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Scientists find 58 new water bug species

05.04.2004


The work of two scientists over the last decade has almost doubled the number of described Australian semi-aquatic bug species.



With an estimated two thirds of Australia’s insects yet to be scientifically described, documenting and recording new species is no easy task.

Identifying the new species of semi-aquatic bugs saw Tom Weir, CSIRO Entomology, and Nils Andersen, Copenhagen University, examine more than 45,000 specimens from around Australia.


"Despite living on the world’s driest continent, Australia’s water bugs are as numerous as they are diverse," Mr Tom Weir said. "The 58 new species of semi-aquatic bugs we have discovered and described adds to our knowledge of Australia’s biodiversity and increases the pool of knowledge about the world’s insect species."

Water bugs are a key part of aquatic ecosystems and also provide benefits to humans since many species prey on mosquitoes and are themselves a food source for fish. In some cases water bugs can prove useful in monitoring the quality of some aquatic environments.

Tom’s interest in water bugs began in the 1960s when he realised there were more water bugs ’out there’ than had been described in the literature. His journey to discover and describe Australia’s water bugs has taken him across flooded parts of central Australia, remote locations in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia as well as mangrove swamps and costal areas.

’The most hazardous places to collect water bugs are the billabongs of northern Australia. I was often startled by crocodiles entering the water from their resting places while I was netting insects nearby," Tom said.

Australian Water Bugs: Their Biology and Identification is the first comprehensive book about Australian water bugs and is now available from CSIRO Publishing. The authors, Tom Weir and Nils Andersen, have collected and studied water bugs in Australia’s diverse aquatic habitats for a combined 80 years.

Copies are available by contacting CSIRO Publishing on either: 1300 788 000 (toll free in Australia); +613 9662 7666, email: publishing.sales@csiro.au; or by visiting: www.publish.csiro.au

The Carlsberg Foundation was a supporter of the research which contributed to Australian Water Bugs.

More information:
Jennifer Griggs, CSIRO Publishing, 03 9662 7645
Media assistance and images available from:
Paul Dobson, CSIRO Entomology, 02 6246 4375

Geraldine Capp | CSIRO
Further information:
http://www.csiro.au/index.asp?type=mediaRelease&id=PrWaterbugs2

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