North East Harbour from Lyall Ridge

July 2014

Identification key published online

The first ever interactive identification keys to the freshwater invertebrates of Campbell Island have been published online (McMurtrie, Sinton & Winterbourn, 2014).

The 2010 Bicentennial Expedition is now a distant memory but one that will ever remain in the hearts and minds of those of us who had the privilege of being involved. This key is only one of the planned outputs of one of the most comprehensive aquatic sampling programmes to ever take place on the island. We hope that it will be useful to all practitioners working in the Subantarctic.

Over that 2010/11 summer we collected aquatic invertebrates, periphyton, microbes, water quality, sediment quality, and stable isotope samples from 25 streams and 9 tarns, and sampled 34 tarns for water and sediment quality.

Despite a shaky start – you may remember that a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch only 11 days after our return – we have worked our way through the 235 benthic aquatic invertebrate samples collected to develop the invertebrate keys.

Working with Professor Mike Winterbourn of the University of Canterbury and taxonomists from around the world, we’ve been able to describe 36 different taxa in the key and associated information sheets. This includes one new species of worm (Macquaridrilus mcmurtrieae), which I have had the privilege of being named after me, thanks to the taxonomist that described it (Adrian Pinder from the Department of Parks and Wildlife in Western Australia). Out of this work we have also had new distribution records confirmed, and other possible new species pending confirmation via DNA work in the flatworm and nemertean groups.

Overall we found that Campbell Island’s streams and tarns are home to a moderately diverse range of freshwater invertebrate species, and that many of them are unique to the island. This is not surprising, considering its isolation and the harsh environment. But what is equally interesting was that the island does also plays host to some of the same species that are found on mainland New Zealand – such as the common caddisfly, Oxyethira albiceps despite the 700 km of southern oceans between the two.

We also discovered there is a very high diversity of aquatic oligochaetes (worms). We have only had 2% of the oligochaete specimens identified and already there are seventeen different taxa, so there is great potential for more new species or new records for the island. They do not form part of the identification key yet, as we will need more funding to go through the staggering number of oligochaetes that we found (almost 9000!). But with such funding we would be able to finally unravel the mysteries of this little known yet diverse and fascinating group (click here to find out more about the wonderful world of Campbell Island worms).

We are grateful to the many people that contributed to making this key come together, and to funding from TFBIS (Terrestrial and Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) that is administered by the Department of Conservation.

The key can be accessed at

Donations to the CIBE to further post-expedition outputs can be made here.

[Shelley McMurtrie]