Sunday, 5 November 2017

An Odd Beetle

This peculiar beetle showed up near the light sheet the other night.
 Byrsax sp: Tenebrionidae
 Byrsax sp: Tenebrionidae, integument up close

Geoff Monteith notes that this beetle is one of three species known from Australia. Males have the horns. The beetles live in large bracket fungi. He says they have one of the most powerful smells of any tenebrionid beetle. Strangely, I did not notice it. (Might be saying something about me!)

Spring Katydids

Even though we have had a very dry winter, insects have been developing. All of these katydids hatched from eggs during winter and are now adult. We have a nice variety in the rainforest in Kuranda.

Caedicia kuranda Rentz, Su, Ueshima
 Phricta spinosa Redtenbacher, spiny thorax bearing a mite
  Phricta spinosa Redtenbacher, young nymph
 Acauloplacella queenslandica Rentz, Su, Ueshima male
 Acauloplacella queenslandica Rentz, Su, Ueshima male head pronotum and stridulatory area
  Acauloplacella queenslandica Rentz, Su, Ueshima male nymph
 Caedicia webberi Rentz, Su, Ueshima
  Caedicia webberi Rentz, Su, Ueshima
Zaprochilus mongabarra Rentz, female at rest
 Zaprochilus mongabarra Rentz female, head and pronotum
 Currimundria delicata Rentz, Su, Ueshima female
 Currimundria delicata Rentz, Su, Ueshima female head pronotum
 Ozphyllum kuranda Rentz, Su, Ueshima male

  Ozphyllum kuranda Rentz, Su, Ueshima male, head pronotum

Chloracantha lampra Rehn male

Cassowary Update

The three chicks are developing nicely but oddly two of them seem to be continually fighting with one another. This started some weeks ago and continues to this day.

Both male and female cassowaries visit together and the chicks interact with both parents but the male gives way and is extremely cautious around the female.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

World Cassowary Day

Sunday is World Cassowary Day. Interesting because Cassowaries occur only in northeastern Australia and New Guinea. Most visitors to the Cairns region either don't know what they are and/or have never seen one. They are always impressed by both the beauty and size of the birds.


Mrs Cassowary stopped by and just stood in one spot for about 10 minutes before disappearing into the forest.

Individual birds can be recognised by a number of features. The shape and condition of the casque as well as the shape of the wattles often helps.
With this gal, the middle toe of the left foot seems swollen compared to the right.

Cassowaries are under threat mainly from habitat destruction but also from incidents with cars and trucks and depredations from feral animals such as dogs and pigs.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Wonderful New Book

Australia has been blessed this year with a plethora of books on its biota being published. Two important books on spiders and now this impressive 480 page book on the biota of the Northern Territory. It is well written and very nicely presented.

The photos are top-rate with many contributions of the natural history community. Distribution maps are clear and should prove useful. The book can be used not only in the NT but also in Queensland and the northern portion of Western Australia where many of the species depicted in the book overlap.
The chapter on "Fire in the Top End" is worth the price of the book alone and should be read by all "northerners".

If this book doesn't stimulate young people in natural history pursuits, then there is no hope.

McKay, L. 2017. A Guide to Wildlife and Protected Areas of the Top End. 480 Pp. Environment Centre, NT, Darwin, NT.

A Nice Addition to the Garden

We have been watching this large Nephila sp perch in her web near our porch. She is a very poor web builder and it surprising she catches anything.  The web is seldom intact and there are usually gaping holes in it. The web is typical spiderweb colour, not yellow as in other members of the genus. She measures approximately 40 mm in body length, about 140 mm from the end of one outstretched leg diagonally to another. We try to avoid drawing attention to her during the day as the Black Butcherbird would have her for sure if he detected there was something edible there. They routinely look for these spiders during the autumn of the year when food is a bit scarce.

An unexpected part of the biology of these large spiders is that the female must come to ground to lay her eggs. This is probably most hazardous time of her life since she would be exposed to all sorts of predators, the worst of which is the introduced Cane Toad, Bufo marinus. (I'm an oldie and use the old generic name!!)

 Those red dots are Small Thief Spiders, Argyrodes miniaceus. We counted 20 of them.
Argyrodes minaceus, the Small Thief Spider.

We wish Mrs Nephila success in avoiding the Butcherbird!
There are about 4000 described spider species in Australia but it is estimated that there may be as many as 20,000 species once they are all described, Whyte and Anderson, 2017.

Both "Budak" and Martyn Roninson have commented that the red spiders are actually Pirate Spiders. Martyn further notes that it is the genus Argyrodes. A check in the book noted below indicates it is the Small Thief Spider, A. miniaceus. Martyn further notes that these spiders can steal the prey of the host spider and eventually cause the big spider to abandon its web and seek a new site. And that's exactly what must have happened as she is now not in her web.

Whyte, R., Anderson, G. 2017. A Field Guide to Spiders of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, 445 Pp.

Spring Is Here

On 10 September 2017 we heard the first Northern Green Grocers, Cyclochila virens Distant, Cicadidae, of the year in our piece of rainforest.
Singing commenced at 6.35 pm (Eastern Standard Time), shortly after dark and continued for less than 15 minutes. The nightly serenade will continue for several months and start a few seconds later each night until by summer the singing begins around 7.15 pm. The intriguing bit is that it could not possibly be the same adults singing for months and months but newly emerged individuals replacing the oldies. So what is the explanation for the later and later starts and how is this information is received. Could temperature and/or day length be responsible for this behaviour. I'm sure someone has studied this for this large, iconic Queensland insect.

Moulds, M., 1990. Australian Cicadas. 217 Pp. New South Wales University Press, Kensington, NSW.