Presented by Dr Danilo Harms
Museum of Nature Hamburg, Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change, Germany; and, 2019/20 AMF/AMRI Visiting Research Fellow.
Thanks very much for attending this lunch seminar. It is a lunch seminar after all. So, I’ll try to keep it very simple and put in lots of pictures so that you don't fall asleep on me. It should be very interesting talk insofar as we're talking. I'm talking about the Sydney funnel web spider. It's my pleasure to be here. And I really thank the Australian Museum for making my visit possible. I should have been here two and a half years ago already, but when COVID hit, and it became very tricky, actually when COVID hit, I was here in Sydney with two of my students, and we were collecting funnel web spiders. But then we had to evacuate ourselves and it was all very messy. So, it feel it feels really good to be back. So today, I want to briefly introduce myself and then I will talk about the project I'm doing with staff from the Australian Museum, actually, my friends from your Museum, and talk about the Sydney funnel web spider.
But then I also want to give a brief introduction to our research that I'm doing in Hamburg with my team. Like Frank said, I'm living in Hamburg these days and I'm working there at the Museum of Nature. It's one of the larger museums in Germany, one of the big five. And it's part of a society which is a big Research Society in Germany, and maybe similar to here in Australia. And I'm also an associate at the University of Hamburg, which is good because I get most of my students from the university. So this is Hamburg, a northern city in Germany. The second largest city in Germany and is actually very historical and beautiful city. And it's also a Germany's port city and trading city. So when you're sitting at the port of Hamburg at night, you get a beautiful view on the harbour region. And it can be very nice unless it's very rainy. And unfortunately, it rains a lot in Hamburg because this is right at the Baltic Sea, and it's usually a chill city, there's even a line in the song of Paul Kelly about Hamburg, chill city suits a troubled soul or something like this. But I'm not a troubled soul, so you don't need to worry.
So at the museum, I am employed as a curator for the arachnids and memorial pod collections is a fairly large collection historical collection goes back of the oldest specimens, we have over 200 years old. And we have roughly 1 million specimens from all over the world. It's one of the 10 large research collections the Museum has and I accepted that position five or six years ago, moving back from Perth to Hamburg, which was a bit of a culture shock, I must say, but I'm really enjoying my work there. And what you see in the background is me with the oldest collection of Australian spiders outside of Australia. And there are several reasons why we have a large collection of Australian spiders, but we have 600 type specimens from the New South Wales and Queensland collected roughly 200 years ago by early explorers in Australia. So I'm very fortunate in my position, being a curator, but I also have a lab of young students and this is an ever-changing group. At the moment, I have a Postdoc and three PhDs and several masters and bachelor students and they keep me very happy and very entertained. They also kept me very busy at times, but it's a great joy to work with a team of people. And before I moved to Hamburg, well, I'm actually Perth by Boy, that's what Frank said. I mean, I was born in Eastern Germany. But then for my master's, I moved to Australia and did research at the Western Australia museum. And then for my PhD, I came back that was a joint project between the Western Australian Museum and the University of Western Australia. So I've lived in Perth for seven years of my life. And after I did my PhD, I ventured into environmental consulting to relax a little and developed a lot of field skills and build up management skills and client relationship skills which helped me a lot in Cornwall I have so this is me doing what I liked driving around in the Western Australian Outback collecting spiders and scorpions and, and various other creatures. I also wrote assessments are including snails. So I learned a bit about snails and various other things. So a bet was one and a half years after my PhD and when I went to Hamburg.
So people usually asked me well, you must be freaked because you're working on spiders, right? And spiders are creepy and ugly and some spiders, obviously in the funnel web spiders is not the nicest spider but in fact, most of the spiders if you look at them are actually really, really beautiful. So this is a small Jumping Spider. And, you know, once you magnify it, I mean, can you resist these eyes, they will look at you in a very sympathetic, vague way. And actually, most of the spiders are very cute once you have a very close look. But there are also practical reasons. There's been a paper some years back from two of my dear colleagues in Germany, and they tried to develop a model for insect consumption by spiders, and they figured out using some sophisticated mathematical models that all spiders in the world eat roughly 400 to 800 million tonnes of insects per year. Now that is a lot an incomprehensible number. But we can try to put that into perspective because human consumption of fish and meat including poultry is roughly 414 million tonnes of meat is roughly 440 million tonnes a year. So spiders eat a lot more insects when we eat and in terms of meat. So we can think about how the world would look like without spiders, where it wouldn't be a lot for us unless we would like to eat lots of insects. But there are also many other properties which spiders are famous for, and lots of practical research avenues beyond Museum Science and taxonomies that can be pursued. And one of these is Venom research.
