Centre for Ecosystem Management
The number of subterranean taxa discovered in the north of Western Australia has substantially increased due to the requirements for environmental surveys related to mining development. Challenges in estimating subterranean biodiversity and distributions are related to lack of knowledge of taxa with convergent morphological characters in a largely unobservable ecosystem setting. An integrated approach is warranted to understand such complexity.
Bathynellidae occur in most Australian aquifers, but only one species has been described so far, and the group lacks a reliable taxonomic framework. A new genus and one new species from the Pilbara region of Western Australia, Pilbaranella ethelensis, gen. et sp. nov., is described using both morphological and molecular data. Three additional species of Pilbaranella are defined through mitochondrial and nuclear genes, using Automatic Barcode Gap Discovery and Poisson Tree Processes species delimitation methods. A comparison of morphology and 18S rRNA sequences between Pilbaranella, gen. nov. and known lineages provides the evidentiary basis for the decision to establish a new genus. This study provides a morphological and molecular framework to work with Bathynellidae, especially in Australia where a highly diverse fauna remains still undescribed.