Dr John Stanislic will be presenting:
“Australian native land snails: Nature’s Mycologists”
Australian land snails are poorly understood by the general public mainly due to their experiences with a small group of about 50 introduced snails and slugs that infest suburban backyards and gardens. These introduced species generally feed on soft, leafy foliage such as seedlings and garden vegetables. And as a general rule they need to be eliminated. In contrast native species are largely detritivores that feed on decaying vegetation and the fungi allied to its decomposition. Their dietary preference for fungi may also be a factor in fungal spore dispersal. Hence, I like to regard these creatures as honorary mycologists.Our native snails currently number about 1400 described species with another 600-odd in the Queensland Museum collections still without names. And the list continues to grow! Total numbers are expected to exceed 2500. They live in nearly all habitats ranging from the moist rainforests of eastern Australia, through the arid Red Centre, to the vast stretches of the Pilbara and Kimberley in the north-west of the continent. South-eastern Queensland is a region that is among the richest in diversity of snails.
Australia’s native land snails are a significant part of this continent’s invertebrate biodiversity and they play a vital role in forest ecology by feeding on decomposing vegetation, fungi and biofilm such as micro-algae. They re-nutrify the soil through their faeces, decomposing bodies and shells and also are a food source for other animals. Land snails are also significant indicators of environmental health and key biodiversity predictors.
Land snails, in spite of their role in key ecological processes, and their predictive value in being able to demonstrate the presence of unusual biotic communities, are ignored in terrestrial environmental assessment. (A fate that befalls all of the invertebrates with very few exceptions.) Consequently, large swathes of habitat harbouring crucial invertebrate communities have been lost along with their inhabitants. My ultimate aim is to make land snails available as a key invertebrate group for environmental survey and assessment. Production of field guides is an important first step.
Biopic for Dr John Stanisic
“The Snail Whisperer”
John retired as Curator and Biodiversity Scientist at the Queensland Museum in 2006 and was appointed Honorary Research Fellow. He is now also Honorary Research Associate of the Australian Museum, Sydney and Associate Biodiversity Scientist with Biodiversity Assessment and Management, a lead ecological consultancy firm located in Cleveland.
John is Australia’s foremost expert on land snails and has written a number of scientific papers and popular articles on Australian land snails and their association with rainforest and limestone habitats.
His current research interests are the distribution and documentation of land snails in eastern Australia and their potential use as indicators in land management. His work has been applied to many biodiversity assessment projects in which he has also incorporated other invertebrate groups as key indicators of environmental health and integrity.
John was lead author of “Australian Land Snails Volume 1. A field guide to eastern Australian species” which won the 2011 Whitley Medal for best natural history publication. He is currently working on a second volume in the field guide series.
For more information about what’s on at the QMS in 2016, go to our Calendar of Events.