Spider Venom's are a huge source of information. So there is a lot of research activity going into these. Most of the spider Venom's are not understood at all. But we have the first pharmaceuticals from ranging from, well, artificial Viagra kind of pills, to painkillers and all that and there will be a lot more research on this in the future. And this perhaps is also important in terms of talking about or when we talk about first Sydney funnel web spider because why would you study certainly funnel web spiders probably because of venom properties because the males of the species and only the males have the potential to kill humans because we have a particular neurotoxin that interferes with our ion channels and works really well in a negative way on primate synapses. But why did I decide to start to study funnel web spiders and why did my friends and I come up with a proposal on this? But it all started four years ago.
And I think it was one of my first visits back in Australia after I went back to Hamburg and advised Bruno Rosato. We are good friends, because we both graduated from the University of Western Australia and Bruno is a behavioural ecologist, and at that time, he did his postdoc at Macquarie University. Now he's found a permanent position in Adelaide. So he's a behavioural ecologist, he knows behaviour really well. And we caught up in Sydney, and we went for beer as you would and before it. Well, Bruno and I fought about what we could do together. And we drank a bit and talked a bit and we came up with a Sydney funnel web spider. But then we thought, okay, everything would be known already. You know, the spider should have been studied to death and there shouldn't be a lot of new information. But it turned out that actually when we browsed for the papers, where the publications are, that almost everything is on venoms of these spiders. So there's an awful lot, maybe 20 papers, describing all kinds of venom aspects of venom properties in the spider but when you actually dig beyond that, when you find that there is almost nothing known about the ecology, there's nothing known about the biology, not even the taxonomy seems to be sound. And when I met Bruno, I was also working at the Australian museum for the first time with my dear colleague, Helen Smith, but also Graham Milledge who is now retired, but also joining this talk.
And we were we were very involved with another project I'm not going to talk about today, we still are. But Helen said, well, there's a lot of things going on, which we don't really understand. So you know, you really want to look into the taxonomy as well. And she said, by the way, we have the largest collection of funnel web spiders in in Australia. So I thought that's great. So, let's start a project together, involving the Australian Museum and involving various other institutions who have expertise. So before we actually describe a project, we need to know something about funnel web spiders. The taxonomy for the spiders was done by Mike Grey, who is the former curator here of the arachnids and some of the Museum people may still know Mike, I've never had the pleasure to meet him because he retired before my time. But he's published a big revision on family finder web spiders 10 years ago, or 11 years ago, and it was a very comprehensive study, but only based on morphology. And he described three species of Atrax robustus, which is the genus of funnel web spiders, or other genera are closely related but they're only going to talk about this one. So Atrax robustus is the infamous Sydney funnel web spider and the way he defined it taxonomically, and there are lots of problems of a taxonomy for the species is bad, is that it's found on all over the Sydney region up to Newcastle in the north, all over the Blue Mountains and then down to Wollongong and Illawarra region. And then we have two other species of Atrax yorkmainorum which is an Alpine species, and a third one which is Atrax sutherlandi which is in southern coast of New South Wales and Victoria. Again, we need to emphasise that for taxonomy is only based on morphology and actually only based on male morphology, so mostly part of morphology and other male features. But talking to various people, and we did that here during my last visit, there were lots of difficulties, there is substantial differences in Venom composition between populations of what was defined for Sydney funded web spiders. And Dave Wilson, former James Cook University has done a bit of a convincing, he emphasised to us. But also the Australian Reptile Park, who has who is receiving male specimens of Sydney funnel web spiders each year and milk them for antibody production, they had failed mating experiments of feed collected specimens and they had populations that didn't get along at all, then they tried to put them together so there was more going on. And also once we started working with the Entomology collections found that morphological variability within the species is extremely high, more than that is expected. So we thought okay, so you know, why not? We testing the species based on morphological grounds.
