Rare species discovery honours wildlife campaigner Steve Irwin

12 November 2009

Queensland Museum scientist Dr John Stanisic has named a rare species of tree snail discovered in north Queensland in honour of wildlife advocate and conservationist Steve Irwin.

The snail, Crikey steveirwini, was found in the mountainous regions of north Queensland's Wet Tropics near Cairns.

Honorary Research Fellow Dr Stanisic said that like its namesake, the Crikey steveirwini is a unique creature with some interesting qualities that set it apart from other land snails.

"This is an extremely rare species of snail," Dr Stanisic said.

"So far it has only been found in three locations, all on the summits of high mountains in far north Queensland and at altitudes above 1,000 metres which is quite unusual for Australian land snails.

"These mountainous habitats will be among the first to feel the effects of climate change and Steve Irwin's tree snail could become a focal species for monitoring this change.

"In contrast with its more drab coloured ground-dwelling relatives, Crikey steveirwini is a colourful snail, with swirling bands of creamy yellow, orange-brown and chocolate giving the shell an overall khaki appearance.

"It was the khaki colour that immediately drew the connection to the late Crocodile Hunter," Dr Stanisic said.

Dr Stanisic will present a commemorative certificate to the Irwin family this Sunday 15 November as part of Steve Irwin Day celebrations at Australia Zoo. He will also talk about his discovery and have some Crikey steveirwini snail shells on hand for visitors to see.

Steve Irwin's wife Terri Irwin said Steve would have been delighted to have a new species bear both his name and his signature catch cry.

"Steve worked tirelessly to promote conservation, wildlife and the environment and his work enabled the plight of endangered species to reach a whole new audience," Ms Irwin said.

"Steve also had a long history of collaborating with staff at the Queensland Museum and I'm sure he would be pleased to know his name is continuing to highlight a rare and endangered Queensland species."

Steve Irwin was awarded the Museum's highest accolade in 2003 - the Queensland Museum Medal - for his exceptional contribution to the understanding and appreciation of Australian wildlife at an international level and his commitment and passion to conservation and the environment.

The discovery of the Crikey steveirwini was announced publicly in Dr Stanisic's paper published in the online scientific journal, Zootaxa. The full paper can be accessed at www.mapress.com/zootaxa/taxa/Mollusca.html.

Crikey steveirwini
'Steve Irwin's Tree Snail'
Species profile: Crikey steveirwini Stanisic, 2009
Etymology: In memory of the late Steve Irwin, wildlife warrior, environmental educator and Queensland Museum medallist.
Holotype: QMMO 78184, Mount Spurgeon, 7 km north, 16°22'S, 145°13'E, altitude 1250 m. Collected by G.B. Monteith, H. Janetzki, L. Roberts, 19 October 1991.
Description: Shell medium-sized, yellowish cream to creamy brown with dark chocolate-brown spiral bands of various widths, turbinate with a very high spire; whorls rounded, sutures weakly impressed; protoconch with vague radial ridges to smooth, teleoconch with weak radial growth threads and incised spiral striae; lip weakly thickened, brown; imperforate; height to 15mm.
Distribution: Central Wet Tropics (uplands), North East Queensland.
Key localities: Mt Lewis; Mt Spurgeon; Lambs Head, West of Edmonton.
Habitat and ecology: Rainforest; arboreal living on leaves on trees.

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