Paramonovius nightking, a bee fly named after Game of Thrones’ Night Kingbecause it reigns in winter and has a crown of spine-like hairs, is one of 230new species named by CSIRO during the past year.
“It has a serious side, but naming new species is the most fun a taxonomistcan have,” entomologist at CSIRO’s National Research Collections Australia,“Bry the Fly Guy” (aka Bryan Lessard), said.
The newly named species ranged from a cusk eel named Barathronus algrahamiafter fish collection manager Al Graham, to a tiny soldier fly from JudbarraNational Park, Northern Territory that Dr Lessard named Prosopochrysa lemannaein honour of insect technician Cate Lemann.
Naming our biodiversity is a serious business.
A species without a scientific name is invisible to science and conservationand Australia has only named 20-25 per cent of its half a million species.
“Scientists across the country name around 1000 new species each year. At thecurrent rate it will take another 350 years just to know what exists,” DrLessard said.
“Australia needs a step change in biodiversity discovery and at CSIRO we’repulling together many strands of science to deliver that.
“We’re using AI, machine learning, genomics, digitisation and big datainformatics to change the way we use the 15 million specimens in our researchcollections.”
The driver is the value of Australia’s biodiversity and its benefits.
“Our biodiversity runs the planet. It cycles nutrients, sequesters carbon,pollinates crops and cleans the air we breathe and the water we drink. Weliterally couldn’t live without it,” Dr Lessard said.
Australia’s native plants and animals directly support billions of dollars ofindustries such as fisheries and forestry.
They are rich sources of germplasm for crops like cotton, soybean andmacadamias and can be explored to find useful new bioactive molecules andnovel materials.
“Native plants and animals are of deep cultural significance to Indigenouscommunities and simply being out in nature has many health benefits,” DrLessard said.
One of the group Dr Lessard studies, soldier flies, has an estimated 300Australian species, only 150 of which have names.
Like many insects, some undescribed soldier fly species have waited in theinsect collection for decades for a taxonomist to describe and name them sothey can be formally recognised.
“One of the soldier flies I named is from Chillagoe in Queensland,” Dr Lessardsaid.
“It’s so different from other Australian soldier flies that it belongs to anew genus, which is the next level up from species.
“I named it Scutellumina parvatra – that means little black fly with noshoulder spines.”
There are conventions to follow when playing the name game. Names shouldn’t beinsulting or derogatory and you shouldn’t name a species after yourself.
The scientific name must be unique for each species – it’s made up of both agenus name, which comes first, and a species name.
LEFT: This newly named species is a cusk eel named Barathronusalgrahamiafter Al Graham at the Australian National Fish Collection in Hobart.Barathronus algrahamiis a deep sea fish that was caught off South Australia byscientists aboard our ship RV Investigator.It is 200 mm long. Credit CSIRO
Along with the new insect and fish species, staff of the Australian NationalHerbarium named six new plants species, including two daisies, two orchids, alobelia and a trumpet vine.
The next generation of taxonomist are also getting involved to help describeour unique Australian species.
“Xuankun Li, who named the bee fly Paramonovius nightking, is a PhD student atCSIRO and a huge fan of Game of Thrones, proving that inspiration for newspecies names can come from anywhere,” Dr Lessard said.
Australian National Fish Collection researcher, Helen O’Neill, said theprocess of discovering new fish species often began on research vessels orunderwater with marine surveys.
“Marine surveys provide vital information about the biodiversity of our marineenvironments,” Ms O’Neill said.
“Researchers spend many long hours at sea and underwater collecting,photographing and identifying specimens and then preserving samples for moredetailed laboratory analysis.
“This work is frontier science and, because we are constantly learning aboutour marine environments, it can often turn up new species.”
Staff of the National Research Collections Australia acknowledge thecontributions of their collaborators from Australia and around the world tothe many field expeditions, specimen loans and publications that havecontributed to the new species named during the past year.
Species lists for Australia are maintained by the Australian BiologicalResources Study: https://biodiversity.org.au/afd/home
Taxonomy Australia maintains a running count of new Australian species namedeach year: https://www.taxonomyaustralia.org.au/new-species-2019
Papers about featured species:
Cusk eel: https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4564.2.12
Trumpet vine: https://www.publish.csiro.au/SB/fulltext/SB18031
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