjunct distributions, sometimes at a high taxonomic level.

Near-coastal groundwaters (anchialine ecosystems in groundwater estuaries) contain a largely Tethyan fauna on both Christmas Island — which also contains a widely disjunct procaridid community characteristic of seamount islands — and north-western Australia (largely the Cape Range peninsula). The latter fauna includes several orders and a class of crustaceans found nowhere else in Australia or the Southern Hemisphere, such as the Order Thermosbaenacea and Class Remipedia, and several higher taxa of Copepoda.

Further inland, large areas of Australia have been continually emergent from the oceans since the Proterozoic, including the Kimberley and the ‘Western Shield’ (Pilbara and Yilgarn blocks) which, as expected, contain some ancient freshwater lineages including a newly described family of flabelliferan isopods, basal Phreatoicidea, and the first known occurrences of the Order Spelaeogriphacea in Australia.

However, the real surprise comes from the arid zone in the form of aquifers that occur in the friable limestones deposited from the groundwater flow in the ancient palaeovalleys. Across much of arid Australia carbonates, termed groundwater or valley calcretes, are deposited from the groundwater flow ‘upstream’ of salt lakes (playas). They are particularly prevalent in the north and central Yilgarn region of WA and in the Ngalia Basin, NT and lacustrine and deltaic carbonate deposits occur in the Pilbara region of WA. There are more than 200 separate calcrete bodies in WA alone and, to date, the obligate, stygal animals in each calcrete body comprise a unique fauna (more than 39 calcretes from 10 palaeodrainage systems draining both inland and to the coast). Thus, many of the species comprising the fauna of these calcrete aquifers are short-range endemics, an attribute that alone raises significant biodiversity conservation management issues in this region rich in minerals.

ABRS has funded both the collection of stygofauna from the Yilgarn and the descriptive work on the diving beetles (grants to Humphreys & Watts 2000–2003, 2003–2006). Associated with the diving beetles is a wide range of stygal crustacean lineages, including Amphipoda (ABRS grant to Cooper, Humphreys & Bradbury 2002–2005), Oniscidea, Copepoda, Bathynellacea, Ostracoda — the predominantly stygal ostracod Subfamily Candoninae, which is very diverse in Australia, is being revised (ABRS grant to Ivana Karanovic).

Because of the ABRS funding, the best-known part of the fauna, which is still under study, are the diving beetles (Dytiscidae) that comprise by far the world’s richest diving beetle fauna. More than 64 species are known from the Yilgarn, WA, and the Ngalia Basin, NT.

Obligate, subterranean species have a suite of convergent, morphological characters thought to be adaptations to subterranean life. These include the loss or reduction of wings in winged arthropod groups, of the eyes, and of tegumentary pigment, coupled with elongation of appendages. In addition, the loss of some other constraints may permit the development of novel morphologies not found in surface relatives. Together, in consequence, these may confuse attempts to understand evolutionary affinities of the stygal lineages, and this has proven to be the case with these stygal animals. Resolution has been sought in molecular phylogenies to support or clarify our understanding of the emerging picture (ARC Discovery grants to Cooper, Humphreys & Watts).

In all, these studies have shown that the plethora of blind diving beetles originated as multiple independent invasions of the groundwater by several lineages from the Subfamilies Hydroporinae (Tribes Hydroporini and Bidessini) and Copelatinae. Up to five sympatric species occur, and there are many cases of large/small species pairs, at least 12 of which represent each other’s closest ancestors. The overall picture is emerging of a diving beetle fauna that went underground and adapted to subterranean life with the developing aridity of the late Miocene.

Further Reading

Bradbury, J.H. & Williams, W.D. (1997), The amphipod (Crustacea) stygofauna of Australia: description of new taxa (Melitidae, Neoniphargidae, Paramelitidae), and a synopsis of known species, Records of the Australian Museum 49: 249–341.

Cooper, S.J.B., Hinze, S., Leys, R., Watts, C.H.S. & Humphreys, W.F. (2002), Islands under the desert: molecular systematics and evolutionary origins of stygobitic water beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) from central Western Australia, Invertebrate Systematics 16: 589–598.

Humphreys, W.F. (1999), Relict stygofaunas living in sea salt, karst and calcrete habitats in arid northwestern Australia contain many ancient lineages. Pp 219–227. In W.Ponder & D.Lunney (eds), The Other 99%. The Conservation and Biodiversity of Invertebrates, Transactions of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales: Mosman.

Karanovic, T. (2004), Subterranean copepods (Crustacea: Copepoda) from arid Western Australia, Crustaceana Supplement 3: 1–366.

Leys, R., Watts, C.H.S., Cooper, S.J.B. & Humphreys, W.F. (2003), Evolution of subterranean diving beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae: Hydroporini, Bidessini) in the arid zone of Australia, Evolution 57: 2819–2834.

Namiotko, T., Wouters, K., Danielopol, D.L. & Humphreys, W.F. (2004), On the origin and evolution of a new anchialine stygobitic Microceratina species (Crustacea, Ostracoda) from Christmas Island (Indian Ocean), Journal of Micropalaeontology 23: 49–60.

Poore, G.C.B. & Humphreys, W.F. (1992), First record of Thermosbaenacea (Crustacea) from the Southern Hemisphere: a new species from a cave in tropical Western Australia, Invertebrate Taxonomy 6: 719–725.

Poore, G.C.B. & Humphreys, W.F. (2003), Second species of Mangkurtu (Spelaeogriphacea) from north-western Australia, Records of the Western Australian Museum 22: 67–74.

Wilson, G.D.F. (2003), A new genus of Tainisopidae fam. nov. (Crustacea: Isopoda) from the Pilbara, Western Australia, Zootaxa 245: 1–20.

Fabulous flatworms — the Polyclads

For most of us it is a great joy to go fossicking, especially at the beach. We never know what we will find under that rock or hiding among that clump of seaweed. Here, we can occasionally encounter a polyclad or marine flatworm. In the past, reliable information on the identification and biology of polyclads was not available to most biologists and naturalists. Now, however, with the support of ABRS, the Australian marine flatworm fauna has become one of the best known in the world. Many new species have been described, new records have been documented, and much more is known of their behaviour, ecology and general biology. All of this information, supplemented with contributions from overseas enthusiasts and photographers, is presented in the ABRS-sponsored CD ROM, Fabulous Flatworms. Now the community can begin to put a ‘name to a face’ and discover more about the natural world.

By the early 1990s about 60 species of polyclads had been recorded from Australia, most documented only as a few lines of turgid text, and only rarely with an informative illustration or photograph. Despite some notoriety as pests of oysters (and the misnomer ‘oyster leeches’), and occasional photographs from the Great Barrier Reef, generally labelled ‘flatworm’, these creatures remained a mystery.

Polyclads are simple flatworms (Phylum Platyhelminthes), free-living cousins of the parasitic flukes and tapeworms. They have precious few external characteristics to aid in identification, they are extremely fragile and have an annoying capacity for autolysis, i.e. self-digestion. Put simply, as soon as you attempt to pick up and observe a flatworm, it reduces itself to an amorphous mass. Discouraging!

Struck by the sheer beauty of their bold colouration and patterns in tropical waters, and alerted to the growing confusion among divers on the Great Barrier Reef regarding nudibranchs and polyclads, we undertook a study of living flatworms using underwater photography to provide some understanding of the diversity of this group.

Systematic investigation soon revealed many more species than we had originally imagined. Moreover, not only were their colour patterns incredibly diverse, the study of living flatworms revealed some diagnostic external characteristics, for example the way in which they held their pseudotentacles. We devised a method of capturing and fixing specimens, making use of their peculiar protection mechanisms, which enabled us to prepare museum specimens with relatively little distortion and only modest loss of colour and pattern.

A little over a decade later we now recognise nearly 10 times the number of species from Australia, have learnt how to catch and keep them, and also something of their fascinating biology. In Fabulous Flatworms we have introduced a method of identification that emphasises colour pattern and external features, rather than the procedures of the past which relied on serial sectioning and the reconstruction of the anatomy of the reproductive structures.

Polyclads are exclusively marine, and our research has excited divers, naturalists and scientists around the world, many of whom, following our encouragement, have photographed living animals and preserved specimens. More than 50 photographers have contributed to Fabulous Flatworms which documents species from all major habitats and latitudes, with special emphasis on the Indo-West Pacific region.

