Director of the Eskitis Institute Professor Ronald Quinn said the partnership would add unique plant biodiversity to the Institute’s collection.

Prominent conservation identity Terri Irwin said Australia Zoo recently discovered a range of unique freshwater springs in the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Far North Queensland.

“These springs support a new rainforest type, found only in that location,” Ms Irwin said.

“Many of the plants appear to be uniquely adapted to the highly acidic water that emanates from the springs.”

Professor Quinn said the rare and unusual plant species may offer unique new chemical compounds that would be investigated for their potential as drugs to fight tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

Besides unique plant samples that will be catalogued and added to the Eskitis Institute’s biota collection, there is an opportunity to collect the same species in different seasons and to collect a complete set of plant parts for species already in the collection.

The samples from the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve will bring an added dimension to the existing Eskitis collection of 45,000 samples of plants and marine invertebrates collected over 15 years from tropical Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, Papua New Guinea and China.