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New Australian discoveries include hairdressing crabs, vicious wasps and 600 new species


A crab that finds cunning disguises, a chest-bursting parasitic wasp, and an aquatic plant that grows its own floaties are among the more than 600 native plants and animals discovered to science in the past year, adding to Australia’s already long list of unique wildlife.

Despite the massive haul, scientists believe only 30 per cent of the world’s wildlife has been named, with an estimated 300,000 species left to be discovered in Australia alone.

Fluffy crabs glue living sponges to their bodies for camouflage that they keep trim using their tiny claws.
Credit:Colin McLay / WA Museum

Australian Biological Resources Study acting general manager Bryan Lessard said of the 626 Australian native species discovered by scientists in the past 12 months, his favourite was the “aspiring hairdresser” Lamarckdromia beagle, also known as the fluffy crab.

“It’s so adorable,” Lessard said. “It uses its tiny claws to snip sponges that it glues to itself to keep it fresh.”

The fluffy crab, native to Western Australian waters, camouflages itself from predators by scouring the seafloor for sponges that end up looking like a wig. It trims sponges into shape and holds them to its body until it grows over the crab’s shell.

Glyptapanteles andamookaensis, the vicious parasitic wasp.

Glyptapanteles andamookaensis, the vicious parasitic wasp. Credit:Fagan-Jeffries.

A newly discovered wetland dwelling plant also from Western Australia, the Utricularia baliboongarnang, boasts a beautiful purple flower that belies its gruesome name and occupation. It’s a carnivorous bladderwort that derives nutrients from animals, including insects, and makes its living floating around in billabongs on air-filled sacs. It was named in consultation with the Miriwoong Elders, in whose language ‘baliboong’ means swamp-dwelling.

Glyptapanteles andamookaensis, a vicious parasitic wasp from South Australia, injects its larvae inside a living caterpillar and when hatched, juvenile wasps will burst out of the hosts like in a horror movie.

Scientists discovered a new cicada species living along the Great Dividing Range in NSW and into southern Queensland which they called Yoyetta ignita, using Latin for ignited in reference to the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20, when much of its natural range was burned.

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