While colours and patterns may vary, species can be reliably identified if these characters are used with care. For the first time, this CD ROM presents multiple images depicting the range of variation, all accompanied by detailed locality data. Thus we have been able to arrange most polyclads in eight distinct pattern groups, with a less well-defined ninth group for a few species with indeterminate patterns. However, we recognise this as a first attempt and bow to the inevitable conclusion that some species cannot be so readily pigeon-holed.

Fabulous Flatworms presents more than 400 species from all parts of the world photographed in nature. It also includes diagrams and helpful keys based on external characteristics, and it can be browsed by name, location, colour pattern or morphology. We hope this combination of approaches will satisfy the requirements of most potential users. We have also provided detailed accounts of the biology and behaviours of these remarkable animals, sometimes illustrated with striking video clips, for example penis-fencing and swimming in members of the tropical family Pseudocerotidae.

Our efforts are certainly not the last word on polyclads. However, we hope they will excite users and encourage the enthusiastic pursuit of further understanding of these amazing creatures.

Evolutionary relationships of the Australian Geometridae

Geometrid moths are an outstanding evolutionary success story. The cosmopolitan Geometridae is the second largest family of moths with at least 1500 genera and approximately 21 000 species (Gaston et al., 1995; Scoble, 1999). The key to this family’s diversity and broad distribution is its ability to utilise large woody trees and shrubs as a food source and the pervasive exploitation of many diverse habitats. The centre of geometrid abundance and species richness is mainly in the tropics and subtropics. In Australia, the Geometridae are the dominant lepidopteran herbivores in the forest canopy (Common, 1993), in contrast to the depauperate geometrid fauna of temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere where the Noctuidae dominate.

Geometrid moths are slender-bodied and their wings are often cryptically coloured. The caterpillars are known as ‘loopers’ after their distinctive mode of progression resulting from a reduction in the number of prolegs and their well-developed twig mimicry. Relationships between the major subfamilies of the Geometridae are very poorly resolved (Minet & Scoble, 1999) as most early taxonomic work was based on the classification of the Old World fauna.

The Australian geometrid fauna comprises 1300 described species, with a large number of endemic taxa particularly in the southern part of the continent. Three groups are interesting from an evolutionary perspective as they have putatively primitive characters and are regarded as possible basal elements in the family. The largest of these is the tribe Nacophorini with about 278 species in 57 genera (Common, 1993; McQuillan & Edwards, 1996). Many of these genera appear to have radiated extensively in association with Eucalyptus and Acacia as host plants and are possibly related to taxa in South America and southern Africa. Another much smaller group, the Tasmanian Archiearinae, is restricted to alpine and subalpine areas in Tasmania. The seven colourful, day-flying species form the centre of diversity for this subfamily, which also has a few members in the Holarctic and South America. The third group, the Oenochrominae sensu stricto, consists of large, robust-bodied moths that are almost entirely restricted to the Australasian region and probably evolved from Gondwanan stock. They are largely associated with Proteaceae and Myrtaceae (Scoble & Edwards, 1990; Common, 1993).

The principal aims of this Ph.D. research were to characterise and describe the Australian Geometridae and, in particular, the Nacophorini by describing all stages of the life cycle, and to reconstruct evolutionary relationships in the Australian Geometridae using morphological characteristics and DNA sequences. The first aim was achieved by rearing over 100 species of Australian geometrids and describing and illustrating eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. These species were collected from a diverse range of habitats from the alpine heathlands of Tasmania to the arid mallee vegetation of inland Victoria.

Taxonomic relationships between all major groups of the Geometridae are very uncertain. It was, therefore, necessary to include representatives from all Australian tribes and major subfamilies in order to adequately resolve evolutionary relationships in the Australian fauna. Fragments of two nuclear genes, the ribosomal gene 28S D2 and the protein-coding gene EF-1α and 112 morphological characters were used to construct a phylogeny for 60 species representing 57 genera. The phylogenetic trees obtained from all data sets recovered almost identical, well-supported relationships.

The phylogenetic relationships found in this study contradicted long-held beliefs on the evolution of the Geometridae. The Archiearinae were found not to be derived from a basal group but instead diverged more recently in evolutionary history. Even more interesting from an Australian perspective, the Tasmanian Archiearinae are most likely not archiearine but closely related to the Australian Nacophorini. Closer scrutiny reveals that these species, in the genera Dirce and Acalyphes, outwardly resemble their Holarctic relatives. Most of these moths have flash colouration in the hindwings, hairy bodies and heightened melanism. However, all of these characters are related to day-time flying in a cold environment, and so similarities are the result of convergent evolution only and were not derived from a common ancestor. On the other hand, this group shares conserved genitalic and larval characters with the Australian Nacophorini. It is possible that this group diversified comparatively recently from Myrtaceae-feeding nacophorines in the Eucalyptus forests surrounding alpine areas, onto a variety of alpine gymnosperms and angiosperms that dominate the Tasmanian alpine and subalpine landscape.

The Australian Nacophorini was also not supported as a ‘primitive’ group within the family; rather it is most likely younger than other major subfamilies. However, dating with a molecular clock using the EF-1α gene still establishes the group as Gondwanan. This is also supported by the global distribution of the tribe, and the Australian members share morphological features with South American species and possibly African taxa, although the latter are poorly characterised.

The most likely candidate for a basal group within the Geometridae, using the results from this study, is the subfamily Larentiinae. This has had little support in the past, but that is not surprising as this is the first comprehensive molecular and morphological study on the Geometridae. A detailed morphological study of this group was beyond the scope of this research and more work needs to be done to test this hypothesis. However, there is some evidence to support this evolutionary pathway. Past studies have shown that the Geometridae may be a sister group to the butterflies, and the common ancestor for these groups was postulated as being a slight-bodied moth, possibly weak-flying and with crepuscular as well as nocturnal activity (Weller & Pashley, 1995). This description fits larentiines extremely well. This subfamily also has rich morphological diversity and is ubiquitous: characteristics which might be indicative of an ancient origin.

Biogeographical evidence also lends compelling support for the basal origin of the Larentiinae. New Zealand separated from Gondwana very early on, at around 100–80 million years ago. The presence of the Larentiinae in Gondwana before this time would explain the skewed distribution of geometrids in New Zealand. New Zealand has a greatly disproportionate number of larentiine species, around 75% of the geometrid fauna, whereas the Nacophorini and another recently derived subfamily, the Geometrinae, are virtually absent. The only nacophorine taxon present in New Zealand is the large genus Declana. Interestingly, this genus was found to be very closely related to the Australian nacophorines in this study. It is, therefore, likely that Declana arrived relatively recently in New Zealand as a result of dispersal, rather than vicariance, as has been found in several recent studies of New Zealand native animals such as galaxid fishes, onychophorans, hepialid moths, geckos, cicadas and parakeets.

The robust-bodied Oenochrominae were also found by this study to have diverged relatively recently in the geometrid lineage. Interestingly, this group was found to be well supported as the sister group to another subfamily, the Geometrinae. This relationship was surprising and is a novel proposal for these taxa. The Geometrinae are known as the ‘emeralds’ and show little superficial resemblance to the Oenochrominae sensu stricto. Most geometrines are easily recognised by their green wing colouration and slender bodies. However, there is a large group of poorly studied Australasian species that are more robust-bodied and lack the green wing colouration, the so-called ‘grey’ geometrines. Relationships between these groups are very well supported by morphological characteristics. The Oenochrominae sensu stricto and the Geometrinae share well-defined male genitalic and larval characters including a pointed, bifid head and a blistered or papillate epidermis. Both groups also share similar wing structures and venation.

The presence of additional prolegs in geometrids has often been used as evidence of a primitive origin within the family as this character is present in the groundplan of the Lepidoptera. However, in this study, groups in which this character is present, the Archiearinae, Nacophorini and Oenochrominae, were all found to be relatively more recently derived in the geometrid phylogeny. This implies a pattern of losses and reversals in additional abdominal prolegs rather than one of presence in a common ancestor and loss in derived groups. The development of these prolegs on the larval abdomen thus appears to be a labile character in this phylogeny. This is supported by evidence from embryological studies which found that segmental specialisation, including the development of appendages in insects, was controlled by the unique expression of several homeotic genes during embryogenesis (McGinnis & Krumlauf, 1992) and that the development of prolegs has arisen by at least two different mechanisms within the Lepidoptera (Zheng et al., 1999).