And we came up with two research questions. So my question was, is for Sydney, so my, like, our team question but this is something I wanted to tackle, is the Sydney funnel web spider really one species or is it rather complex of species and needs redefinition? And Bruno came up with a different question. It's a behavioural question. So you really want to know what male funnel web spiders do because they are the ones that can cause, well can kill people. So you want to know how the animals move, how they disperse, when they disperse, how far they roam, and so forth. So we came up with a project, basically talking these two questions. And we got funding from National Geographic and also here at the Museum and Australian geographic and some other sources to do so. So one thing we didn't really know where to find funnel web spiders. So Bruno and I were both Perth boys, and there are no funnel web spiders in Perth, so we needed to figure out where to find the spiders. And so we did our fieldwork. And this is a photo I took two days ago. I'm out with Frank in the Sydney suburbs. This is a classical habitat, we are in a deep gully in a dry sclerophyll forest, it's wet, and there are lots of rocks. And if you're turning the rocks, you find these final funnel webs. So at night, the spiders, this is like the funnel is between walks usually and it opens between the walk so this is where the spider would sit during at night and search for of actually wait for prey to eat it. And at night they retreat in these holes that can be 20, sometimes even 30 centimetres deep in the ground, and also in winter now. So we're trying to collect the spiders and winters were actually quite difficult because they're sitting in tubes, and they're quite inactive. So they can be quite common in these rocky habitats, but they're usually associated with gulley’s, unless this habitat is really suitable and they venture out of these gulley’s if humidity is high.
So we found them and when we tried, we started to collect them. And they are not the most peaceful spiders, we need to say, they are quite aggressive. So when we dig them up, they usually get into this fret position, the very race for head region or display their fangs and you can see in this spider here, that there's even a drop of venom emerging from like at the tip of fang, the mass, the venom gland is massive. And so you really don't want to get bitten. You don't want to get bitten by a female either because they have a lot of biting force also. So the first experiment we wanted to do, and this was more Bruno’s job. But generally our pleasure was tracking experiments on male funnel web spiders. And the idea was to glue the trackers, which we bought are quite expensive, but you can get them. And the idea was to glue them on male funnel web spiders, and then track the spiders at night in the field and also during the day, because we wanted to see how far the animals roam. So is it two metres at night, is it 20 metres at night, is 100 metres at night, it's important to know that because you know they get into contact with people. So the male spiders are the dispersal stage because they their search for females in summer and they search for female borrowers and this is when they roam. And this is also then they get into houses or into gardens and then cause trouble. So in our field experiments, I had two of my students at the time so Yan Ricardo with me and Bruno are head Brexton as a student from Macquarie and we were out all night collecting the spiders and trying to put the little trackers on.
It was a steep learning curve, I must say. And maybe there's a video here we have caught a male funnel web spider so at night, you're basically in a national park and you're walking around you, you'll find the spider and everyone is talking I don't know how to find doesn't matter, you just leave it and he's taking the tracker out. And we're trying to get this tracker on to the spider. So one thing we didn't know at the time is that you need a special glue for that because the glue we had wasn't good enough and we had several trackers falling off. And the other problem he had was to immobilise the spider because male funnel web spiders are quite aggressive and they don't like to be pinned down. So they will try to bite you. And we tried several things. And I think Bruno then started using co2 for narcotization of the animals and this is when you can put a tracker on. This is how the male spiders look like when you've done a good job. And this is when you set them free, and you can track them overnight and also during the day. And you can kind of get an idea how far the animals roam. And once you have a representative sample size, you have an idea what the males do and when they do it and how they do it. So it was a steep learning curve. And so far also as we had some fallouts with geckos there was one story where a gecko had actually eaten one of the funnel web spiders and put out a tracker. So this is how we figured out that geckos also like to eat funnel web spiders, which surprised us, but it seems that they do. So it's a learning curve. And then COVID hit, we had to give this part of a project or not, we didn't give it away but we involved collaborators from the University of Sydney, I think, or New South Wales and there's now a PhD student here, there she is continuing this work, because they had to go back to Hamburg and Bruno started a job elsewhere, but it’s still going on. So I don't we're not going to talk about the results here. What I think they're going to be interesting. What we did with the field collected specimens from our last field period, but also specimens we working from the Australian Reptile Park, but also from the Museum here.
