Australian Amphipoda: The Marine Benthic Gammaridean Species

J.K. Lowry, P.B Berents & R.T. Springthorpe

Amphipod crustaceans are one of the most diverse and abundant groups of invertebrates in marine benthic environments. In Australian waters more than 700 species have been described.

Over the next three years the Australian Museum is developing interactive information and retrieval systems (electronic monographs) for all of these species.

We estimate that about 50% of the benthic gammaridean fauna of southern Australia is described and much less of the northern fauna (based on collection assessments in the Australian Museum and Museum Victoria). For the most part this fauna is well described, but it is scattered in journals and only available to the scientific community with much searching. Keys to species (when they are available) are hidden in these texts and so even harder to find. They are dichotomous keys and almost never illustrated, which makes them inherently difficult to use, particularly for amphipods where antennae and legs are often missing.

For reasons such as this, amphipods have a reputation for being hard to identify and consequently they are often identified only to order or family level in ecological studies. Attempts at species level identifications are often wrong, because of difficulties with keys. A good taxonomic description is only the first step in making a species available. Because amphipods are such an important part of benthic shallow-water communities (diverse and abundant) they need to be more readily identifiable for the scientific community.

This project brings all Australian marine benthic amphipod information together using DELTA (Dallwitz, Paine & Zurcher, 1993) to produce interactive information and retrieval systems.



Each family is being prepared as an electronic monograph. These monographs will contain descriptions, images, synonymies, information about types, habitat and distributions.

In the first year of the project we are producing an illustrated, interactive key for all Australian families (freshwater and marine) plus species level monographs for the Ampeliscidae, Aoridae, Corophiidae, Eusiridae, Hyalidae, Isaeidae, Leucothoidae and Melitidae (about 200 species).

In the second year we will produce monographs for the Amphilochidae, Condukiidae, Dexaminidae, Ischyroceridae, Phoxocephalidae, Platyischnopidae, Podoceridae, Urohaustoriidae, Urothoidae and Zobrachoidae (about 200 species).

In the third year of the project we will produce monographs for the remainder of the benthic fauna, the Amaryllidid family group, Ampithoidae, Biancolinidae, Caprellidae, Cheluridae, Colomastigidae, Cyamidae, Cyproideidae, Endevouridae, Eophliantidae, Epimeriidae, Eurytheneid family group, Exoedicerotidae, Iciliidae, Ingolfiellidae, Iphimediidae, Liljeborgiidae, Lysianassidae, Melphidippidae, Nihotungidae, Ochlesidae, Oedicerotidae, Pachynid family group, Paracalliopiidae, Pardaliscidae, Phliantidae, Phtiscidae, Priambidae, Protellidae, Scopelocheiridae, Sebidae, Stegocephalidae, Stenothoidae, Stilipididae, Synopiidae, Vicmusiidae and Wandinidae (about 200 species).

These electronic monographs will become available at this site as they are finished. All monographs are independently refereed.


Synopsis of Australian Amphipod Taxonomy

Australian amphipod taxonomy started with W.A. Haswell, the first Professor of Zoology at Sydney University. He was a general carcinologist, who during his career described 76 species of amphipods, mainly from Port Jackson. This early work of Haswell (1879a,b; 1880a, b; 1882; 1885a,b) set the stage for Australian amphipod systematics. But although many of Haswell's names remain in use most of his species were poorly described. The status of his types have always caused confusion (Springthorpe & Lowry, 1994), but early collections of many of his species are held in the Australian Museum and have been frequently used for redescriptions by other workers.

Although T.R.R. Stebbing never visited Australia he made a significant contribution to the systematics of Australian amphipods. Stebbing (1888) described 24 Australian species from the Challenger Expedition. Later Stebbing (1910) studied the amphipod collections from the Thetis Expedition off the coast of Sydney. In this work he described an additional 13 new species and made the second checklist of the known amphipod fauna of Australia (about 182 species). Between 1888 and 1914 Stebbing described 47 species of Australian amphipods.

The next important monographer of Australian amphipods was Keith Sheard, who worked as an honorary assistant at the South Australian Museum from 1936-1939 (Zeidler, 1986). He worked mainly on phliantid, dexaminid and melitid amphipods and added 16 species to the Australian fauna. Sheard produced the second checklist of the Australian amphipod fauna known at that time. By this time the fauna had grown to 190 species.

