626 new species discovered in Australia last year

20 March 2023

Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek has celebrated the amazing result of scientists over the last year who collectively have discovered 626 new Australian species.


From ‘salsa dancing’ spiders, to tiny crabs dressed in sea sponge, scientists have named 626 Australian species new to science in the last calendar year, including seven new subspecies.


These discoveries were celebrated on Taxonomist Appreciation Day on 19 March, recognising the important work of the scientists who name, classify and describe Australia’s unique biodiversity.


Among these new species are ‘high-energy’ cicadas, chest-bursting parasitoid wasps and a fleshy coral that sways in underwater reefs.


The work to document our biodiversity supports the Australian Government’s Nature Positive Plan, which states that our economy, livelihoods and wellbeing rely on the ability of nature to survive and thrive.


Sadly, several of the newly-named species are already under threat, including the tube-web spider, a mountain frog, superb myrtles, orchids and a subspecies of white-footed dunnart that are facing pressure from bushfires, feral species and climate change.


Traditional Knowledge was used to name some of the new species, like the carnivorous bladderwort Utricularia baliboongarnang that can float in swamps due to pontoon-like stems full of air. 


The new name was inspired by the Mirriwoong Language word Baliboong, meaning “swamp-dwelling”, in collaboration with Miriwoong Elders and senior speakers of the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre.


The national species authority, the Australian Biological Resources Study, records new species names along with the 150,000 native species already known in Australia.


Native and naturalised species data is made publicly available in the curated Australian National Species List database that supports decision-making by scientists, conservationists and governments.


This biodiscovery effort is part of a national initiative to document all of Australia’s unique species.


According to a recent cost-benefit analysis done in partnership between Taxonomy Australia and Deloitte Access, the Australian economy benefits by $4 to $35 for every dollar spent on taxonomy and naming species.


Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek:


“It’s so exciting to think that we are discovering and naming about 2 new species every day. We’ve only discovered and named about one third of the species found in Australia.


“Australia is recognised as one of only 17 mega-diverse countries in the world, and with a result like this it’s easy to see why. Although Australia has less than 1% of the world’s population, we have around 8% of the world’s plants and animals.


“Sunday 19 March was Taxonomist Appreciation Day – a day to celebrate the scientists who name, classify and describe our unique plants and animals.


“I want to thank everyone who has helped discover, name and better understand our amazing plants and animals.


“These scientists have classified amazing ‘dancing’ spiders, tiny crabs, a new kind of cicada and a coral that sways in our underwater reefs – just to name a few.


“We can’t protect endangered or threatened species without knowing what they are and where they live. That helps us to look after them into the future.”


Quotes attributable to Australian Biological Resources Study (Parks Australia) entomologist, Dr Bryan Lessard (aka Bry the Fly Guy):


“Scientists have documented only 30% of all the species on Earth, so it’s no surprise we are still uncovering hidden species.


“Taxonomy, the science of classifying species, allows us to put names on species that makes it easier for researchers, citizen scientists and conservationists to talk about and study that exact species.


“For 50 years, the Australian Biological Resources Study has supported species discovery and the training of the next generation of Australian taxonomists."