Research project: Introduced marine pests and their taxonomy


Start date:
Polychaete - Sabellastarte sp.

Polychaete - Sabellastarte sp.
Photographer: Gary Cranitch © Gary Cranitch

Museum investigators

  • Dr Pat Hutchings , Senior Principal Research Scientist


Polychaetes are well represented within the wide range of animals and plants introduced either by hull fouling or ballast water. Many of these species represent cryptic species which are being investigated using molecular and morphological techniques.

Publications resulting from these studies: Marine Pests


Marine species are being transported accidently around the world via ballast water and as hull fouling organisms on ships. While some of the species introduced never become established in their new environment, some species prosper and become pests. A range of animals have become marine pests including several species of polychaetes and it is very difficult to eradicate such species once they have become established. Just think of how much time and money has been spent trying to eradicate rabbits or cane toads on the land, imagine how much more difficult it is to eliminate marine species.

Pat Hutchings has been involved in various port surveys which have been conducted around Australia to identify introduced species. Correct identification of the fauna is critical and in many areas the native fauna is poorly documented. It is not always easy to distinguish between introduced species and undescribed native species, and some of the work which Pat and Maria Capa are undertaking is trying to resolve some of these questions and often requires using both morphological and molecular characters. 

Dr Pat Hutchings , Senior Principal Research Scientist
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