Hiltaba hits the jackpot with 21 new species of spider

The newly discovered _Opopaea sp. nov._ under the microscope

I collected 41 species of spider from 16 families on my recent Bush Blitz at Hiltaba – amazingly the collections yielded 21 new species and three new genera across 11 families.

Once again we are reminded our current knowledge is just the tip of the iceberg. Unlike most other ‘western’ nations, most of our fauna is still unknown to science. About three-quarters of Australia’s species are believed to be undocumented!

Since the program began in 2010, Bush Blitz has discovered 600 new species – a major advance in our knowledge. Results from Hiltaba and previous Bush Blitzes will be invaluable in establishing world-class management of national reserves into the future and critical in helping us face dramatic challenges including resource management, food security and climate change.

As usual, at least one new species is named after one of the team members. This has become a Bush Blitz tradition. A new spider, Opopaea sp. nov. discovered at Hiltaba will be named after Mark Stevens of the South Australia Museum.

Collecting and naming new species is the critical first step in understanding how nature works. In Australia, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, new species matter. Australia is a very ancient continent, more vulnerable and fragile than most. The fungi, plants and animals have been isolated for a long time.

It’s not possible to overlay northern hemisphere ideas of ecology and climate onto our landscape - changing our thinking by going into the field and documenting our biodiversity is part of our own necessary adaptation as humans.

A female _Cavasteron_ sp 12 is another new species collected at Hiltaba

Dr Barbara Baehr, Research fellow, Queensland Museum

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia which aims to document the plants and animals across Australia’s National Reserve System.

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