Queensland's Citizen Science Hub


Male Thaumastocorid bug from Norfolk Island.  Anthony Postle, from fruiting inflorescence of Rhopalostylis baueri ©

Dr Geoff Monteith, a member of The Royal Society of Queensland since 1964 – nearly 60 years – with two co-authors has recently published a description of a species of bug endemic to the rainforests of Norfolk Island. The paper is titled:

“Hiding among the palms: the remarkable discovery of a new palm bug genus and species (Insecta: Heteroptera: Thaumastocoridae: Xylastodorinae) from remote Norfolk Island; systematics, natural history, palm specialism and biogeography.”

It is open access and can be downloaded freely from the doi address https://doi.org/10.1071/IS23040 (15MB) or from the QSN Database.

This latest publication is only the latest in a long string  of Dr Monteith’s achievements in taxonomy. The ABC article https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-04/scientist-geoff-monteith-ranked-alongside-charles-darwin/12726162 is self explanatory and outlines the international recognition that Geoff Monteith has received for his entomological work.

Membership of a knowledge society reaps dividends

Dr Monteith joined The Royal Society of Queensland in 1964 when he first started work in the Entomology Department of the University of Queensland. In 2024, he will have been a member for 60 years. He has written “Most of other staff of that Department were members and we went to most of the monthly evening meetings…as a matter of course.” This observation is testament to the value of joining a scientific or natural history society. In 2021, his network with the Royal Society was able to support him in his fieldwork on Norfolk Island.

A world of invertebrates is waiting to be discovered

Steven Heard, author of Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider, https://scientistseessquirrel.wordpress.com/charles-darwins-barnacle/, the book referenced in the ABC article above, has authorised QSN to publish the following extract:

“There are far more insect species than plant species needing names: perhaps half a million living plant species (400,000 of them named so far) compared to—well, we don’t know quite what to compare it to. There are at least two million living insect species, quite likely ten million, and possibly as many as 100 million. Of course, only a little under a million of them have been described and named so far; but still, entomologists have had a lot to work with. Sure enough, at least two entomologists have joined the 200-eponyms club: Willy Kuschel and Geoffrey Monteith. …Willy Kuschel (1918–2017) worked in Chile and New Zealand studying the weevils… 

“Geoffrey Monteith is the most recent name on my list of contenders, and the only one still active in science—and this makes his place in the field a bit surprising. Humboldt, Wallace, Pringle, and the rest have had a long time to accumulate eponymously named species. With the possible exception of Steyermark and Kuschel, they also worked at times when much of the world was just being opened up to Western biological exploration—exploration in which they all played notable parts. In comparison, Monteith is a babe in arms. He’s an Australian entomologist, born in 1942, but already with 225 species and 15 genera named for him. This avalanche of namings seems, largely, to reflect two facets of Monteith’s career. First, he’s been curator of two of Australia’s largest museum collections of insects and invertebrates, and in that position enthusiastically sent collections off to expert taxonomists who would sort and identify them—invariably discovering in those drawers and boxes species new to science, and often naming some of them for Monteith. Second, like Kuschel he collected thousands upon thousands of specimens himself, leading expeditions into the mountains of North Queensland and New Caledonia at a time when their faunas were virtually unknown to Western science—remnants of the scientifically untrampled ground the whole world had been when Wallace and Darwin and the Hookers were busily amassing their collections. As Monteith puts it: 

I was a field-oriented biologist at a time when there were many unknown mountains to climb. I had a bunch of people over the years who absolutely loved, like me . . . busting our guts to get to new places, loved camping light to make room for collecting gear in our packs, loved squatting around a little fire under a nylon fly cooking our dinner while the rain sprayed in and soaked our bums . . . loved spraying mossy tree trunks and seeing an unknown fauna of tiny critters tumble down. . . . Every one of those very old tropical mountains in north Queensland had a whole unknown fauna of strange insects and arachnids. . . . And when we had almost exhausted those mountains the opportunity came to go to New Caledonia . . . and we found a similarly uncollected bunch of even higher, wet, tropical mountains stretching the 500 mile length of that bizarre and isolated island.

“Naming a new species for its collector is a common thing, and Monteith had the drive and the opportunity to collect a lot of new species.”

Now if that story doesn’t stimulate the reader to take up science or natural history and head bush, then join one of QSN member bodies and surround yourself with people who will inspire you to do just that.

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