New 'pseudoscorpions' discovered in WA

·2-min read

Scientists have discovered seven new species of pseudoscorpions, pear-shaped creatures similar to spiders and ticks, which they believe may be native to the Kimberley region.

Pseudoscorpions look similar to a scorpion, with eight legs and scorpion-like pincers, but are a different animal.

Both are classed as arachnids but pseudoscorpions have teardrop-shaped bodies and no tail, looking like a cross between a spider, a tick and a scorpion.

They hunt prey using an ambush technique, similar to spiders, and have glands within their claws that produce venom capable of immobilising prey.

Glands in their jaws are also capable of spinning silk to make cocoons which they use for mating or moulting.

The creatures were discovered by Western Australian Museum department head Mark Harvey at two locations in WA's northern Kimberley region - Charnley River Station, an Australian Wildlife Conservancy property, and Wunaamin Conservation Park.

Dr Harvey believes the seven separate species may be native and entirely unique to the Kimberley.

He said the creatures can help scientists better understand the effects of climate change on wildlife.

"Small arthropods like pseudoscorpions are very sensitive to changes in their environment making them an excellent indicator species, like canaries in a coal mine," Dr Harvey said.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek congratulated Dr Harvey and his team on the "exciting" discovery, adding that the recent State of the Environment report highlighted the pressures on Australian ecosystems.

"The discovery of important indicator species such as the pseudoscorpion can help us understand more about Australia's changing environment and the impact of climate change on terrestrial species."

The finding was made as part of the species discovery program Bush Blitz, which has uncovered more than 1800 new species of local plants and animals in the last decade.

Of an estimated 580,000-680,000 species in Australia, some three quarters are yet to be identified and scientifically described.

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