The presence of additional prolegs is characteristic of the Australian Nacophorini. If this condition is indeed a reversal, what evolutionary pressures can have driven this adaptation? Answers to this question may be in differences in the forest canopies and environmental conditions. Australian forests are dominated by Eucalyptus, which is the host plant of the majority of the Australian Nacophorini and also many of the Oenochrominae sensu stricto. Eucalypt forests have an open canopy in contrast to the dense foliage more typical of tropical rainforests or Holarctic conifers. The ability to firmly grip twigs or leaves, usually aided by the construction of a silk mat would confer some advantage to larvae with extra prolegs, particularly in the windy conditions often experienced in coastal areas of Australia. Even vestigial appendages, which are always equipped with crotchets in the Nacophoroni, would afford some extra degree of anchorage.

Loss of prolegs is also associated with crypsis, so that twig mimicry is more common in Northern Hemisphere species where food plants are deciduous and twiggy or coniferous with needles in contrast to the evergreen angiosperms of the Southern Hemisphere. This correlation between the number of prolegs and the type of crypsis is supported by the pattern of proleg development in the robust-bodied Oenochrominae. Unlike the Australian nacophorines, most oenochromines are twig mimics. Correspondingly, additional prolegs are reduced to one segment (A5) and are very small and inconspicuous (McFarland, 1988).

This research has been the most comprehensive phylogenetic study yet undertaken on the Geometridae. Major findings were generally at odds with traditional views on evolutionary relationships in the family. However, these were well supported by data from a variety of sources as well as biogeographical distribution. The phylogeny revealed interesting insights into the evolution of the Australian fauna and should provide a foundation for other studies on this important group of insects.


I would like to sincerely thank ABRS for providing generous financial support for this project.


Common, I.F.B. (1993), Moths of Australia, E.J.Brill and Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Gaston, K.J., Scoble, M.J. & Crook, A. (1995), Patterns in species description: a case study using the Geometridae (Lepidoptera), Biological Journal Linnean Society 55: 225–237.

McFarland, N. (1988), Portraits of South Australian Geometrid Moths. Allen Press, Lawrence, Kansas.

McGinnis, W. & Krumlauf, R. (1992), Homeobox genes and axial patterning, Cell 68: 283–302.

McQuillan, P.B. & Edwards, E.D. (1996), Geometroidea. In E.S.Nielsen, E.D.Edwards & T.V.Rangsi (eds), Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Australia, CSIRO PUBLISHING, Melbourne.

Minet, J. & Scoble, M.J. (1999), The Drepanoid/Geometroid Assemblage. In N.P.Kristensen (ed.), Evolution, Systematics and Biogeography: pp 301–320. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.

Scoble, M.J. (1999), Geometrid Moths of the World, CSIRO PUBLISHING, Melbourne.

Scoble, M.J. & Edwards, E.D. (1990), Parepisparis Bethune-Baker and the composition of the Oenochrominae (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), Entomologica Scandinavica 20: 371–399.

Weller, S.J. & Pashley, D.P. (1995), In search of butterfly origins, Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution 4: 235–246.

Zheng, Z., Khoo, A., Fambrough Jr, D., Garza, L. & Booker, R. (1999), Homeotic gene expression in the wild-type and a homeotic mutant of the moth Manduca sexta, Development Genes & Evolution 209: 460–472.

Research Ph.D. Scholarships

Call for 2005 applications

Aim and entitlements

The Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) awards an annual Ph.D. scholarship to foster research training compatible with ABRS and National Research Priorities. ABRS funds systematics research on Australian flora and fauna and offers postgraduate awards to outstanding students wishing to pursue higher degrees within this discipline.

Stipends are paid at a rate equivalent to that of the Australian Postgraduate Award (Industry) as set by the Australian Research Council (ARC). The rate set for 2004 is $23 886 per annum for three years. The stipend is tax exempt and is subject to indexation annually. An annual research support grant of $2500 is also provided to assist with research costs.


ABRS Ph.D. scholarships are open to Australian citizens or to those who have been granted permanent resident status. Candidates should hold a first or upper second class honours degree or equivalent in an appropriate discipline and be strongly motivated to undertake a project in systematic biology. Applicants must enrol as a full-time student. Applicants are also encouraged to take up a scholarship in a university different from that in which they undertook their first degree.

Obtaining applications

Application forms can be obtained from the ABRS website or from:
Business Manager
Department of the Environment and Heritage
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: (02) 6250 9554
Fax: (02) 6250 9555


Applications must be received by 3 November 2004.


ABRS Bursaries for Student Travel Call for 2005 applications

Each year ABRS offers financial support to post-graduate students in Australian institutions for travel to a national or international conference relevant to both the student’s research programme in systematics or taxonomy, and to the aims and objectives of ABRS. A maximum of $1000 is available for an international conference and $500 for travel within Australia. In total up to $10 000 is available each year for these awards.


  1. ABRS Bursaries are only open to students currently enrolled in a Ph.D. or Masters degree (including a research component) in the field of systematics or taxonomy at an Australian institution.
  2. The student does not need to have permanent resident status in Australia.
  3. The conference must be relevant to systematics or taxonomy.
  4. The student must show that a poster or oral paper presentation has been submitted to the conference.
  5. The student must demonstrate the benefits of the travel to their research, and to the aims and objectives of ABRS.
  6. Preference may be given to applicants who receive matching funding from their home institution or other source.

Obtaining applications

Application forms can be obtained from the ABRS website or from:
Business Manager
Department of the Environment and Heritage
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: (02) 6250 9554
Fax: (02) 6250 9555

Applications must be received by 10 March 2005 or 10 September 2005.


Published in 2003/2004

Flora of Australia Supplementary Series

A Field Guide to the Mosses and Allied Plants of Southern Australia

A richly illustrated, full-colour identification guide to almost 500 mosses, liverworts and hornworts in southern Australia. The book includes an introduction to the bryophytes, information on the collection, storage and naming of specimens, identification keys, descriptions, thumbnail anatomical sketches and more than 250 beautiful colour photographs (mostly half-page).

Catalogue of Australian Liverworts and Hornworts

This catalogue lists 150 genera and 869 accepted species and infraspecific taxa of liverworts and hornworts from the eight States and mainland Territories of Australia. Genera and species are listed alphabetically, and about 1100 synonyms that have been applied to Australian specimens are inserted under the appropriate species name.

Nomina nuda, names of uncertain application, and those reported in error from Australia are appended. Each species entry is accompanied by a list of post-1982 literature that provides locality details, descriptions, identification keys and/or habitat information.

This completes a modern trio of catalogues on the Australian lichen and bryophyte floras, together comprising more than 5000 taxa and representing a significant component of the national biota.

Key to the Genera of Australian Macrolichens

Macrolichens are not necessarily large lichens. Instead, the term has been used traditionally for lichens other than crustose types, i.e. scaly, leafy or shrubby lichens, usually with discrete organs of attachment to the substratum; in other words, distinctly three-dimensional, in contrast to their closely appressed or immersed, two-dimensional relatives.

This key to the genera of Australian macrolichens follows recently published guides to apothecial crusts and pyrenocarps. It covers all 135 genera of macrolichens known to occur in Australia, and illustrates two-thirds of them in full colour. To ease identification, it uses mostly traits that are visible with the naked eye or a 10× hand lens, and for all genera it adds information on habitat, distribution within Australia, and literature references.

Flora of Australia Series

Flora of Australia Volume 56A—Lichens 4

Volume 56A provides treatments of Pertusaria and Lecanora, two of the most speciose and ecologically significant crustose genera on rock and bark in Australia. Pertusaria, second only to Xanthoparmelia (Parmeliaceae) in terms of the diversity of Australian species, exhibits a high degree of species endemism and is often dominant in tropical, temperate and alpine communities in eastern Australia. The Australian species of Lecanora occur on rock, soil, and on trunks and canopy branches of trees in all ecosystems; some are especially prominent in the comparatively species-poor lichen floras of semi-arid and arid regions. Also included here is Usnea, a genus of robust and often luxuriant lichens ranging from almost rigid tufts on exposed, alpine rocks to metre-long skeins hanging from the canopies of temperate rainforest trees.

