Two new moth species have been identified on Kangaroo Island with scientists warning they may have been found just in time.
Entomologist Mike Moore from the SA Museum and his colleagues, who published a paper on the moths' identity in Zootaxa scientific journal,say changing climate and bushfire are impacting on the moths' habitat.
Students at the Penneshaw Campus of Kangaroo Island Community Education in 2019 collected the never-been-seen-before moth, now known as Abantiades penneshawensis.
Mr Moore that year came and spoke to the KICE class about insects, which included how to collect moths and butterflies.
Teacher Brie Manoel said the kids were super enthusiastic and ended up collecting hundreds of specimens that were frozen in sandwich bags before being sent off to the museum.
The scientist immediately became excited on seeing the new species in one of the bags, she said.
"He knew straight away there was something special about that particular moth," she said.
He subsequently came out and collected more examples, spending weeks camping all over the Island.
The other species, Abantiades rubrus, was collected out on the western part of the Island and there are fears for its future after the fires.
The students as well as KI entomologists have been given credit for the discovery of the two species in the recently published scientific paper.
"I am super proud to share that the 2, 3 and 4 class of Penneshaw Campus helped discover a new species of moth on Kangaroo Island. We got mentioned in the article's acknowledgements," Mrs Manoel said.
"I am so proud of Penneshaw's citizen scientists."
Abantiades penneshawensis and Abantiades rubrus are both found only on Kangaroo Island, although both are related to species that occur on the Australian mainland and other islands.
These two new species raise the number of Abantiades species on Kangaroo Island to six, three being endemic or found only on KI, and 45 species in the genus for the whole of Australia.
The scientists acknowledged the help of the locals, including entomologists Andy Young and Richard Glatz.
"We would also like to thank Greg and Judy Sara, Andy Young and Richard Glatz for their support in this work and for their collection of specimens and especially to Brianna Manoel and the students in her Year 2,3,4 Composite class at Penneshaw school for their passionate interest and support of the work and for the collection of the first fresh specimen of Abantiades penneshawensis sp. nov."
From the paper
Two new endemic species of Abantiades Herrich-Schffer (Lepidoptera: Hepialidae) from Kangaroo Island, Australia
"Recent calls to understand and describe the 'dark taxa' (e.g. Page 2016) before they go extinct has never been more relevant in Australia, and this is especially true on Kangaroo Island.
Our recent efforts to describe species in the Hepialidae come at a time when Australia experiences one of its most catastrophic fire seasons on record.
The entire known ranges of A. rubrus sp. nov. and an as yet undescribed Oxycanus species, and many KI localities of A. pica, A. marcidus, Aenetus tindalei, Aenetus blackburnii (Lower, 1892) and Oxycanus occidentalis Tindale, 1935 were burnt by this extremely hot fire (see Fig. 15). To what extent these species have survived the fire is not yet known.
Their habit of living a subterranean existence as a large larva could have helped the Abantiades survive the fire, however all of the leaf litter in the burnt areas have been destroyed leaving thousands of hectares of bare sandy earth.
After a fire the adults may still enclose, mate and lay eggs, however the young larvae may die in greater numbers because of the lack of leaf litter.
Of great concern is that the eucalypt forests of Australia will continue to dry out and remain fire risks threatening the flora and fauna within them."