Bush Blitz participant finds new species of snail

A new species of snail has been discovered in the highlands of southern Queensland, by a BHP Billiton employee assisting scientists on a Bush Blitz expedition.
Bush Blitz is a pioneering nature-discovery partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. Since 2009 it has been focusing on discovering new species of plants and animals, to better understand how to protect our environment.

Ellen Couchman was one of eight BHP Billiton employees assisting 12 scientists from around Australia in search of spiders, ants, bees, flies, plants, reptiles and amphibians. The 10 day expedition took part, October 2014, in Carnarvon Station Reserve, 200km south of Emerald. The team worked closely with ecologists from Bush Heritage Australia, which manages the 60,000 hectare reserve.
Ms Couchman found the snail while assisting Queensland Museum Honorary Research Fellow and expert in snails, Dr John Stanisic, who was excited to confirm this week the species, Pallidex simonhudsoni, is new to science.
Dr Stanisic said: “The discovery and documentation adds another species to the short but ever-increasing list of Australia’s unique but largely unknown invertebrate fauna. It underscores how little we know and appreciate about our spineless friends.”
“Like many of Australia’s 1500 species of land snail, it has a very localised distribution. This makes them extremely vulnerable to the effects of habitat destruction through broad acre land clearance and fire,” he said.
The snails are commonly found in patches of remnant rainforest known as ‘vine thickets’, which have been subject to extensive and often indiscriminate clearing in the past. “This begs the question as to how many species have been lost, that we haven’t even known about,” said Dr Stanton.
Ms Couchman is excited to have been part of such an important scientific expedition.
“The most mind blowing thing was just experiencing the diversity of ecosystems and species on Carnarvon Station. I’ve worked in the Bowen Basin for around 2.5 years now and I’ve never seen central Queensland the way I did on the Bush Blitz trip,” she said.
“The thing that gets me is that, you can turn over a rock or go for a walk in a paddock and find a new species. It really drives home how little is known about Australian plants and animals, and the importance of the Bush Blitz program.”
The Bush Blitz expedition to Carnarvon Station involved scientists from the Queensland Museum, Australian National Herbarium, University of NSW, Qld Department of Primary Industries and South Australia Museum.
In addition to the new species discovered by Ellen, Dr Stanisic found another five species of snail which he believes are new to science.
Other scientists on the Bush Blitz expedition recorded a wide diversity of species including 36 reptiles and frogs, 35 types of bee, over 40 spider species, and at least one new species of stygofauna (animals that live in groundwater). This information will be provided to Bush Heritage, to help them manage the ecosystems and habitats of Carnarvon Station.
Australia is home to more unique plants and animals than any other country on Earth, however, 75 per cent of our biodiversity is unknown to science. Most of these unknown species are invertebrates, in fact 99 per cent!
Earthwatch Chief Executive Officer, Prof David McInnes said: “This discovery demonstrates how little we know about our own biodiversity and signifies the importance and uniqueness of Bush Blitz.”

“By documenting and describing Australia’s unique flora and fauna we are providing the essential information to help manage and protect some of Australia’s most fragile and precious ecosystems,” Prof McInnes said.