Complete or partial accounts of nine families are provided in Volume 56A, including 17 genera and 287 species and infraspecific taxa. This brings to 1168 the number of Australian lichen species and infraspecific taxa treated in the four volumes published.

Species Plantarum—Flora of the World

Part 9 Chrysobalanaceae 1. Chrysobalanus to Parinari

Chrysobalanaceae are a family of 18 genera and 531 species, of pantropical distribution. They are found in the Americas from SE United States, the Caribbean and Mexico to southern Brazil and Paraguay; throughout tropical Africa; in Asia from southern India and Myanmar throughout Indonesia and New Guinea, and extending across the Pacific to Fiji, Samoa and many other islands. This first volume covers 10 genera (Chrysobalanus, Grangeria, Licania, Afrolicania, Parestemon, Bafodeya, Exellodendron, Hunga, Neocarya and Parinari).

Part 10 Chrysobalanaceae 2. Acioa to Magnistipula

The second and final part of Chrysobalanaceae, comprises eight genera (Acioa, Couepia, Maranthes, Atuna, Dactyladenia, Hirtella, Kostermanthus and Magnistipula).


Evolution of Behavioural and Ecological Diversity: Australian Acacia Thrips as Model Organisms

This book presents a novel, ‘model clades’ approach to the study of biodiversification, explicitly integrating behaviour, ecology, taxonomy, phylogenetics and evolution.

The subjects comprise a single lineage of phytophagous thrips that has radiated on Australian Acacia, yielding over 250 species in 30 genera, of which 140 species and nine genera are newly described.

This radiation has generated four ecological suites of species: gall-inducers (some with defensive ‘soldier’ castes); species that glue phyllodes together; parasites of these two types of domicile-formers; opportunistic species using old domiciles or other microhabitats.

The causes and consequences are explored of this behavioural-ecological diversification, with special emphasis on how this study has provided insights into the evolution of social behaviour, of host-plant use and of exploitative behaviours.

The driving force behind the system is the arid and unpredictable Australian climate, which has selected for diverse means of creating, usurping and co-opting domiciles. These ecological pressures have generated a positive feedback mechanism, such that adoption and modification of new host-plants by some thrips species creates further niches for additional ones.

The remarkable morphological, behavioural and ecological variation represented by these thrips means that they can be considered as a microcosm for understanding the processes that generate biodiversity among all phytophagous insects, and indeed among all animals.

This book includes a Botanical Annexe by B.R. Maslin and indexes to subjects, plants and insects.

Australian Psylloidea jumping Plantlice and Lerp Insects

Damage from heavy lerp infestations on eucalypts is a familiar sight to most urban Australians, but few are aware of the insects causing this damage or their life cycles. Did you know, too, that the exquisitely shaped, tiny sugary lerps covering some of the insects were collected by aborigines for food? Today, however, psylloid insects are of special interest as pests and potential biocontrol agents in agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Thus, they are of concern to quarantine and biosecurity in Australia and elsewhere, as well as to natural resource managers.

This book discusses psylloid biology and gives a key to genera, comprehensive information on host plants and natural enemies, looks at economic significance, and gives a full listing of Australian species and their broad distributions. It sets the scene for further much-needed research on the group and, containing beautiful illustrations, is a valuable handbook for professionals, amateurs and students.

Forthcoming Publications


Fabulous Flatworms: a guide to marine polyclads

Fabulous Flatworms aims to increase the awareness and understanding of an important group of intriguing marine animals, the polyclad flatworms. Polyclads, which are almost exclusively marine, are simple, free-living flatworms belonging to Phylum Platyhelminthes, otherwise known for the notorious, parasitic tapeworms and flukes. Polyclads include some of the most flamboyant and colourful animals of the sea. As thin as a leaf and usually oval in shape, these animals may first catch your attention by their spectacular and obvious colour patterns. But do not confuse them with the equally vibrant and better known nudibranch molluscs!

At the core of Fabulous Flatworms is an innovative identification tool to some 400 species based on the highly distinctive patterns and colours of these extraordinary animals. Many are from the Indo-Pacific region, but other species from elsewhere in the world are also included. This resource also brings together information on the biology of flatworms, including eating habits, mimicry and penis-fencing, as well as practical information regarding polyclad flatworms as pests and methods of collection and preservation. Superbly illustrated with contributions from over 50 photographers, Fabulous Flatworms aims to promote further discussion, study and discovery. It has been created for all those fascinated by marine life.

Flora of Australia Series

Flora of Australia Volume 44B Poaceae 3

The second in a projected set of four volumes by ABRS on the grasses of Australia is expected to be published in January 2005. Volume 44B of the Flora of Australia documents five subfamilies of the grass family (the Poaceae), comprising 55 genera and 468 species.

The largest subfamily in the volume, the Chloridoideae, is largely tropical, and includes the important endemic genera Triodia (Spinifex, symbolic of central Australia) and Astrebla (the Mitchell Grasses), the large genera Eragrostis (Lovegrasses) and Sporobolus (Ratstail Grasses) and the Windmill Grasses — Chloris and relatives.

The Arundinoideae include the aquatic Arundo and Phragmites (Reeds), and the endemic Amphipogon (Greybeard Grasses). The Danthonioideae incorporate the temperate Wallaby Grasses. Most of the representatives of the other two subfamilies are found predominantly in the drier areas of Australia: the Aristidoideae, comprising the large genus Aristida (Kerosene Grasses, Three-awns); and the largely endemic Micrairoideae, which includes Eriachne (Wanderrie Grasses), and the unique Micraira, which are resurrection plants (returning to life from complete air-dryness), and the only grasses whose leaves grow in spirals on the stem.

Forty-eight authors, illustrators, and photographers contributed to this volume. There are 83 plates of line drawings and 64 colour photographs, illustrating nearly every genus to help readers appreciate the beauty and variety of Australian grasses.

Flora of Australia Supplementary Series

Native Plants of Christmas Island

This beautiful book will describe 118 of the more common native plants on Christmas Island, a remote Australian Territory in the Indian Ocean. Each species will be illustrated in colour, and flowering and fruiting times will be given. There will be six colour pages showing some of the drift seeds found washed up on the island’s shores.


Australian Node of Global Biodiversity Information Facility

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international organisation whose mission is to make the world’s biodiversity data freely and universally available on the web.

GBIF is a distributed facility, comprising a network of nodes that:

  • Share biodiversity data openly and freely
  • Use common standards for data and metadata
  • Encourage generation of additional content and tools
  • Assure that data providers retain control of their own data.

Australia is a major contributor to GBIF (both financially and scientifically), signing a Memorandum of Understanding in 2001 to become a voting participant and agreeing to provide funds to GBIF for the first five years of its operation. As a participant, Australia is expected to provide access to local databases containing primary biodiversity data — i.e. data on specimens in biological collections or observations of plants and animals in nature. Currently, this is achieved by installing one of the two available types of Data Provider software onto a web server (using the DiGIR protocol or the BioCASE protocol), to connect to the underlying database. These distributed databases (known as nodes) are registered centrally with GBIF and indexed. The data then becomes available to the worldwide GBIF network. The central GBIF data portal ( can be used to conduct searches of the GBIF data. GBIF also plans to establish several mirrored sites around the world in the coming year containing the GBIF data portal and the accompanying indexes. In addition, other localised GBIF data portals can be built to link to selected data sets. These portals could be based on a country, region, or theme, for instance ‘Birds of the World’.

Within each GBIF participant country or organisation, a node manager has been appointed to coordinate the activities of data provider organisations in their region. Activities can include the establishment of a website to promote GBIF locally or the setting up of a mirrored GBIF site and/or a localised GBIF portal. ABRS has accepted the role of node manager for Australia, providing some assistance to other organisations in setting up their GBIF data providers and also establishing a small website to promote the activities of Australian participants in GBIF. The Australian Biodiversity Information Facility  will publish articles of interest from Australian participants and would like to hear from organisations interested in learning more about GBIF.

ABRS involvement in GBIF in the past year

The ABRS database manager, Robyn Lawrence, attended a training course in Tsukuba, Japan (October 2003) on the establishment of a DiGIR data provider. This provider was subsequently initiated within the Department of the Environment and Heritage, and also independently at three other sites within Australia.

