Readers’ wildlife photos

Today’s batch of lovely photos comes from our old friend Tony Eales in Brisbane. His notes and IDs are indented.

I went for a weekend up to the Bunya Mountains, a high elevation subtropical rainforest area near my home town of Brisbane QLD. The Bunya Mountains is named after the gigantic Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii). This pine fruits heavily every two to four years with massive cannonball-sized pinecones containing large edible pine nuts. These years of heavy fruiting were a focus for aboriginal groups of the region with people traveling from hundreds of kilometres to take part in the Bunya Festival. The combination of forest type and high elevation is unique in the region and is home to a lot of endemic diversity. It’s winter at the moment, so the wildlife wasn’t as abundant as in the warmer months but I still found a number of interesting photographic subjects.

The first is a dealate  queen (a queen that has shed its wings in preparation for forming a new colony) of the species Amblyopone australis. These are part of the Dracula Ant sub-family, so called because the workers pierce the skin of larvae and drink their haemolymph for sustenance.  Normally ant workers collect sugary foods like nectar to sustain themselves, but these ants live underground and hunt termites so never get the opportunity to forage for nectar and drink protein only from prey or their own larvae.

Araneus circulissparsus is one of the most beautiful orb-weaving spiders, in my opinion, that I regularly encounter. It’s believed that they are a species complex rather than a single species. Certainly there’s a huge range of colours and abdomen patterns in these spiders. This one is rather simple compared to many but I still find the translucent green very appealing.

Cephalodesmius sp. is one of our native dung beetles. Only small as dung beetles go, these little beetles are endemic to Australia and live only in rain forests. Because of the scarcity of dung in these environments, they also include rotting leaf litter in their balls, which the pair-bonded males and females work on together.  The male collects leaves and plant matter and the females shred it to help form it into a ball for the larvae.

This Armadillid [pillbug; a crustacean] was tentatively identified on iNaturalist as Cubaris sp. I can’t find any good resources on Australian Armadillids so I have no idea if this is correct. These were the second most common creature I saw on my night walk in the rainforest after another isopod in the Trichoniscidae family. Every plant and tree trunk was covered with them, and as you shone your torch-light on them they would drop off into the leaf litter below to escape.

The Gympie Gympie or Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide moroides) has a fearsome and well-earned reputation as a bringer of extraordinary pain. I have personally experienced it myself and can confirm that in 52 years of life I have never had a greater pain inflicted on me—and I only brushed a knuckle against a leaf. The pain felt like I had rusty serrated knife drawn across my finger to the bone and the pain flared anew with slowly diminishing intensity, whenever there was a sudden temperature change, for months. Even so the flowers are fascinating and apparently the berries after flowering re sweet if you’re willing to brave it. There’s a YouTube video of a National Geographic host brushing his knuckle against one in almost exactly the same place I did that is very instructive.

This member of the superfamily Eupodoidea is probably Eriorhynchus sp. but really, it’s the same story as with the isopods. It’s very hard to find any good, amateur-friendly resources on mites aside from those that cause human problems. These little guys never stop and wander about waving their front legs like antennae, seemingly oblivious to my presence, making them fairly easy to photograph. They were common under every log and within the leaf litter.

I ended up with a few of these venomous little buggers on me after crawling around in the forest photographing bugs. The Australian Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus) was something my mother was always warning us about whenever we went walking in wet sclerophyll bush or rainforest. Children can be particularly susceptible as they can often leave a tick on for days getting a large dose of the saliva protiens which can case partial paralysis, flu-like symptoms and even anaphylactic shock as well as being carriers of typhus. I’ve had so many by now that I no longer freak out but they’re still creepy.

 

Smaller than a tick is this little Goblin SpiderOpopaea sp. They are an important part of the leaf litter fauna and are often overlooked due to their small size. Goblin spiders are notable for the hardened scute on the dorsal surface of the abdomen which can cover the whole dorsal are like with these Opopaea or just be a small oval as in Ischnothyreus sp. I’m a little bit obsessed with photographing this family of tiny cuties.

