And Now For Something Totally Different ...

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: And Now For Something Totally Different ...
From: Laurie&Leanne Knight <>
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 20:49:28 +1000
Now don't go saying you don't learn something new every day ...
[No Tones, I don't think laughing gulls eat sandgropers at Scoopy's]

Sandgropers on wanted list
By Carmelo Amalfi

SANDGROPERS wanted. Preferably frozen to preserve the intestines.

The WA Museum wants to shed light on the subterranean insect which shares its
name with all West Australians.

It is collecting sandgroper specimens to learn more about the mystery sand
digger which is active this time of the year.

Terry Houston, senior curator of entomology, said little was known about the
sandgroper's life cycle, distribution and diet because of its underground 

"Most West Australians have heard of the sandgroper, but not many know it is an
insect and even less have seen one," Dr Houston said.

Dr Houston said there were 16 known species of sandgroper - 14 were native to
Australia and five exclusive to WA. Described as a miniature mining machine that
swims through sand, the sandgroper can grow to 6cm long and sport six legs, the
first pair modified for digging. "They occur virtually anywhere there's sandy
soil, such as Perth's coastal plain," he said.

"Sometimes you will find them in new residential areas."

Dr Houston said the first description of sandgropers in Australia was in 1832 on
Melville Island off the Northern Territory. The next recording was in Perth in 

It is unclear where and when the name was adopted by West Australians. It has
been suggested it evolved in early settlement days when people were bitten by
sandflies, suffered sandy blight, scrubbed with sand soap and wore sandshoes. 

Sandgropers burrow just below the surface after heavy rain, leaving a
distinctive raised trail. Farmers also find them in ploughed paddocks.

But little is known about when and where they breed.

Dr Houston said sandgropers were once blamed for wheat crop damage, but recent
observations of the animal's intestines revealed other insects.

He is appealing for help with the collection of specimens for research. He said
the insect should be placed in a labelled container and stored in a freezer to
slow the digestion of contents in the sandgroper's intestines.

"If you keep them alive, they will digest and pass all they have eaten recently
and valuable data will be lost."

Dr Houston can be contacted on 9427 2742 to arrange collection of specimens.
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