8 Mar 2023
A Sunshine Coast school will help taxonomists name a wasp species new to western science after the insect was caught by students as part of a tri-state, 50-school project to uncover more of Australia’s mysterious biodiversity.
Only about 30 percent of the estimated 225,000 insect species in Australia are formally named and described.
University of the Sunshine Coast entomologist Dr Andy Howe, who coordinates 17 Queensland schools in the Insect Investigators citizen science project that started a year ago, said initial results were exactly what researchers hoped for.
“DNA testing in Canada and analysis by taxonomists at the University of Adelaide and partner institutes have confirmed that specimens sent from insect traps at schools in three states contained species undescribed by western science, with more to come,” he said.
Research Fellow Dr Howe, of UniSC’s Forest Research Institute, will tomorrow visit Beerwah State High School to discuss the biology, behaviour and naming of its discovery – a parasitic wasp in the genus Mirax from the family Braconidae.
“It will certainly be interesting to hear what they want to call it,” he said. “This wasp lays eggs inside living caterpillars and the larvae then eat their way out of the host.”
National project leader Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries and taxonomy PhD student Mollie-Rosae Slater-Baker from the University of Adelaide will meet online with the Beerwah class at 12pm.
Students from Beerwah State High School will shed light on their role in naming the wasp when they attend World Science Festival Brisbane on 22 March for a presentation by Dr Howe, Dr Fagan-Jeffries and colleagues Dr Chris Lambkin and Susan Wright from the Queensland Museum.
The Insect Investigators festival presentation will be held at the Cremorne Theatre at QPAC.
Insect Investigators received grant funding from the Australian Government and is led by the South Australian Museum with the support of organisations including the University of the Sunshine Coast, The University of Adelaide and the Queensland Museum.
More than 14,000 insect specimens were selected from school traps in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland last year for DNA barcoding and taxonomy.
About 56 percent of the DNA barcodes identified were new records to the Barcode of Life database, a freely available collection of molecular and species occurrence data.
Images and data from all schools is available at https://insectinvestigators.com.au/results/
The other Queensland schools participating in the project include:
Back Plains State School
Belgian Gardens State School
Blackall State School
Cameron Downs State School
Columba Catholic College
Gin Gin State High School
Glenden State School
Kogan State School
Mornington Island State School
Mount Molloy State School
Prospect Creek State School
Springsure State School
St Patrick's Catholic School, Winton
Tamborine Mountain State School
Yeppoon State High School
Yeronga State School