So this was the first part and beyond that, in Hamburg, I mean, we're doing various things. In my lab, I've defined three areas of research. And there are lots of different projects, international projects, mostly in these three areas of research. One of these is ecosystem dynamics and change. The second is biodiversity documentation. And the third is evolutionary processes. So just in order to give an idea of what that is, I will introduce one of the projects briefly. Tn terms of the ecosystem dynamics and change processes we have been lucky enough to be involved in a very big project that German Research Council DFG has funded and is still funding, and that tackles all aspects of anthropogenic landscape change in Indonesia and Sumatra. The question is what happens with biodiversity but also climate and humans as the rainforest in Indonesia is being transformed into oil palm plantations. We know that in Indonesia, this is a huge problem with deforestation rates in Indonesia are amongst the highest in the world. Java is already a giant paddock and Sumatra and Borneo and are on a very good way of becoming paddocks too. So the DFG is pouring lots of money into it and we did our part in terms of the spiders.
We’ve collected with our friends from the University of Göttingen, who are ecologists spiders in two provinces in Sumatra covered with rainforests, but we also sampled in rubber plantations and all plant plantations. And we came back with buckets of spiders, and mostly unidentified spiders, which because the taxonomy is so poor in Indonesia, they we never had arachnologist working in the country so all of this is basically colonial status quo of taxonomy still, so we developed a barcoding workflow and automatic barcoding workflow. And we've done the same in Ecuador recently for basically, delineating potential species at a molecular level so that we get an idea of what we actually have. This is also important because in food collections, you're getting lots of juveniles. And you cannot usually identify them in at least in spiders to species level. So we got an idea of what we have in terms of taxonomic composition. But then we wanted to know what happens to the spider community as the forest is being transformed. So we did family identifications and species identifications. We assigned these spiders, we got from various landforms, ranging from forests to jungle, rubber plantations and oil palm plantations. And we try to come up with traits for all these spiders, which was actually quite difficult to do. For example, you get small spiders that live in leaf litter, were not heavily scrutinised for build small webs, like left one here and an effort, but you're also getting free ranging hunters, which sometimes are very colourful, and to get them in canopy of the forest. And so you're getting jumping spiders here, they’re visual hunters, they don't build webs at all. And then, and I usually work in my lab in a very collaborative manner, because as a museum, we have a taxonomic and systematics expertise, but we're not ecologists.
So we teamed up with the University of Göttingen and what we found, is not surprisingly, a reduction in species numbers and species richness as the rainforest here in green is being transformed into rubber plantation. So this is blue and red, and then to oil palm plantations, which has by far the lowest diversity that was expected, and it's very trivial, but you still need to show it. But surprisingly, the whole community changes. And this is a complex figure, and I don't want to explain it in detail. But I can tell you that the community of spiders at a taxonomic level, and also in the trade level you have after the forest is being transformed is entirely different from what you had in a rainforest, there's a complete turnover. And we found that there are some traits that emerge and shift a lot in during this transition from rainforests to oil palm, for example, coloration of species increases. So in the rainforest, you're getting uniformly coloured specimens, so usually brown or black. Now, some very dark colours, but then the open all the plantations and we’re getting lots of colourful species, lots of jumping spiders, and so forth. So that seems to be a common pattern, but also the hunting strategy of community changes. So in forest, you getting lots of web building spiders, and in the open plantations, you're getting a lots of free hunters. So in terms of trader nodes and community composition, we find that forest rates are diminishing, as the land is being transformed, and new traits emerge in this community. So what that means in terms of conservation, I cannot really tell you because it's one of the studies of many studies that we are doing, about it's the first results on spiders actually describing what happens to a wonderful first study is actually describing what happens in such a habitat that’s being transformed.