The Australian GBIF data providers offer the following data sets:

  • Australian Antarctic Data Centre (AADC)
    • Elephant Seal sightings, Heard Island
    • Elephant Seal sightings, Macquarie Island
    • Australian Antarctic Division Herbarium
    • Seabirds observations in the Southern and South Indian Oceans
    • Weddell Seal census, Vestfold Hills, Antarctica
    • Weddell Seal sightings, Vestfold Hills, Antarctica
    • Whale catches in the Southern Ocean
  • Australian Biodiversity Information Facility (ABIF)
    • ABRS: Australian Faunal Directory taxonomic checklist
    • Australian Land Molluscs (a subset of data obtained from the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago)
  • CSIRO Entomology
    • Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC)
  • National Herbarium of New South Wales (NSW)
    • NSW Herbarium collection
    • Plants of Papua New Guinea.

In December 2003 Dr Jim Edwards, Director of GBIF, visited Australia to update relevant Government departments and agencies on the implementation of GBIF. Dr Edwards met with senior staff from DEH, DAFF, DEST, ARC and NHMRC and participated in a seminar at ABRS at which he outlined the role and activities of GBIF. This event also provided an opportunity for key DEH staff to summarise several biodiversity-related IT projects.

The annual meeting of the GBIF Nodes Committee, attended by the GBIF node managers of the participating countries or organisations, including Robyn Lawrence, was held in Oaxaca, Mexico in April 2004. One of the main topics of discussion was raising the profile of GBIF, and ways of increasing the number of records available on the GBIF network. It is estimated that by the end of 2004, 47 million records will be available through GBIF, this number expanding to 76 million by the end of 2005. The current number of records is displayed on the home page of the GBIF website .

ABRS is to be provided with Natural Heritage Trust funding to establish a national GBIF data portal for the Australian Biodiversity Information Facility. This will replace the existing ABIF web pages  with a full search and mapping facility for interrogating the GBIF data provided by Australian participants, as well as pages on the activities of Australian participants. It is hoped that the ABIF portal will include additional features such as access to Australian taxonomic checklists, customised reporting and interactive maps.

Other recent highlights include the awarding of GBIF seed grants to two Australian projects in which ABRS has some involvement, and the successful tender by ABRS for the construction of the 2004 GBIF demonstration project.

The Australian Heritage Division of the Department of the Environment and Heritage will produce a national database of Australian Land Molluscs comprising 97 350 specimen records, i.e. 86% of the available records. ABRS will assist in building this database, to be made available to the GBIF network.

The Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria (CHAH) and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, will collaborate in the digitisation of significant Australian collections held at Kew. The Australian Botanical Liaison Officer (ABLO), based at Kew, will guide the project and select and verify specimens. Approximately 10 000 specimen records will be fully geocoded and databased together with digital images of the specimens. These records will be made available on AVH (via APNI), on the Kew database HerbCat, and to GBIF.

The Department of the Environment and Heritage, in collaboration with a number of other institutions, including the Queensland Museum, CSIRO Division of Entomology, Reference Centre for Environmental Information (Brazil) and Conabio (Mexico), have successfully tendered to build the GBIF 2004 Demonstration Project. This will be a web-based tool to analyse and display species richness, endemism and taxonomic distinctiveness, drawing directly on specimen locality data in DiGIR format. The project runs until July 2005, with a final presentation by the project co-ordinator to the GBIF Governing Board Meeting (GB11) to be held in Sweden in October 2005.

The Director of ABRS, Mary Colreavy, will attend two GBIF meetings in Wellington, New Zealand in October 2004. She will be an observer at the Governing Board meeting (GB9), and will be the Australian representative at the Nodes Committee meeting. A presentation outlining progress in the 2004 Demonstration Project will form part of the Governing Board meeting.

ABRS delivers biodiversity information online

‘Have you tried the internet?’

Most of us now use the internet on a daily basis to help answer questions — a rapid method for solving problems. And, importantly, we make swift assessments of the veracity of this information.

ABRS’ Online Resources present reliable, peer-reviewed data on Australia’s biota. Most of the information in our databases is accessible through the scientific name — family, genus, species, or common name, via web search engines. Many of the databases include illustrations or digital images. Bookmark our web facility.


Australian Faunal Directory (AFD)

The online Australian Faunal Directory currently boasts records for some 57 000 valid species recorded for Australia’s Fauna. The AFD now incorporates all the data in the printed Zoological Catalogue of Australia Series (all the malacostracan Crustacea data, and that for jewel beetles and true bugs have been loaded recently) — and more. Most of the data on which the older Catalogues were based have now been updated, and numerous other groups have been added, such as Aphelenchida nematodes, aquatic oligochaetes, salticid (jumping) spiders, centipedes, Coccoidea (mealybugs and scale insects), oecophorid (litter) moths, and the large group of parasitic wasps, Chalcidoidea. Checklists of other groups are being compiled, for example cestodes (tapeworms), aphids and barnacles, Tenebrionidae (ground beetles) and Rotifera (the last three funded by the Heritage Division, Department of the Environment and Heritage), and we expect these and others will be loaded onto the website during the next 12 months.

Very pleasing developments have been contributor updating of files for reloading on the AFD (thanks to these authors!), and receipt of feedback from users. In addition, we are very grateful to have been supplied with sets of digital images for online illustration of some of the databases — for example, membracid and fulgaroid leafhoppers and the xylocopine moths (Oecophoridae).

Census of Australian Vertebrate Species (CAVS)

ABRS also hosts the Census of Australian Vertebrate Species, a listing of all Amphibia (frogs and toads), Reptilia (snakes and lizards), Aves (birds) and Mammalia (marsupials and monotremes, true mammals including cetaceans), and the standardised code numbers by which they are known by many natural resource managers. Contact ABRS by email if you have queries about any of the CAVS lists.

Species Bank

Now into its second year, Species Bank includes over 250 species, and further species treatments are being prepared by editors and contributors. This online facility aims to provide information on species of interest and/or importance to the community. It covers species from a range of plant and animal groups. In Species Bank treatments you can find illustrations of the species and maps of their distributions, information on their characteristic features, ecology and general biology, interactions with or impacts on humans, and other details, as well as references for further reading. For some species video files are included. This database is simple to search, and ideal for students and those wanting easy access to general information on a species — test it yourself by looking for the Southern Blue-ringed Octopus.


Flora of Australia Online

The Flora of Australia Online database was launched in March 2004, and data on over 3300 vascular species recorded for the Australian flora are now available. Please update your bookmarks.

This resource incorporates data from Volumes 3, 11A, 11B, 12, 16, 17A, 17b, 35 and 48 of the Flora of Australia publication series. In addition, information on approximately 1200 species from Australia’s offshore oceanic islands (covered in Volumes 49 and 50 of the Flora of Australia) is available.

Information available includes: name, author, protologue, typification, synonymy, descriptions, chromosome number, flowering & fruiting times, distribution, habitat, line drawings and identification keys. The search facility enables the user to customise their enquiry to return only specified information. A useful feature is the expanding hierarchical list of names: a similar feature is used in the Australian Faunal Directory.

A limited amount of information for the remaining families and genera not treated in the above mentioned 11 volumes has also been added to the Flora of Australia Online. The main source for this information is the Families of Flowering Plants of Australia CD ROM, supplemented by the Names and Distribution of Queensland Plants, Algae and Lichens and The Western Australian Flora: a descriptive catalogue. Links to the Australian Plant Name Index  (APNI) have been included with these additional names, and via APNI links are available to online images in the Australian Plant Image Index  held at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

ABRS has already collaborated in the funding and production of database projects such as the Australian Marine Algal Name Index , Census of Freshwater Algae in Australia, Checklist of the Lichens of Australia and its Island Territories  and the Interactive Catalogue of Australian Fungi  which are currently available on the Internet. The taxonomic treatments of the Fungi of Australia and Algae of Australia will also be made available online.

Australian Marine Algal Name Index

The Australian Marine Algal Name Index is an online collaborative project between ABRS and Murdoch University, WA. The database is currently being migrated to a new platform and should be updated and online by late 2004. Until then it is available at: . The database currently houses nomenclatural and distributional information on 6509 records in the Chlorophyta, Phaeophyceae, Xanthophyceae, Rhodophyta and Cyanophyta.

Checklist of the Lichens of Australia and its Island Territories

The Checklist of the Lichens of Australia and its Island Territories  currently houses 3075 accepted species names, along with nomenclatural and distributional information.

