Conservation Systematics

Conservation Systematics of the Western Pilbara Fauna


Divers collecting at the Montebello Islands - Nerida Wilson

Divers collecting at the Montebello Islands – Nerida Wilson

The Pilbara landscape is ancient and diverse, where animals have been evolving and adapting for millions of years. Surrounded by deserts and the ocean, it is an isolated region where many species are awaiting discovery and description.

To document new species from the Pilbara, WA Museum (WAM) researchers will sequence DNA from many animal groups across the Pilbara and from offshore marine areas, using these data to speed up the process of systematics.

Thousands of specimens will have parts of their genome sequenced, providing a huge database

These data will help researchers identify new species, understand how these new species arose, and assess their connectivity to nearby areas. This will assist managers to conserve the natural heritage of this region.
WAM curators will publish descriptions of new species in the scientific literature. Information about new species will also be shared more widely on the WAM website.

Specimens will be documented, and maintained in the Museum’s collections for posterity to help safeguard our natural heritage.

Sequence data will help to determine the area that species inhabit. This can inform the conservation status of species, which is particularly important for rare local species that are susceptible to extinction.

Urodacus specimen - Mark Harvey

Urodacus specimen – Mark Harvey

Achievements to date

A team of scientists has been assembled and has begun sequencing specimens. Groups being focused on to date include trapdoor spiders, scorpions, pseudoscorpions, skinks, mangrove birds, land snails, volutes, oysters, octocorals, hard corals and sponges.

Field trips have been carried out along the coastal Pilbara (from Broome to Exmouth), including the Great Sandy Islands, the Montebellos Islands, and Karijini and Millstream-Chichester National parks.

Nudibranch pic

Nudibranch specimen collected from the Montebellos – Nerida Wilson

There are four PhD students working in collaboration with the project, focused on diverse taxa including; mammals, trapdoor spiders, marine snails and subterranean crustaceans.

Approximately 24,000 DNA sequences have been produced to date. We are assessing species against the IUCN Red List criteria to determine if conservation action is required. The results of these assessments, and species pages detailing the biology of the focal taxa can be found at


Dales Gorge, in the Karijini National Park - L. Umbrello

Dales Gorge, in the Karijini National Park – L. Umbrello


Wilson, NG & Kirkendale LA (in press) Putting the “Indo” back in the Indo-Pacific: resolving marine phylogeographic gaps. Invertebrate Systematics.

Abrams, K.M., and Harvey, M.S. (2015). A new troglobitic schizomid (Hubbardiidae: Paradraculoides) from the Pilbara region, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 30, 132–136.

Harvey, M.S., Abrams, K.M., and Burger, M.A.A. (2015). A new species of the pseudoscorpion genus Synsphyronus (Pseudoscorpiones: Garypidae) from Barrow Island, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 30, 137–143.