So moving to the second aspect, biodiversity documentation. This is our core discipline as a museum, this is what we do really well, at every level. This is something universities don't do, or don't do very well. Usually, we are discovering and describing many new species each year still, I mean, I'm working in Germany now, but not many species to be this quiet. But we're working in so many countries, and we assist these countries in documenting their diversity. Now, sometimes taxonomy is seen as being the dull and boring. What I what I usually do is I try to come up with a nice story that connects our science with the perception that people have, a story that people like, so some years ago, you may have heard about this one, I came up with my friends from the Queensland museum with the story about the Bob Marley spiders. It’s an intertidal spider, my dear colleague, Robert Raven from the Queensland museum found this in intertidal habitats in Queensland some years ago, and this spider survives flooding because it weaves silicone tubes in coral. And so I came up, and I thought, well, you know, we have a high tide, low tide song of Bob Marley. So why don't we take it down? Why don't we generate a story. And that worked really well.
The species is ranked amongst the 10 top marine species in 2020, or something like this. So that worked. And another press story I did some years ago was on the Karl Lagerfeld spider actually also both are Australian spiders because Australia is kind of still in my second home, if not my first home. So this is a beautiful spider. He also from this from New South Wales it’s a jumping spider. And that had a colour pattern that is very similar to fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who was born in Hamburg. So I think that was not such a popular story in Australia, but in Europe, that was a big story and you know, I was on TV shows and all that it could feel very important. So that was fun. And we're trying to do this just to promote our science in the community. But we also documenting diversity through time. So we're not only working on recent species, we're also working on fossils. I'm currently having a postdoc working on this and we have a project funded by the German Research Council looking at amber fossils, and amber is a fossilised tree resin, it's not very commonly found in Australia. But in Europe, you're getting Baltic Amber, which is found all along about a Baltic Sea coastline. And is found usually after storm floods. And you can search for it here and you find beautiful amber pieces that you can turn into jewellery unless there are insects or spiders in there. And then you can kind of have a scientific attitude and look at this. So all of these Amber pieces are supposed to emerge in the so called Baltic amber forest, which was a warm temperate forest that thrived in the Eocene. So 14 million years ago, when the temperatures were three, four or five degrees higher than what they are today. So what we're trying to do is document to document before now really well, at least as far as we arachnids go, but also then come up with some trade analysis. And by geographical scenarios, what actually happened to his fauna, then the Ice Age has hit Europe and Asia and basically tend to transform these forests into well, the desert of ice. So what we find in these ambers is lots of arachnids, lots and lots of arachnids, but lots and lots of insects, but they usually tropical lineages, a warm temperate lineages are very different from the cool temperate lineages that we find in Germany and Denmark and, and you know, the Baltic countries these days.
So we get them and we collaborate with private collectors here a lot. So it's, again, it's a bit of a citizen science project also, because so many people are involved in adding specimens. But one of the problems we have, if you want to describe this fauna, but also if you want to assess it, and you want to come up with some analysis on this fauna, you often find that presentation boards are really, really poor. So this is a pseudo scorpion. So this is kind of a relative of scorpions, but it's a tiny animal only wants two animals, and this one has been preserved in a piece of amber. And you see, there's lots of stuff in this amber, and this sort of scorpion is lying on the fly or trips. I don't really know what it is because I'm not an entomologist. But now, I cannot see all the structures but I see a type of scorpion. So what we did two or three years ago, actually four years ago, so we started a collaboration with a German synchrotron Centre in Hamburg, and my dear friends, Jorg Hammel who was leading the biological section there, and also palaeontologists involved, my dear friend Ulrich Kotthoff. And we develop protocols for scanning amber pieces, specifically Baltic amber pieces, uses using synchrotron radiation, so we went to the DESY, that's the name of it. And it looks like high tech German technology is actually very impressive if you go over and I don't know, I'm a biologist, or if I go away, get really confused and almost anxious with all the technology there is. So it looks like that everywhere. But importantly, you have photons that are basically accelerating … they have an extremely high energy density because we accelerated in tubes. And they're kind of emitted out of this tube. And if you put your little amber piece there and you rotate it, and you shoot the photons at it, you can derive wonderful three dimensional models from these. So this is what we did. So it's our amber pieces. And it was quite difficult to develop a protocol but we're really good at it now I think.
