Tasmania contains a wealth of invertebrate species (animals without a backbone) of ancient origin. Around the world invertebrates make up 95% of all animals on earth and their antiquity offers an insight into the processes of evolution. They tell a story of continental drift and climate change over vast periods of time. While many Tasmanian invertebrates (and, of course, vertebrates and plants) are of Gondwanan origin, some reveal even more ancient lineages that extend back to Pangea - the supercontinent that predated Gondwana beyond 200 million years ago.
Tasmania is home to a unusually high proportion of endemic species. Nearly half of the invertebrate species found within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, for example, are found nowhere else on Earth. Many well known groups of invertebrates have a high proportion of species restricted to Tasmania, such as 92% of the island's terrestrial oligochaetes (earthworms), 92% of its syncarids (mountain shrimps), 93% of its terrestrial amphipods (landhoppers), 88% of its freshwater crayfish, 89% of its stoneflies, 70% of its caddis-flies and 93% of its carabid beetles.
There are also many groups where the largest or most spectacular examples occur in Tasmania, such as springtails, stoneflies, and freshwater crayfish.
Many species have greatly restricted ranges, such as the blind velvet worm, while others occupy remarkably narrow niches, such as the pandani moth which feeds soley within the fronds of the endemic pandani, the world's tallest heath plant.
Despite the unique values that invertebrates bring to Tasmania's rich natural heritage, and the vital role they play in forming the basis of ecological systems, the vast majority of the islands' invertebrate species remain undescribed or undiscovered, with little or nothing known about their ecology. The 10,000 invertebrate species presently known from Tasmania form just a fraction of the species that probably exist within the state. For some invertebrate groups, such as stoneflies and terrestrial flatworms, Tasmania is the Australian centre of diversity. For others, such as the velvet worms, it is the world centre of diversity.
What to see
Only a sample of the many thousands of Tasmania's significant species are detailed here. For a more complete, albeit still partial, listing of Tasmania's invertebrate fauna, see the Department's website.
- Freshwater Burrowing Crayfish Engaeus spp.
- Giant Freshwater Crayfish Astacopsis gouldi
- Mountain Shrimp Anaspides spp.
- Pandani moth
- Pencil pine moth
- Hairy cicada
- Dragonflies and damselflies
- Cave spiders
- Cave harvestmen
- Velvet worms (Peripatus)
Where to see
Invertebrates are found all around the state although concentrated in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, in particular: