Identifying new Australian beetles
There are an estimated 360,000 described species of beetles, yet there are many more to be identified.
Australia’s fauna includes about 23,000 described species in 3,265 genera and 121 families, but the total species number is estimated to be in the range of 80,000 to 100,000.
Many beetles are serious pests, damaging crops and timber and causing huge economic losses to industry. Others are valuable biological control agents of invasive weeds and cattle dung.
Australia has many exotic or introduced beetles, but native species can also become pests or may be used as biocontrol agents.
Our research on beetles is focused on phylogeny (evolution of species) and classification of the Coleoptera. We also examine their economic and environmental importance.
Researchers are also investigating the relationships Australian native groups have with beetles in other parts of the world.
Gaining a better understanding of beetles
The team at CSIRO are actively working on a number of beetle projects:
- Research into the Australian Ladybirds (Coccinellidae): This project is partly funded by ABRS and has resulted in the publication of a book and website that allows ladybirds to be identified to the genus level. It will also include the publication of two books on Coccinellini, covering the species of Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific Region, and the genera of the world.
- Revision of Australian Beetles Volumes 2 and 3: This major project will completely revise the 1994 book Australian Beetles and will include major revisions of many families.
- Systematics of Longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae): A generic level revision of the Australian Cerambycidae will be published in three volumes, accompanied by a website with interactive keys to the genera of Lamiinae and Cerambycinae.
- Australian Weevils monograph series: The first comprehensive taxonomic study of the large and complex weevil subfamily Entiminae will appear in Vol. IV of this book series. The Entiminae comprise about a quarter of all weevil species described in Australia.
- Interactions of seed-feeding weevils with Australian Acacias: Weevils in the genus Melanterius develop in the seeds of Australian acacias. Molecular analysis is being undertaken to determine the evolutionary relationships between these weevils and their hosts. This study will help to identify potential biocontrol agents for invasive Australian acacias in South Africa.
- Phylogeny of Australian weevils: A molecular phylogeny of Australian weevils is being generated, both to advance current knowledge of weevil phylogeny and classification overall, and to determine the relationships of various endemic tribes of Australian weevils.
- Checklist of Australian weevils: The first inventory of all Australian weevils was published in the Australian Faunal Directory in 2012. The electronic checklist is being updated and a printed and annotated version of the checklist with several taxonomic and nomenclatural changes is being prepared.
- Revision of the Gonipterus scutellatus species complex: A taxonomic and phylogenetic study has revealed ten or more cryptic species in what had been regarded for over 100 years as a single species of eucalyptus weevil. Three different species are now known to defoliate eucalyptus plantations in Australia and elsewhere in the world, but none of them are G. scutellatus.