Conservation Systematics of the Western Pilbara Fauna

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.

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.

WA Museum LogoWAM 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.

 WAM 2014-15 Annual Report (355 KB, PDF)

Achievements to date

Nudibranch specimen collected from the Montebellos – Nerida Wilson
Nudibranch specimen collected from the Montebellos – Nerida Wilson

A team of scientists has been sequencing specimens since 2014. 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.

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

Over 60,000 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


  • Harvey M.S., Abrams K.M., Burger M.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.
  • Abrams K.M., 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.
  • Wilson N.G., Kirkendale L.A. (2016) Putting the “Indo” back into the Indo-Pacific: resolving marine phylogeographic gaps. Invertebrate Systematics 30: 86–94.
  • Harvey M.S., Abrams K.M., Beavis A.S., Hillyer M.J., Huey J.A. (2016) Pseudoscorpions of the family Feaellidae (Pseudoscorpiones: Feaelloidea) from the Pilbara region of Western Australia show extreme short-range endemism. Invertebrate Systematics 30: 491–508.
  • Middelfart P.U., Kirkendale L.A., Wilson N.G. (2016) Australian Tropical marine micromolluscs: An overwhelming bias. Diversity 8: 17.
  • Rix M.G., Huey J.A., Main B.Y., Waldock J.M., Harrison S.E., Comer S., Austin A.D., Harvey M.S (2017) Where have all the spiders gone? The catastrophic decline of a poorly known invertebrate fauna in the agricultural and arid zones of southern Australia. Austral Entomology 56: 14–22.
  • Castalanelli M.A., Huey J.A., Hillyer M.J., Harvey M.S. (2017) Molecular and morphological evidence for a new genus of small trapdoor spiders from arid Western Australia (Araneae: Mygalomorphae: Nemesiidae: Anaminae). Invertebrate Systematics 31: 492–505.
  • Allen G.R., Moore G.I., Allen M.G. (2017) Neopomacentrus aktites, a new species of damselfish (Pisces: Pomacentridae) from Western Australia. Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation 29:1–10.
  • Perina G., Camacho A., Huey J.A., Horwitz P., Koenders A. (2018) Understanding subterranean variability: the first genus of Bathynellidae (Bathynellacea, Crustacea) from Western Australia described through a morphological and multigene approach. Invertebrate Systematics 32: 423–447.
  • Layton K.K.S., Gosliner T.M., Wilson N.G. (2018) Flexible colour patterns obscure identification and mimicry in Indo-Pacific Chromodoris nudibranch slugs (Gastropoda: Chromodorididae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 124: 27–36.
  • Umbrello L.S., Woolley P.A., Westerman M. (2018) Species relationships in the dasyurid marsupial genus Pseudantechinus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). Australian Journal of Zoology 65: 240–247.
  • Rix G.M., Huey J.A., Cooper S.J.B., Austin A.D., Harvey M.S. (2018) Conservation systematics of the shield-backed trapdoor spiders of the ‘nigrum-group’ (Mygalomorphae: Idiopidae: Idiosoma): integrative taxonomy reveals a diverse and threatened fauna from south-western Australia. Zookeys 756: 1–121.
  • Kealley L., Doughty P., Pepper M., Keogh S., Hillyer M., Huey J.A. (2018) Conspicuously concealed: Revision of the arid clade of the Gehyra variegata (Gekkonidae) species group in Western Australia using an integrative molecular and morphological approach, with the description of five cryptic species. PeerJ 6: e5334.
  • Moore G.I., Humphreys W.F., Foster R. (2018) New populations of the rare subterranean Blind Cave Eel Ophisternon candidum (Synbranchidae) reveal recent historical connections throughout north-western Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 69: 1517–1524
  • Framenau V., Hamilton Z., Finston T., Humphreys G., Abrams K., Huey J.A., Harvey M.S. (2018) Molecular and morphological characterization of new species of hypogean Paradraculoides (Schizomida: Hubbardiidae) from the arid Pilbara bioregion of Western Australia. Journal of Arachnology 46: 507–537.
  • Rix M., Raven R.J., Harvey M.S. (2018) Systematics of the giant spiny trapdoor spiders of the genus Gaius Rainbow (Mygalomorphae: Idiopidae: Aganippini): documenting an iconic lineage of the Western Australian inland arid zone. Journal of Arachnology 46: 438–472.
  • Harvey M.S., Hillyer M.J., Main B.Y., Moulds T.A., Raven R.J., Rix M.G., Vink C.J., Huey J.A. (2018) Phylogenetic relationships of the Australian open-holed trapdoor spiders (Araneae: Mygalomorphae: Nemesiidae: Anaminae): multi-locus molecular analyses resolve the generic classification of a highly diverse lineage. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 184: 407–452
  • Carmona, L., Wilson N.G. (2018) Two new species of the tropical nudibranch Moridilla (Aeolidia) from Australasia. Records of the WA Museum 33: 95-102.
  • Richards, Z, Yasuda, N, Kikuchi, T, Foster, T, Mitsuyuki, C, Stat, M, Suyama, Y, and Wilson, NG (2018) Integrated evidence reveals a new species in the ancient blue coral genus Heliopora (Octocorallia). Scientific Reports 8: 15875.
  • Medrano, S., Krug, P.J., Gosliner, T.M., Kumar, A.B. and Valdés, Á. (2018). Systematics of Polybranchia Pease, 1860 (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Sacoglossa) based on molecular and morphological data. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.