Galápagos Islands

Imagine two weeks on the Galápagos Islands — Darwin finches flitting, marine iguanas sprawling and giant tortoises lumbering. In November 2003, I joined a team of scientists at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), charged with the task of documenting, collecting (as necessary) and photographing a wide range of marine invertebrates. This team was brought together by Cleve Hickman for an eight day expedition on the Golondrina I, gathering data and taking photographs of corals, gorgonians, bryozoans, polyclad flatworms, ascidians, sea anemones, polychaete tube worms and other benthic animals for Cleve’s fourth volume in the Galápagos Marine Life Series, A Field Guide to Corals and other Bottom-Dwelling Marine Life of the Galápagos.

The Galápagos Archipelago, a province of Ecuador, straddles the equator some 1000 km west of tropical South America. Scattered through this unique archipelago are 13 large islands and well over 100 small islands and islets. The islands are young, having emerged 5–9 million years ago as the tops of huge volcanoes. Some of the islands are still active volcanoes: Fernandina erupted spectacularly in 1995. The archipelago sits in the confluence of warm and cold oceanic surface currents and deep, cold, upwelling waters, and thus has a special mix of tropical and temperate environments. These are reflected in the presence of its unusual plants and animals, many of them endemic and some renowned for their adaptive radiation, for example Darwin’s finches.

The expedition travelled from Santa Cruz to the most northerly and isolated islands of Darwin and Wolf, and then south to Isabela via Roca Redonda, returning to Santa Cruz via Santiago. Twenty-two sites were explored and over 200 collections made. The array of marine life was exceptional, from the impressive schools of hammerhead sharks, sea lions, moray eels and ‘big’ fish to the beautiful and delicate gorgonians, cerianthids and sea anemones.

The expedition gathered a wealth of information for use in the field guide and for addition to the marine species inventory at the CDRS.

All of the expedition members gained enormous benefit from the shared experience — ideas were exchanged and views shared on global biodiversity strategies and activities, as well as conservation and management issues. For me it was a unique opportunity, forging strong friendships and leading to a far greater understanding of the commitment and activities of other environmental agencies to a sustainable and healthy environment.

The team: Cleve Hickman (Professor Emeritus of Biology, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, USA, Leader), William Ober (medical doctor, illustrator & photographer, Crozet, USA), Angel Chiriboga (Researcher, Marine Research and Conservation, Charles Darwin Research Station, Galápagos), Eva Danulat (Department Head, Marine Research and Conservation, Charles Darwin Research Station, Galápagos), Glen Page (Director of Conservation, National Aquarium in Baltimore, USA), Leslie Newman (Curator of Marine Biology, Auckland Museum, New Zealand, polyclad flatworm expert), Judith Winston (Research Scientist, Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, USA, bryozoan expert), Jorge Gomezjurado (Senior Aquarist, National Aquarium of Baltimore, USA, extensive local knowledge), Giancarlo Toti (Logistical Engineer with extensive local knowledge), Scott Henderson (Ecologist and Dive Master with extensive local knowledge) and Pam Beesley (Co-Manager, Fauna Subprogramme, ABRS, Australia).

ABRS Associates’ news


Dr Richard (Dick) Schodde has been an ABRS Associate since retiring from CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems in Canberra. Like many retired scientists, Dick continues to work on the group that has been the subject of his working career, the birds of Australia and its near neighbours. He was the Australasian consultant for the recently published Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World (2003), and an invited speaker at a symposium to commemorate the 100th birthday of the evolutionary biologist, Professor Ernst Mayr. Among the many tasks currently underway, Dick continues to work on the ABRS online database of Australia’s birds and is producing a nomenclator of the birds of Australia and its Territories.


Dr Alison McCusker has been working as an Associate of ABRS for several years. As a former member of ABRS she brings a wealth of experience and corporate history with her, and a willing attitude to assist in the production of the Flora of Australia. In the last few years she has assisted with several genera of the grasses, either as an editor or as a junior author, and she prepared a comprehensive introduction to grass morphology which was published in volume 43 of the Flora of Australia. She has also been working with Lyn Craven on converting his Calytrix monograph into a manuscript for the Flora.

Celebrating 30 years of the ABRS Grants Scheme

In August 1973, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation The Hon. H.M.Cass MP, announced the establishment of a new initiative called the Australian Biological Resources Study, to support research in taxonomy and to advise on long-term proposals for an institution to carry out taxonomic studies on Australian biota. The activity was supported by an interim Council, appointed initially for three years, and then maintained on an ad hoc basis until 1978.

This decision was made in accordance with recommendations from the Australian Academy of Science and was consistent with the 1972 report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation:

That a biological survey be established by the Australian Government to undertake on a continuing basis, surveys of birds, mammals and reptiles and their ecology and to establish a national collection of wildlife species.

The first round of ABRS grants was awarded in 1974.

On 20 August 1978, the Government announced it would set up the Australian Biological Resources Study on a permanent basis within the Department of Science and that it would concentrate on three areas of research:

  • Work in preparation for a Flora of Australia
  • Compilation of an inventory of Australian fauna
  • Establishment of a computerised storage retrieval system for taxonomic information.

In December 1979, ABRS was established as a Branch within the Environment Division of the Department of Science. The Programme continues in much the same form today.

Australian Botanical Liaison Officer (ABLO)

This year I have been doing something completely different from my usual work of editing Flora of Australia: I have been at the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, serving as the Australian Botanical Liaison Officer (ABLO).

The ABLO fulfils several roles but the most important for the Australian botanical community is to provide access to the collections and library at Kew. For many years after Australia’s settlement by Europeans, studies of its flora and fauna took place almost exclusively in Europe, and especially in Great Britain, based on specimens collected in Australia by both professional and amateur collectors. Consequently, for the majority of Australian plants described in the 19th century, the type material is housed in Europe, especially at Kew. The ABLO locates and examines specimens in response to queries from Australian and New Zealand botanists, and also provides digital images. Other roles the ABLO fulfils include accessing information from UK and European herbaria.

I arrived in England on Saturday November 22 — the day that Australia and England played the Rugby World Cup final, and Australia lost. Nobody was lost for a topic of conversation during my first few days at the herbarium.

Since I took up my posting in December, the prevailing holiday spirit meant that few requests were received before Christmas and into the New Year. The positive side to this was that I was able to make a good start on my own work, studying Astroloma (Epacridaceae), and Australian Pandanaceae for the Flora of Australia. However, since then there has been a steady flow of requests, both from Australia and locally. As the year progressed and the weather improved, life became busier at Kew, with more visitors, and many more staff members engaged in fieldwork, in Africa, Asia and the Americas. As I write this, in August, many staff are on holidays.

I have also been travelling. My first visit was to the Paris herbarium, closely followed by Cambridge. I answered several Australian inquiries as well as examining historical collections of Astroloma. The Paris herbarium has a surprisingly large number of Robert Brown duplicates, as well as material from early French expeditions to Australia. In late July I visited Trinity College, Dublin, another important collection of early Australian material, including material from French expeditions, and while there I presented a talk on the Flora of Australia Online. Most recently I visited the herbarium at Oxford, where I was able to see the Australian collections made by William Dampier in 1699, as well as a book-bound herbarium dating to 1616. I also visited Wakehurst Place, Kew’s garden in the country, which includes the Millennium Seedbank, a project with which several Australian States have partnership agreements.

Working here has given me the chance to explore the Gardens. After the carpets of bulbs flowering in spring I have enjoyed the succession of flowering trees and shrubs which seem to change every day as I walk through the Gardens to and from work, and I have the autumn colours to look forward to.

With almost all the rest of the staff, Paul (my husband) and I turned out to see the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who visited the Gardens on June 4 when the Queen unveiled a plaque commemorating Kew’s nomination as a World Heritage Site. Fortunately the weather was warm and sunny for the occasion. A few weeks later we turned out again for the staff summer party, at which we were able to sample Kew Brew, a rather tasty ale brewed using hops grown at Kew in 2003.

Working at Kew is both a pleasure and a privilege and I am very grateful for the opportunity to do so. Kew values the contribution of the ABLO, and Australian botanists are fortunate in having the level of access to Kew’s collections that the post provides.

