Only six individuals have been found, with the last published record of this Australian
"We scientists are concerned about this because it is the only Australian species of the genus Pharohylaeus, and until now nothing has been known about its biology."
Flinders University researcher James Dory
The hunt for the bee began aftercolleague beekeepers raised the question of the possibility of extinction of this species based on the lack of any recent sightings. The re-discovery follows an extensive sample of 225 general and 20 target sampling sites in New South Wales and Queensland.
Along with additional records of bees andvegetation from the Atlas of Living Australia, which lists 500 bee species in New South Wales and 657 bee species in Queensland, Flinders researchers attempted to assess the latest levels of true diversity, warning of habitat loss and fragmentation in Australia's rainforest, as well as wildfires and climate change likely to cause the extinction of this and other invertebrate species.
"Three populations of P. lactiferous have been identified by sampling bees visiting their favorite plant species along much of Australia's east coast, indicating that the population is isolated."
Flinders University Ph.D. James Dory.
Heavily fragmented habitat andpotential host specialization may explain the rarity of P. lactiferus. Since European colonization, Australia has already cleared out over 40% of its forests and woodlands, leaving much of the remainder fragmented and degraded.
Therefore, the study also warns thatthis species is even more vulnerable as they seem to prefer certain floral patterns and have only been found near tropical or subtropical rainforests, the only type of vegetation.
The article concludes that known populationsP. lactiferus remain rare and prone to habitat destruction (for example, as a result of land-use change or events such as fires).
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