Kangaroo Island insects need greater protection

There are some rare and fantastic insects on Kangaroo Island that need greater recognition and protection in South Australia, according to KI entomologist Dr Richard Glatz.

South Australian endangered species legislation currently does not recognise invertebrates as animals nor offer any protection to insects.

Australian Entomological Society recently published a journal article that he co-authored proposing a strategic national approach for improving the conservation management of insects and allied invertebrates in Australia.

Two of the 12 icon species listed in the article, the enigma moth and the green carpenter bee, are from Kangaroo Island.

Dr Glatz discovered the enigma moth in 2009 and its named in his honour, Aenigmatinea glatzella.

The moth with its iridescent gold and purple wings is a “living dinosaur” that represents an entirely new family of primitive moths.

This is the first time since the 1970s that a new family of primitive moths has been identified anywhere in the world.

“The state endangered species legislation is ridiculous, as it does not recognise invertebrates as animals, when in fact about 95 per cent of terrestrial animal species are invertebrates,” Dr Glatz said.

“Insects are not only scientifically important but they have huge ecosystems service value, and are still largely uncharacterised with lots of ongoing discoveries and lots of new species not published yet.

“This legislative shortcoming in protecting our rare species means they not taken being taken into account by land managers.”

There are three rare SA insects listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) redlist, and one of this insects is a katydid, Psacadonotus insulanus, that occurs on KI.

“Because of the current legislative shortcoming this insect, and others such as the enigma moth and carpenter bee, cannot be considered for protection,” Dr Glatz said.

He added that this rare katydid likely occurs on the proposed Pelican Lagoon golf course site because has been collected from the same environment nearby.

Dr Glatz said another KI insect that should be recognised as endangered is Ogyris halmaturia, the large eastern bronze-azure butterfly, which was rediscovered in Flinders Chase in 2014 after no records for 80 years since 1934. 

“It is myrmecophilous, or ant-loving, and larvae live and develop only in nests of the sugar ant, Camponotus terebrans,” he said.

Another “flagship species” listed in the recent journal article is the Kangaroo Island trapdoor spider, Moggridgea rainbowi, that was recently shown to have originated from Africa and spread to the Kangaroo Island region by trans-oceanic dispersal. 

The spider's habitat is in burrows just above the high tide mark.

The spider has been identified and studied from two sites on Kangaroo Island; the genomes from the two sites 80km apart indicate that the groups diverged 1 to 6 million years ago, reflective of juveniles not migrating far from their maternal sites.

A study has indicated that M. rainbowi is likely to have reached Australia from Africa between 2 and 16 million years ago.

Given that this time is intermediate between the separation of Australia from Gwondwana (circa 95 million years ago) and the arrival of humans into Australia, it has been proposed that the spiders may have arrived by oceanic dispersal, such as by rafting vegetation. 

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