Research news

Forrest Fellow makes a magical discovery

3 May 2024

Many scientists have been known to get “antsy” when their research endeavours are seemingly fruitless, but that’s certainly not the case for Forrest Fellow, Dr Mark Wong, who has just discovered and named a new species of ant.

Dr Wong is an experienced myrmecologist (also known as ant scientist) at the University of Western Australia (UWA). In an article recently published in the journal ZooKeys, Mark reported the discovery of a bizarre new ant species from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Struck by the ant’s pale features, slender form, sharp jaws and shadowy underground dwellings, Mark was inspired to bestow the new species the scientific name of Leptanilla voldemort, after the notorious villain from the Harry Potter book series – Lord Voldemort.

The discovery is not merely magical by namesake alone, but also a significant contribution to ant diversity in Australia. Although there are over 14,000 ant species worldwide, only 61 species are known to belong to the elusive genus Leptanilla. As Leptanilla ants are miniscule in size and live fully underground, they are very rarely collected, even by the most experienced myrmecologists. The discovery of Leptanilla voldemort represents only the second species of Leptanilla which has been documented in Australia.

Dr Wong noted that there is much more to learn about Leptanilla ants and that the latest discovery will assist additional research efforts to better understand these ants and extend our knowledge of the biodiversity of the Pilbara region.

Read more about Dr Wong’s discovery here: