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Explore Queensland Museum Network’s extensive collection of parasites and discover the research that enhances our understanding of parasitology.
The Parasitology collection at Queensland Museum is one of the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The scope of the collection is broad, comprising specimens of all major parasitic classes, but with a particular focus on parasitic worms (especially trematodes and nematodes) and protozoans of Australian animals. Queensland Museum collections incorporates several historically significant collections, such as those of the International Research Centre for Avian Haematozoa (IRCAH), the former School of Tropical Medicine in Townsville, and renowned Australian parasitologists such as Dr Josephine Mackerras, Prof. John Pearson and Prof. John Sprent.
Australia has a rich but largely undescribed parasitic fauna, the formal documentation of which has been a longstanding focus and area of expertise for Queensland Museum. Previous senior staff Dr Lester Cannon and Dr Rob Adlard have had a major role in Australian Parasitology and have paved the way for current Queensland Museum researchers focusing on the diverse fauna of parasites infecting wildlife of Australia and the Indo-West Pacific.
Parasitology is the study of parasites, organisms that live on or in another organism, benefiting from the association at the other organism’s expense. Parasitism is one of the most common life strategies on earth, but because this fauna is so rich and comprises species that are cryptic and not readily found without expert examination, it remains poorly understood to this day. Modern Parasitology integrates parallel lines of evidence, incorporating morphometric, molecular and ecological data in diagnosing parasitic species.
The Parasitology collection at Queensland Museum incorporates over 93,000 individual specimen registrations, including more than 8,791 type-specimens (1,719 primary and 7,072 secondary types). Although the collection is predominately from Australia, it also incorporates parasites from animals all over the world. The collection includes species from all the major parasitic groups and incorporates several historically significant collections.
The International Reference Centre for Avian Haematozoa (IRCAH) collection, transferred to Queensland Museum in 1995, is the world’s leading collection of avian blood parasites with representatives of most of the known species and represents an important diagnostic resource for researchers globally.
The J.F.A. Sprent Nematode Collection, donated to Queensland Museum from 1987-1999 by Prof. John Sprent, Foundation Professor of Parasitology at The University of Queensland, comprises over 6,600 registrations of animal nematodes belonging to the Superfamily Ascaridoidea.
The School of Tropical Medicine & Public Health Collection, transferred to Queensland Museum in 1987, comprises over 2,600 registrations of historically and medically important helminth and protozoan parasites of domestic animals, wildlife & humans.
Most recently, Queensland Museum began the acquisition of the Tom Cribb Trematode collection, the largest single collection of the Trematoda globally. This collection incorporates trematode specimens from over 20,000 fishes sampled in the tropical Indo-west Pacific.
A comprehensive understanding of the species found in Australia is the foundation to understanding our natural heritage. Although Australian parasites have been studied for over a century, most species are yet to even have been given a scientific name. Queensland Museum parasitologists now integrate morphological and molecular data to document this undescribed parasite fauna of Australian animals and relate it to that of nearby nations.
While the focus of Queensland Museum has shifted over time with the interests of researchers, the overall impact has been immense. Researchers at Queensland Museum have described hundreds of parasite species infecting a diversity of Australian wildlife. Currently, the focus of most parasitological research at Queensland Museum is on parasites of marine fishes, with a special interest on those infecting fishes of the Great Barrier Reef.
A key outcome from the description of the fauna is the continual development of the Queensland Museum parasite collection. This collection serves as a perpetual resource that preserves important morphological and molecular parasite specimens. This resource enables current and future Australian and international scientists to re-evaluate and develop ideas and questions, some not yet thought of, maximising the value of the original work.