And once you model the synchrotron data and this is what my students usually do in Bachelor or Master thesis, you come up with models like this. So this is opposite of a pseudo scorpion. And you can now look at the ventral side, for example, which you couldn't see before, you can zoom in, zoom out. So this is a rough model for kind of this presentation, but you can also colour it. And you can see various structures, but otherwise you would not be able to see. So we wait for this to stop. So you have this tiny animal, it's only two millimetres long. And this is the abdomen, so the weird part of the body and you cannot see much because there's all kinds of translucent artefacts there. But once we actually zoom in, you can see all the spines, you can see, you can reconstruct the fossils really nicely. And you can compare it to the recent fauna or you find that it's an extinct form, or something that you cannot find in new obvious states anymore. So we work a lot on these. So just to make a case where diversity documentation is also not limited in time it can also be done for the past using paleontological approaches and modern technology. So the third and the last part of my talk is in about two or three minutes, and then I hope I didn't, we can ask concurrent to the question Part of this presentation is evolutionary processes. So I want to go back to Australia now. I worked a lot of my life and research career on pseudo scorpions, not just spiders, pseudo scorpions, tiny animals were relatives of scorpions, and but they are only two to four millimetres long and they lack the sting of and the tail. And they usually found in leaf litter, but also on a tree bark some of you so this is the usual size, and mostly the animals are even smaller. But I like them a lot. Some of you may know the book, Scorpion. This is a species that we usually or often associated with beehives, and they like to live in beehives because they feed on varroa mites. So now Australia as the last continent in the world that is not, does not have, varroa mites. But it's just a question of time before they also get to Australia. And this sort of Scorpion eats varroa mites and is where lots of as lots of research actually going into the species at the moment in terms of captive breeding protocols and trying to use it as a biological control agent for varroa mite but that's only one of the species.
In my PhD I've worked with another lineage of pseudo scorpions that has a horrible name. It's a very ancient lineage of pseudo scorpions, and it's in Australia only found in mesic forest systems. So the animals need at least 800 millilitres of rainfall a year. Higher is better, lower doesn't work. And in southwestern Australia, it's obviously this is a biodiversity hotspot on the right, you can see all the extent of land clearing there has been in southwestern Australia between here are the last forest patches. So here you get Java forest, and here you get Carrie forest, both eucalyptus species. So I wanted to know what actually drives diversification and evolutionary processes in this diversity hotspot. So I assembled pseudo-scorpions for three or four years and actually quite tricky, because they really, they're quite rare and you need to know where to find them. And the white line here, and this picture delineates the high rainfall zone of Western Australia to the west. So more than 800 millilitres of rainfall to the East Bay, it gets a lot drier. So I sampled these for three years. And then well, what you do as a as a museum scientist, you come up with a molecular phylogeny, this one here was six genes. And we find that of course, we have a lot of unexplored biodiversity, only one of the species had a name, but there are many, many others. But what surprised me when I did the sequencing is that all these pieces are quite old, if you're looking at these plates with, they're all quite old. This are millions of years. You'll see diversification occurs between 10 and 20 million years.
So I was interested to know why this is actually so, by the way, we get population structure here as well, that's younger. So why this is so and I did a lot of reading coming from, you know, Germany to Australia and not knowing so much about what triggers diversification here. And one thing I found was very strong correlation between diversification and splits in the phylogeny and the global temperature curve. So in wet you find the global temperature curve from the Eocene down to the Pleistocene, where we are now so in this period here 20 to 5 million years ago is the Miocene. And in the middle Miocene, we had a temperate optimum global optimum temperatures were a lot warmer than they are today. But within a million years, they've dropped dramatically, by almost four to five degrees. This is when the Antarctic in Circumpolar Current was established. And what we've seen with phylogeny is with every time the temperature drops, so here, we get a diversification event. Here we get a major diversification to in order to generate population structure, you also need a drop in temperature. This seems to be a correlation.