This ant had me confused for a time. It looked really familiar but I couldn’t place it. That was because it was only a millimetre or two long and most Podomyrma species are large, 10-12mm and very robust. A friend of mine pointed me in the right direction, apparently this is an undescribed species that has been found in other similar environments as shown here on AntWeb.

Terrycarlessia bullacea is one of only two species in this genus of carnivorous snails. They hunt the rainforest for soft-bodied prey including other snails, including other smaller T. bullacea.

And after many decades of not seeing one, I found a Red-triangle Slug (Triboniophorus graeffei) on my night walk. I’ve found a few juveniles over the years but this was a full sized adult. Red-triangle Slugs will appear in the day, infrequently, when conditions are right (ie raining for weeks on end), even in urban settings, startling people who didn’t know they shared the world with such crawling horrors. They are a striking animal, some being 150mmm [about 6 inches] long and often bright white with a blood-coloured non-symmetrical triangle on their dorsal surface, one vertice at their air-hole. They come in many colour forms, including a hot-pink form found only on a single mountain in New South Wales. While not so garish as that, the one I found was still an impressive specimen about 140mm in length.  Normally all we ever see are the radula marks on the side of gum-trees, letting us know that they’re around.

 

14 Comments

  1. Posted July 21, 2020 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Ohh, some of these definitely look creepy. Thanks for the good pictures and the information 🙂

  2. Posted July 21, 2020 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    That’s solved one problem for me. When people here in Germany ask my I left Australia, I’ll just tell them to watch that video.

    I’d honestly never heard of that f**king tree. Holy sh*t.

    (I have had plenty of paralysis ticks though.)

  3. Posted July 21, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Great photos and fascinating stories. I’ll give that effing gympie gympie tree a wide effing berth, I’ll tell you! 🙂

  4. mallardbrad
    Posted July 21, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Fascinating!

  5. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted July 21, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Great set of photos! I was interested by the comment about the scarcity of dung in rain forests which made me think of sloths. Three-toed sloths in central and south America have an associated fauna of coprophagous beetles and moths which live amongst the animals fur. The sloths do not, as you might think poop from the tree tops whenever the urge takes them but descend to the ground about once a week to defecate. When they do this the beetles and moths hop off to lay eggs in the dung. The insects use the sloth as a means of transport to ensure that they are delivered right to the spot where the dung is produced thereby solving the problem of finding it in an environment where is may be scarce and rapidly recycled.

    Sloths may benefit from the presence of these insects living in their fur which possibly explains why they engage in the apparently risky behaviour of coming down from the tree tops to defecate.

  6. rickflick
    Posted July 21, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    How lucky to live with such diversity. Great shots.

  7. Ben Curtis
    Posted July 21, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Great photos – thanks.

  8. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted July 21, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Great shots of the orb-weaving spider and pillbug. Also a very interesting stinging tree! The toxin moroidin delivered by the hairs is a new one to me, it must be really potent.

    • Tony Eales
      Posted July 21, 2020 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      It’s an unforgettable sensation. I recently had a run in with the Shining-leaf Stinging-tree Dendrocnide photinophylla which was far less traumatic as it has fewer hairs and didn’t persist beyond a couple of hours. However I recognised the quality of the pain immediately even after twenty years since my encounter with the Gympie Gympie.

      • Posted July 21, 2020 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        Wikipedia says to use wax hair-removal strips as first aid. Would this curtail the months of pain?

        • Tony Eales
          Posted July 22, 2020 at 2:22 am | Permalink

          At the time I only had electrical tape. Waxing strips would probably work better.

  9. Posted July 21, 2020 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Late to the party. Great stuff as always, Tony!

  10. Posted July 21, 2020 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous photos as always, Tony. Thanks!

  11. Posted July 22, 2020 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Oh I love the insect ones! Thank you.

    We have a “scale” problem – if those little buggers were 100 or 1,000x larger we’d have Jurassic Park that millions would visit.

    Have a look at a brain scan of one of the professor’s drosophilia. Little miracles!

    Proud (former) Australian,
    D.A., NYC


%d bloggers like this: