THE JOURNEY

A new species of worm for Campbell Island
50 Degrees South Trust, Campbell Island, invertebrate identification key
50 Degrees South Trust, Campbell Island, invertebrate identification key
50 Degrees South Trust, Campbell Island, invertebrate identification key
50 Degrees South Trust, Campbell Island, invertebrate identification key
50 Degrees South Trust, Campbell Island, invertebrate identification key
50 Degrees South Trust, Campbell Island, invertebrate identification key

A new species of worm for Campbell Island

It’s a proud day when a scientist has a discovery named after her. In the field of invertebrates the chance of finding a new species is certainly greater than say working in the field of mammals, but even so, it is a rare privilege and one thing on my bucket list that I didn't think I would ever tick off.  In my case, my surname (McMurtrie) is being shared with a tiny worm (Macquaridrilus mcmurtrieae) that lives only in the streams and tarns of the remote Subantarctic island known as Campbell Island.

The worm was described by Adrian Pinder - Senior Research Scientist from Western Australia's Dept Parks and Wildlife. An article (available online) by Adrian Pinder and EOS Ecology’s Alex James has been published in the NZ Journal of Zoology and details the find and formally describes the species.

One of the most interesting features of our freshwater work on Campbell Island has been the discovery of a very abundant and diverse oligochaete fauna. With almost 9000 individuals, oligochaetes were the third most abundant order in our freshwater samples. We have only begun to fully elucidate this fascinating group. Adrian has currently identified seventeen different oligochaete taxa (including several potential new species) and this is only from a fraction (2%) of the total specimens collected.

We expect that as we look into this group further we will find many more new species and distribution records, but this is reliant on getting more funding to support the labour-intensive work. With each specimen needing to be mounted on a slide and carefully viewed under a compound microscope, the identification of the 9000 odd oligochaetes is a time-consuming labour of love. Upwards of $70 000 would be needed for their identification and development of a key and associated resources. When considered at only $7.80 per worm this seems a small amount pay to unlock the mysteries of this little known, yet very important invertebrate group on Campbell Island.

Donations to the CIBE to further such post-expedition outputs can be made here.

[Shelley McMurtrie]