5 minutes with Dr Christine Lambkin, Curator of Entomology

What is your favourite species in the collection and why?

My favourite is a specimen labelled suborder Falsifera. There are nearly 3000 species of grasshoppers and crickets in Australia. There are so many different types they are placed into two Suborders, the Ensifera and Caelifera. When Queensland Museum received the University of Queensland Insect Collection in 2011, we discovered within it a specimen representing an additional suborder, the Falsifera. This magnificent specimen was submitted by a student as part of their Insect Collection for assessment, together with representatives of the other suborders, all duly labelled. Look closely and you will see why the label Suborder Falsifera was attached. This specimen has been created – from the head and legs of a grasshopper, twigs, leaves, and other odds and ends!

Do you have any interesting facts about insects?

Did you know some flies cannot fly as they don’t have wings?

A healthy community would have 100’s species of flies. I have collected 6 species of one genus at one time in a forest in Brisbane.

Mosquitoes are flies. That’s because the character that defines flies is adults with one pair of wings with a pair of halters (all that is left of the hind wings) behind on the thorax.

The most dangerous animal on earth is the mosquito. According to the World Health Organization, about 725,000 people are killed every year by mosquito-borne diseases. Malaria alone affects 200 million, of which an estimated 600,000 die. Mosquitoes also carry dengue fever, yellow fever and encephalitis. Dengue, which does occur in Australia, is the only mosquito-borne disease that does not require a secondary host such as a bird, instead relies on human to human transmission.

Tell us a little bit about your area and why do you love working in this specific research area?

Publications are now collaborative efforts with colleagues around the world. I collect Specimen Collection data, morphological and molecular data to produce scientific publications.

Today’s technology is changing rapidly so there’s lots of reading involved to keep up with modern techniques and approaches. We use imaging systems rather than hand drawn illustrations, DNA extraction and sequencing.

What is one of the most interesting facts you have discovered through working at the museum?

The behaviour of the marine fly, Pontomyia, by a member of the public in Northern NSW with amazing video and images. Specimens were sent to me in vodka and then transferred to absolute ethanol for sequencing overseas. Publication suggested synonymising species and that species were much more widespread than previously thought.

Learn more about Dr Christine Lambkin here.