Two New Species Of Native Psyllid Discovered In Australia

By Staff Reporter on March 25, 2013 8:11 AM EDT

Bundoorensis psyllid
Bundoorensis psyllid (Photo: La Trobe University, Australia / Ben Twist)

Researchers at La Trobe University in Australia have discovered two new species of native psyllid.

Dr Martin Steinbauer and PhD student Kevin Farnier from the university found one of the species on River Red Gums growing on the La Trobe University Melbourne campus in Bundoora. The species has been named Anoeconeossa bundoorensis, in a bid to give recognition to the place of collection.

The other psyllid species called Ctenarytaina bipartite was discovered on Bog gums in a Greenfleet forest in South Gippsland.

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Pointing to Anoeconeossa bundoorensis, Steinbauer said, "Finding a new species of psyllid in an urban area demonstrates the conservation value that the preservation and growing of native species, especially those endemic to that area, can have in sustaining native biodiversity."

According to Steinbauer, around 366 species of Australian psyllid have already been described. But he believes there are at least 250 more species that have not been described. He said that it is very important to undertand the ecology of native psyllids for the health of native forests as well as "other fauna they support, such as birds and ants."

Psyllids, also called as jumping plant lice, are tiny insects that suck sap from leaves. Each kind of psyllid feeds on only one plant species or closely related group of plants. The two new native species of psyllid feed on eucalyptus leaves. Most of the psyllid species are pests of crops such as pear, potato, and tomato.

An adult psyllid are 0.1 to 0.2 inches in length with long clear wings. Psyllids are related to aphids (plant lice), but have strong jumping legs and shorter antennae. "Australia has very few native aphids - insects all Australians have heard of and can relate to - but we have psyllids instead. Given this, it is surprising that most research activity and funding goes to studying the exotic aphid species in Australia rather than the native psyllids which are so fundamental to our natural ecosystems," said Steinbauer.

The newly-found Anoeconeossa bundoorensis also displays interesting courtship behaviors. Using laser vibrometry, the research team found that male psyllids vibrate leaves to alert females about their presence. Female psyllids that are in search of a mate respond back to the male by vibrating their own leaf. The vibrational signals of both male and female psyllids differ in duration and intensity.

Researchers also examined the courtship behavior of the psyllids by transmitting previously recorded vibration signals into leaves through a pin attached to a speaker. They found that the females responded to calls of males of the same species, and not to calls of other male species.

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