List of Grants 2004/2005

New Grants 2004/2005


Dr D.Carter, Dr A.Salih & Dr A.Holmes
Integrating morphological and molecular approaches to describe the taxonomy and phylogeny of symbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae) from the Great Barrier Reef
University of Sydney, NSW
$17 614

Dr A.Millar
Phylogeny of the red algal genus Laurencia from the southwestern Pacific (NSW, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island)
Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Sydney, NSW
$9 710


Dr K.Beckmann & Prof. R.Seppelt
A flora treatment of the family Ricciaceae (Marchantiales) in Australia
Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, VIC
$17 000

Vascular Plants

Dr C.Wilkins
Taxonomic revision of Rulingia R.Br. and Commersonia J.R.Forst. & G.Forst. (Malvaceae s.l. or Sterculiaceae)
University of Western Australia, WA
$48 000

Dr F.Udovicic & Mr N.Walsh
Completion of the Flora of Australia treatment for Rhamnaceae and resolution of generic limits
Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, VIC
$15 000

Dr D.Crayn & Dr M.Rossetto
A revision of Tetratheca, Platytheca and Tremandra and assessment of the phylogeny and biogeography of Tremandraceae
Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Sydney, NSW
$29 009

Mr P.Wilson
Revision of the genus Chrysocephalum (Asteraceae: Gnaphalieae) with a concomitant treatment for the Flora of Australia
Western Australian Herbarium, WA
$20 000


Dr A.Young
The taxonomy of the genus Ramaria in Australia
$20 000

Dr V.Beilharz
Cercosporoid fungi on Australian native plants
Primary Industries Research Victoria, VIC
$13 500


Dr S.Louwhoff
Contributions to the Flora of Australia: a taxonomic revision of the lichen genera Peltigera, Umbilicaria, Stereocaulon and Nephroma in Australia
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, VIC
$26 088


Dr C.Wallace, Dr D.Fautin & Ms J.Wolstenholme
Australia’s anemones — a revision of their taxonomy, distribution patterns and biodiversity
Queensland Museum, QLD
$59 000

Dr P.McQuillan & Dr C.Young
A review of the Emerald Moths of Australia (Lepidoptera: Geometridae: Geometrinae)
University of Tasmania, TAS
$47 500

Dr C.Reid
Australian kangaroo beetles (Chrysomelidae, Sagrinae), their taxonomy, systematics and biogeography
Australian Museum, NSW
$10 000

Dr G.Wilson & Dr C.Humphrey
A species flock of Eophreatoicus Nicholls (Crustacea; Isopoda; Phreatoicidea) in the Arnhem Plateau region of the Northern Territory
Australian Museum, NSW
$20 000

Dr J.Jennings & Mr N.Stevens
Systematics of Australian agathidine wasps (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Braconidae); solitary endoparasitoids of lepidopteran larvae
University of Adelaide, SA
$12 000

Dr A.Polaszek & Dr S.Schmidt
A taxonomic revision of Australian Encarsia species (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae)
The Natural History Museum, London, UK
$5 000

Dr P.Mather
Taxonomy of the Ascidiacea (tunicata) Mather
Queensland Museum, QLD
$15 000

Dr J.Just
Australia’s Paramunnidae (Isopoda, Asellota, Janiroidea): the Austrosignum/Munnogonium/Heterosignum complex
Queensland Museum, QLD
$6 000

Dr S.Slipinski
Interactive keys to the Australian Ladybird Beetles (Insecta: Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) Part II
CSIRO Entomology, ACT
$15 000

Dr O.Seeman
Sexually-transmitted podapolipid mites (Acari: Podapolipidae) that parasitise paropsine leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)
Queensland Museum, QLD
$3 000

Dr. G.Taylor & Dr K.Davies
Tritrophic radiations: Taxonomy, distribution, and host and nematode associations of Australian Fergusoninidae (Diptera)
University of Adelaide, SA
$3 000

Dr T.Karanovic
Copepod marine meiofauna of Australia (Crustacea, Copepoda)
Western Australian Museum, WA
$25 000

Dr B.Cook
Taxonomy, biogeography and conservation genetics of phreatoicidean isopods of Western Australia
University of Western Australia, WA
$20 000

Dr M.Norman
Australia’s argonauts (‘paper nautiluses’): taxonomy, biology and a revision of the family Argonautidae (Mollusca: Cephalopoda)
Museum Victoria, VIC
$12 000

Dr S.Shattuck
Bringing species information to the Web: Recent advances in ant systematics
CSIRO Entomology, ACT
$15 000


Dr K.Burns
Microbial biodiversity of oil and gas seeps in the Timor Sea
Australian Institute of Marine Science, QLD
$20 000

BIPG (Biodiversity Information Products Grants)


Dr T.Entwisle & Dr. S.Skinner
A guide to identification of benthic non-marine cyanobacteria of Australia
Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, NSW
$24 000


Dr T.May & Dr J.Milne
Update and maintenance of the Interactive Catalogue of Australian Fungi
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, VIC
$16 000


Dr R.Raven
Australian spider information resource
Queensland Museum, QLD
$10 300

Dr E.Mathews & Dr P.Bouchard
Keys to genera of Australian Tenebrionidae (Coleoptera)
South Australian Museum, SA
$2 500

Dr J.Hooper
Revise higher systematics of ABIF Porifera in line with recent ‘Systema Porifera’ revision, and incorporate new literature since publication of the Zoological Catalogue of Australia
Queensland Museum, QLD
$3 800

Dr G.Poore
Interactive keys and guide to non-asellote marine Isopoda of Australia (Crustacea)
Museum Victoria, VIC
$29 000

Renewed Grants 2004/2005


Dr J.Huisman
Marine benthic flora of north-western Australia
Murdoch University, WA
$69 300

Dr J.John & Dr P.McBride
Diatoms of tropical Australia
Curtin University, WA
$20 000

Dr G.Kraft
The green and brown marine macro algae of Lord Howe Island, NSW, with additional taxa and records from the southern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
University of Melbourne, VIC
$8 000

Dr J.West & Dr G.Zuccarello
Molecular phylogeny and morpho-taxonomy of the Bangiophyceae from Australia
University of Melbourne, VIC
$45 000


Dr N.Klazenga
Revision of the Australian representatives of the Dicranaceae (Bryophyta) and related families
Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, VIC
$69 300


Dr I.Tommerup & Dr P.O’Brien
Sequestrate Cortinariaceae in Australia
CSIRO Forestry & Forest Products, WA
$27 000

Dr J.Pitt, Dr A.Hocking & Dr A.Carter
A study of the fungal family Trichocomaceae in Australia, especially Aspergillus, Penicillium and their sexual states
Food Science Australia, NSW
$41 000

Dr R.Shivas
Smut fungi (Ustilaginomycetes) of Australia
Queensland Department of Primary Industries, QLD
$49 900

Dr S.Stephenson & Mr D.Mitchell
Studies of Australian Myxomycetes
University of Arkansas, USA
$6 000


Dr I.Beveridge
Cestode parasites of herbivorous marsupials
University of Melbourne, VIC
$9 500

Dr S.Cooper, Dr W.Humphreys & Dr J.Bradbury
Taxonomy and distribution of subterranean amphipods from calcrete aquifers in central Western Australia
South Australian Museum, SA; Western Australian Museum, WA; and University of Adelaide, SA
$50 000

Dr G.Gurr, Dr M.Fletcher & Dr M.Larivere
Revision of, and identification aids for, the Australian Cixiidae (Hemiptera: Fulgoromorpha)
University of Sydney, NSW
$22 600

Dr M.Harvey & Prof. A.Austin
The systematics of the Australian wolf spiders (Araneae: Lycosidae)
Western Australian Museum, WA; and University of Adelaide, SA
$50 000

Dr W.Humphreys & Dr C.Watts
Towards the documentation of the subterranean freshwater fauna of inland Australia, especially diving beetles
Western Australian Museum, WA
$20 000

Dr P.Middelfart
A revision of Galeommatoidea, one of the most species-rich and the least understood group of marine bivalves in Australia
Australian Museum, NSW
$45 000

Dr B.Baehr
A monograph of, and automated identification systems for, the Australian ground spiders of the family Prodidomidae (Araneae, Gnaphosoidea)
Queensland Museum, QLD
$25 000

Dr W.Ponder & Dr J.Walker
Systematics of the Australasian Lymnaeidae and buliniform Planorbidae
Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW; and University of Sydney, NSW
$30 000

