New worm species first to be identified using online Bowerbird

Land planarian
The land planarian
Image: Jean and Fred Hort
Source: Jean and Fred Hort

Media contact: Alex Dook
adook@museum.vic.gov.au

A new species of flatworm has been identified by two amateur science enthusiasts using BowerBird, a Museum Victoria-developed website where members of the public contribute to the scientific body of knowledge about Australian plants and animals.

The worm, a type of land planarian, was sighted east of Perth on 20 July by Fred and Jean Hort, two volunteers for the West Australian Department of Environment and Conservation.

"We've contributed to the discovery of more than 15 new plant species, but this is the first time we've found a new animal species," said Mrs Hort. "We found it under a small piece of granite on a granite outcrop. The species has been photographed in Wandoo National Park, York and Flint State Forest, Beverley."

BowerBird, launched two months ago by Museum Victoria in collaboration with the Atlas of Living Australia, allows amateur scientists to upload images of plants and animals they observe in the wild to an online social platform. Species are then identified by the online community of experts and amateurs, against the most comprehensive checklist of Australian species to date.

"In the first two months of its operation, BowerBird has been used to identify species in more than 1500 photographs contributed by hundreds of people around the country," said Dr Ken Walker, Museum Victoria scientist and BowerBird manager. "If new species are being discovered after only two months, the long-term possibilities of BowerBird are endless."

After a species is identified on BowerBird, the data of where and when it was photographed is uploaded to the Atlas of Living Australia, an online repository of biodiversity information used by professional scientists.

BowerBird is free, and can be found here.

The Museum Victoria Field Guide App, a detailed ready-reference for Victorian plants and animals, is available for free download on iPhone and Android.

Museum Victoria Public Relations contact:
Alex Dook, 8341 7141 / 0478 348 880, adook@museum.vic.gov.au

For all general public enquiries, contact the museum's Discovery Centre

Image Gallery

BowerBird screenshot Granite outcrop