And I thought about this and read a lot about the botanical history, but also the geological history of southwestern Australia. And what's happened is that you had increased aridification processes that affected all of Australia then but particularly in Western Australia, and are still going on. So the cooling cost aridification was coinciding with aridification in Australia. And you had enough of forests that were still abundant in Western Australia and into the Pliocene. So 3 million years ago turned into deserts. And I think that has caused a lot of habitat fragmentation and animals of the species basically persist in refugia, and they speciate with usually as they can venture out of these Mesic refugia usually out where you find them in the landscape. So I think this is a consistent pattern in Australian biota. And southwestern Australia was, was one story. But you know, if we think about what happened, or maybe also, before I go to Eastern Australia, making the case that based on this, and knowing the evolutionary pressures that exist on fauna here in this hotspot, you can also think about the future. So I did a bit of modelling here as well, coming to the conclusion that with rising temperatures in this model, this is a prediction for 2015, this one for 2080, you get a lot of habitat loss for the species, basically, you get decreased rainfall and higher temperatures, and the animals don't like high temperatures, and they don't like low rainfall. So red is the area of loss that's been calculated, and blue is the area that is feeding all the habitat that will be maintained. So we know that models are usually rough distribution models, and ecological models, but they give you a certain idea what could happen. And if you want to do I have conservation incentives based on these models, and what we know about the evolution of lineage, now we would come to the conclusion that species here in the Darling scarf, for example, they need to be protected first and foremost, because they will face a very tough time. Whereas here in the Carry forest, conditions will remain more stable. So you can use evolutionary biology and your knowledge of the past also to inform the future and use this for conservation measures.
So this was our Western Australia, very easy. I've also sampled this lineage all across eastern Australia. So at our collections I have made and in museum collections, including the Australian museum collections. Usually you find the animals here in these wonderful Mesic, rainforest systems with tree ferns, new sift for tree ferns and you find them. And I just want to show phylogeny is still not published because it's complicated. But it's very confusing southwestern Australia behaves like an island by geographically, it's easy. Patterns are a lot more complicated in eastern Australia, see a lot of clades. And sometimes they correspond to biogeographical barriers, like you have a Hunter Valley that delineates clade, a yellow clade here from the Queen clade and the border ranges. They also seem to be your bio geographical barrier. But there's lots and lots and lots of undescribed species. There's lots of things that cannot resolve yet. So that's an ongoing project. But you see, there is a lot of work to be done. And this is something I still want to do. In eastern Australia, New South Wales has a very diverse sort of scorpions.
And that in order not to bore you any longer, I want to thank three people in particular who have made my stay here, really comfortable so far and are great friends of mine now. Frank, who’s it's sitting behind me and still needs to drive me around to all these field sites tomorrow. So you know, Frank, you're great. And Helen, of course, wonderful friend and colleague, and she's been very, very supportive of these projects, and we have lots of fun in the field together. Unfortunately, she has an operation soon. So this time, there is no fieldwork. And Graham also who's now enjoying his home office and retirement but should be back at the museum as a volunteer or an associate in the future. And with that, I want to thank you all for listening during your lunch break.
The Sydney funnel-web spider Atrax robustus is an Australian icon and the most venomous spider in the world. This species and its relatives are widely distributed in NSW and VIC but surprisingly little is known about their biology and ecology. Not even the taxonomy is clearly resolved and this has practical implications, i.e., for the production of antivenoms. In an ongoing project, Dr Danilo Harms and collaborators are trying to solve some of the mysteries surrounding these spiders.
In Danilo’s presentation, he will give an update on this project, including some surprising results and plans for the near future. Danilo will also talk about some of his other research projects on our eight-legged friends in Australia and the rest of the world. These include ongoing projects on mesic zone speciation in Australia, palaeontology of amber fossils, monitoring projects in Germany, and conservation projects in Indonesia.