Terrestrial invertebrates


Wasp versus Spider: an adult female wasp paralyses a spider to drag back to its nest. The wasp will lay an egg on the spider’s abdomen. The hatched larva feeds on the spider. (Hiltaba Station, South Australia's western Gawler Ranges during an ABRS BushBlitz survey).

Research overview

The Terrestrial Invertebrates are such a large group of organisms that the arachnids (spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites) have traditionally been a separate operational unit at the South Australian Museum. Terrestrial Invertebrates includes the remaining Arthropoda which constitute more than 90% of the known animal kingdom.

The Museum has had some of the longest history of terrestrial invertebrate research in Australian museums that dates back to the early 1900s. Most notable was the work by Herbert Womersley from 1933 to 1962 who published across a wide range of invertebrate fauna, and there are few current taxonomic studies on Collembola (springtails) and Acarology (mites) that do not have some reference to his work. Current research at the South Australian Museum benefits from the extensive Terrestrial Invertebrates Collection but other groups or regions are also a focus.   


Collembola, beetles, ants and other research

It has been variously estimated that upwards of 200 scientists around the world are researching specimens from the South Australian Museum at any given time. As well as overseas interest in these collections, the Museum undertakes an extensive research program based on these specimens. Areas of particular research interest to Museum scientists, Honorary Research Associates and associated students and volunteers  includes native bees, beetles, ants, robberflies, gall midges, plant feeding bugs, and Collembola (Springtails). The research on these groups covers taxonomic descriptions of new species, ecological studies and species diversity, and evolutionary relationships among species groups that involve both traditional morphological data as well as DNA sequencing technologies.


Museum staff and Honorary Research Associates actively studying terrestrial invertebrates 

Dr Peter Hudson, Collection Manager in Entomology, has research interests in the biogeography, phylogeny, taxonomy and ecology of terrestrial invertebrate fauna living on the surface of dry salt lakes.  These ‘island-like’ habitats are home, for example, to numerous beetles, spiders, crickets, ants and scorpions. 

Associate Professor Mark Stevens, Senior Research Scientist in Terrestrial Invertebrates, has research interests in the systematics and evolutionary relationships of Collembola, native bees and Antarctic terrestrial invertebrates.

Mr Archie McArthur (OAM), Honorary Research Associate, has a strong focus on the taxonomy and ecology of the ant genus Camponotus. Archie’s work has resulted in the South Australian Museum having the most significant collection of Camponotus in Australia.

Dr Eric Matthews, Honorary Research Associate, has research interests in the taxonomy of dung beetles  (Scarabaeidae) and darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae), as well as ecology, historical biogeography, evolutionary theory and conservation.

Dr Chris Watts, Honorary Research Associate, has special interests in water beetles. Current research involves discovering, naming and classifying different species of marsh beetle living in Australia and to use DNA to match adults to their larvae. Chris’s research continues into the description of new species of the charismatic water beetles found in aquifers under the Western Australian desert and production of a pictorial guide to the carnivorous water beetles of South Australia.