Dr G.Rouse & Prof. C.Messing
Crinoidea (Echinodermata) of Australia: Taxonomy, ‘species’ and illustrated guides
University of Adelaide, SA
$26 000

Dr G.Walker-Smith
Harpacticoida (Crustacea: Copepoda) from seagrasses and algae of southern Australia
South Australian Museum, SA
$18 750


Dr T.Lumbsch & Prof. J.Elix
A taxonomic revision of the Thelotremataceae in Australia
Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA; and Australian National University, ACT
$18 000


Prof. D.Patterson & Dr S.Murray
Benthic dinoflagellates of Australia: description and review of species of the Peridiniales, Prorocentrales and Gymnodiniaceae
University of Sydney, NSW
$59 957

Vascular Plants

Dr R.Bayer
A systematic revision of the tribes Heliantheae and Eupatorieae (Asteraceae) in Australia
CSIRO Plant Industry, ACT
$30 730

Dr D.Jones
Interactive identification and information system for Australian Orchid genera
CSIRO Plant Industry, ACT
$9 000

Dr B.Rye & Mr M.Trudgen
Revision and Flora accounts of Baeckea and related genera
Western Australian Herbarium, WA
$35 000

Dr J.Wege
A taxonomic treatment of some perennial trigger plants (Stylidium: Stylidiaceae) from south-west Western Australia
Western Australian Herbarium, WA
$72 000

Dr P.Wilson & Dr C.Quinn
Defining generic limits within the Chamelaucium alliance (Myrtaceae)
Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, NSW
$38 000


Ebbe Nielsen Prize for Innovation in Combining Biosystematics and Biodiversity Informatics Research

The Australian Government invites nominations for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) 2005 Ebbe Nielsen Prize. The prize is offered in memory of Ebbe Nielsen who was a global advocate for the science of systematics and the emerging discipline area of biodiversity informatics.

The GBIF Governing Board awards this prize annually, to a promising researcher, normally within ten years of their entering the research field of biodiversity informatics. Candidates should be combining biodiversity informatics and biosystematic research in novel and exciting ways.

The Prize of US$35 000 is awarded to allow the recipient to engage in such research in biodiversity outside his/her country of residence for a period of 3–6 months. However, the use of the funds will be at the discretion of the recipient.

The primary selection criterion is scientific excellence as evidenced by the nominee’s research and publication record, and in particular, the innovation shown in combining biosystematics and biodiversity informatics research in their field of activity.

Nominations must be received by the GBIF Secretariat no later than 15th December 2004 and are to be submitted through the Australian GBIF delegation.

More detailed information on the Ebbe Nielsen Prize can be obtained on GBIF website or by contacting the ABRS Business Manager, via phone: (02) 6250 9554 or email:

Systematics at the University of New England

A learning and teaching partnership: Education and training in Systematics at the University of New England — B.Sc. (Biosystematics)

A new Bachelor of Science (Biosystematics) course available at the University of New England (UNE) is conducted in partnership with the Australian Museum (AM) and the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (now Botanic Gardens Trust Sydney, BGTS). The course provides a stimulating opportunity for students to learn about biodiversity through direct involvement with systematists at three of Australia’s internationally renowned research institutions. The B.Sc. (Biosystematics) leads to opportunities for honours and postgraduate studies through UNE for students based at any of the three institutions. Students are part of the broad spectrum of research activities at these institutions, and benefit from supervision by active, professional systematists.

About the degree

The programme incorporates important existing units at UNE with three exciting specialised units (Systematics I and II, Science project). The programme starts with core science units including biology. Second year units include botany, ecology, genetics and zoology. Third year units range over evolution, biogeography and molecular biology, and the systematics units and a mini-research project unit that can be undertaken at any of the three institutions.

The Degree may be taken entirely in external study mode and students may structure their course of study according to their aims and interests, allowing concentration in Botany, Zoology, Palaeontology or related disciplines. New students can enrol in the B.Sc. (Biosystematics) programme now.

About the systematics units

The two intensive systematics units (SYST 301 & 302) are taught by staff from the AM, BGTS and UNE and provide training in the theory and practice of systematics (encompassing phylogeny, biogeography and taxonomy). Topics offered in these two units include: Introduction to systematics; History and philosophy of systematics; Characters and homology; Species concepts and terminal taxa; Models in phylogeny reconstruction; Phylogenetic reconstruction; Data sources for systematics; Rooting and character polarisation; Classification; Methods other than parsimony; Tree evaluation; Nomenclature; Fossils; Hybrids; Identification systems; Biogeography and coevolution; and Phylogenetics and conservation.

Both SYST units include a five-day Residential School, either in Armidale or in Sydney. Recently the SYST 301 residential school has been run at UNE and the SYST 302 residential school has been run in Sydney. SYST units will be run next in 2006 (and in ‘even years’ thereafter). Space in SYST 301/302 is limited to 20 students per unit.

Undergraduate, honours and post-graduate students including non-UNE students may take SYST 301 and SYST 302, with study credit transferable to other Universities for cross-institutional students. Non-award enrolments are also possible. Students would usually have undertaken university training in botany, zoology or evolution as a prerequisite. If you need to know about taxonomy, systematic databases or phylogenetic analysis in your degree, these units will provide you with the necessary tools and context to interpret your research.

Besides the B.Sc. (Biosystematics), the SYST units can count towards the B.Sc., B.Sc. (Advanced), B.Nat.Res. and B.Env.Sc. undergraduate degree programmes of study at UNE. In addition to these programmes, taxonomic training at UNE can range from undertaking a few units in an ad hoc fashion as non-award subjects, to part of structured coursework programmes (e.g. Certificate of Science, Graduate Diploma of Science, Masters of Natural Resources). For example, the four unit Certificate of Science could be made up of BOTY 211 (Plant Taxonomy), SYST 301 and SYST 302 (Systematics I and II), and SCI 395 (Science Project). In cases where students have enrolled in postgraduate research programmes (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) the SYST units may be undertaken as foundation units.

For more information

Biosystematics at the University of New England

To discuss options or for any enquiries contact the academic coordinator at UNE:
Jeremy Bruhl
Ph: (02) 6773 2429

For enrolments, contact the Student Centre:
Ph: 1800 81 8865

Australian Botanical Liaison Officer (ABLO)

An Australian Botanical Liaison Officer (ABLO) has been appointed annually since the 1930s to work at the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. The ABLO services botanical enquiries from Australian and New Zealand sources, particularly from botanists working in State and Commonwealth herbaria, using the facilities at Kew, the Natural History Museum, London and, where necessary, other European herbaria.

The ABLO also assists staff members at those institutions in botanical matters relating to Australia, as well as pursuing personal scientific interests to enhance the collective knowledge of the Australian flora. Experienced botanists are encouraged to nominate for the position. This is an excellent development opportunity for mid-career botanists wishing to advance their skills.

The current ABLO is Miss Annette Wilson, manager of the ABRS vascular plants subprogramme, who will complete her ABLO term at the end of October 2004. Annette’s replacement will be confirmed in the next few weeks. Applications for the 2005/2006 ABLO closed on 30 July 2004.

Applications for the 2006/2007 Australian Botanical Liaison Officer will be called for in early 2005. If you are interested in applying for the ABLO position please contact the
ABRS Business Manager
Ph: (02) 6250 9554 or
ABLO guidelines, selection criteria and tasks

Expressions of interest for contract work

Botanists, zoologists and artists are invited to submit expressions of interest to be included in a register for short-term ABRS contract work. For further information on short term contracts please contact the ABRS. The contract registration form is available online.

Previous applicants are also invited to update their expressions of interest.

Applications should be sent to:
Business Manager
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Fax: (02) 6250 9555

ABRS Grants Publications List

Request for Assistance from Past and Present Grantees

ABRS is preparing a list of publications produced from research funded by ABRS grants. This list will soon be accessible from the ABRS website.

Currently over 2000 publications are listed and we seek your assistance to ensure the accuracy and currency of the list. Many publications are listed as ‘in press’ that are probably published by now. There are also many publications that have not yet been included.

This list will become a valuable resource of taxonomic information. ABRS requests all past and present grantees to review the publications listed against their names and to provide us with any amendments or additions.

Please send corrections to current listings and any information on additional publications to:

To view the publications list, please check the ABRS ‘What’s New’ page.