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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment


5 March 1998

The white shell of a Central Australian desert snail helps the species survive intense heat, while the shell of a pearl oyster is no barrier to an octopus which can bore a hole with its teeth and eat the flesh.

This is among the information in the first ever comprehensive overview of one of Australia's major animal groups, molluscs, which range from squids and abalone to snails and backyard slugs.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Macdonald, says Australia has as many species of molluscs as vascular plants - about 19 000 - and some, like abalone and scallops, contribute close to $425 million annually to the economy.

Senator Macdonald was speaking at the launch of Molluscs: The Southern Synthesis, the latest in a national series produced by the Australian Biological Resources Study.

"While snails, limpets and oysters are well known to the public, this volume is significant because it provides the first ever scientific account of the entire range of molluscs in Australia.

"The volume is a major step towards giving us all a better understanding of Australia's biological resources, much of which is still unknown, even in the 1990s.

"Basic information on biology through to detail such as the depth to which oysters are found, how cuttlefish mate, how squids use jet propulsion or how snails feed, provides essential fundamental data for policy makers, conservationists and industry.

"Howard Government initiatives, such as the Natural Heritage Trust and Oceans Policy, rely on this sort of fundamental baseline information.

"Producing this remarkable two-part volume, which is eight centimetres thick, has been a massive exercise involving 71 authors, 15 reviewers and artists and photographers."

This newest volume in the Fauna of Australia series includes more than 2 000 exquisite line drawings and colour photographs and is available for $295 from the Australian National Botanic Gardens Bookshop or from CSIRO Publishing toll free 1800 645 051.

Paula Randall (Senator Ian Macdonald) 02 6277 3665
Alison Russell French (Environment Australia) 02 6250 0766
5 March 1998

Commonwealth of Australia