After Sheard little progress was made on Australian amphipods until the late 60's when Jerry Barnard (Smithsonian Institution) came to Perth (Lowry, 1993) to study for a year. He produced several major monographs which solved many existing problems in Australian marine amphipod taxonomy and described much of the south-western amphipod fauna before collaborating with the Margaret Drummond (State Fisheries and Museum Victoria) to produce their remarkable monographs on Australian phoxocephaloid amphipods. Some of his later works on Australian amphipods were co-authored with Jim Thomas (Nova Southeastern University). Barnard also worked with Bill Williams at the University of Adelaide on Australian freshwater amphipods. This work has been developed further by Williams and Bradbury. Between 1961 and 1999 Barnard and his co-authors described nearly 230 species of Australian marine amphipods. This body of work has dominated Australian amphipod taxonomy and made possible the modern study of the Australian fauna.

Alistair Richardson (University of Tasmania) has worked on Australian talitrid amphipods (beach hoppers) for years (papers). Tony Friend (1979; 1987) described the terrestrial talitrid amphipods of Tasmania. Friend worked as the first visiting fellow at the Australian Museum where his studies on mainland Australian terrestrial amphipods began (Friend, 1982). He is in the process of finishing a major monograph on the mainland terrestrial amphipod fauna.

Jim Lowry came to the Australian Museum in 1976 and Helen Stoddart arrived soon after. After initial studies on Australian and New Zealand subantarctic amphipods (Lowry & Stoddart, 1983; Lowry & Fenwick, 1983) Lowry & Stoddart (1984; 1989; 1990; 1992; 1995) then began their studies of the lysianassoid amphipods of Australia and the Australasian region. They have about 200 species in their collections which are in the process of being published.

Lowry and Gary Poore (Museum of Victoria) monographed the ampeliscid amphipods of south-eastern Australia and described the first ingolfiellid amphipods from Australia (Lowry & Poore, 1985; 1989) .

Penny Berents worked on the melitid amphipods of the Great Barrier Reef (Berents, 1983) as a master's student at the University of Sydney. As part of her PhD project Berents described a new genus and species of urohaustoriid (1985). In 1988 Berents became the collection manager (Australian Museum) responsible for crustacean collections and coordinated the databasing of the crustaceans collections. Lowry and Berents (Lowry, 1981; Lowry, 1985; Lowry & Berents, 1996; Lowry & Berents, in press) have an ongoing research project on Australasian cerapid amphipods.

Alan Myers (National University of Ireland) worked as a visiting fellow at the Australian Museum in 1986 and produced a number of important papers on Australian aorid amphipods (Myers, 1975; 1981; 1985; 1988; Myers & Moore, 1983).

Moore (University Marine Biological Station Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland) studied collections made by Graham Edgar (Someplace) in Tasmania and produced a series of papers (1981; 1982; 1986; 1987a, b; 1988a, b; 1989; 1992; Myers and Moore, 1988) which have described nearly 30 species, mainly from Tasmania.

Vader came as a visiting fellow to the Australian Museum in 1993 to work on the SEAS Project (Scavengers of Eastern Australian Seas). During that time he discovered a diverse group of undescribed amphipods associated with hermit crabs. Vader (1995) and Vader & Myers (1996) are producing a series of papers on these amphipods.

Alistair Poore and Jim Lowry (1997) recently described a number of new ampithoid amphipods from Port Jackson. This work is being developed further by Rachael Peart who is currently studying the ampithoid amphipod fauna of Australia.

Jean Just came to Australia in 1983 at an exchange curator between the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen and the Australian Museum. During this time he began his studies on Australian amphipods. He soon returned permanently to Australia where he worked at the Museum of Victoria and at the Australian Biological Resources Survey. Just has produced a series of excellent papers on the siphonoecetine and iphimedioid amphipods (1983; 1985; 1990; 1998).

Wolfgang Zeidler began working on hyperiidean amphipods in late '70s, a group of crustaceans have wide distributions. During this time he has recorded 120 hyperiidean species in Australian waters (1978; 1984; 1992a, b). According the Zeidler (pers. comm.) if the deep water hyperiidean fauna of Australia were known, then most of the world's species would occur here.

Finally Lowry & Poore (in press) have produced a catalogue to the peracaridan crustaceans of Australia which includes the third catalogue of Australian amphipods and documents all recorded species in Australian waters.


Interactive Keys

You can enter this system in two ways. If you do not know the family for your amphipod then click on Families. This will start the interactive key to families. When you have identified your amphipod to family then you will be linked through a menu to a species level monograph for that family. If you know the family for your amphipod, then click directly on the family name - bold indicates active family level keys. This will take you to the introduction page for that family, where you will find a list of scecies and a link to the interactive key. The interactive key (Intkey) starts and you can begin your identification. When an identification is completed click on the blue information button to reveal morphological description, diagnoses and pictures.

The bold-italic parts within the descriptions are diagnostic characters, generated with the aid of Intkey (Dallwitz, Paine and Zurcher 1995, 2000). They distinguish each taxon in at least two respects from every other taxon.