Peron’s tree frog

This past summer’s wet season was not very wet at all and we hardly heard any frogs nor saw any, apart from the odd desperate-looking cane toad. The noise of the male frogs of many species calling for mates at night can be positively deafening when the weather is warm and wet.

So it was with some surprise that I found two Peron’s tree frogs (Litoria peronii) on the side of the washing machine this morning. I’m calling them Fisher and Paykel 🙂

(For those that don’t know, Fisher & Paykel is a brand of washing machine. They are also called emerald-spotted tree frogs for the obvious reason and I’ve posted about them before.)

Peron_1

Fisher, a Peron’s tree frog (Litoria peronii)

Peron_2

Paykel

 

When I was carefully moving them to the garden (not touching them with my skin, especially as it might have had detergent on it), I noticed the black spots on the bright yellow colouring on the insides of their thighs – I suppose it shows up as a flash of perhaps startling brightness when they jump away from predators. Otherwise they are pretty well camouflaged.

Peron_3

Peron_4

With the end of the El Nino, the weather bureau is predicting above average winter rain. Let’s hope it helps animals like these survive.

The wattle pig

I avoid common names of critters, if possible, as they tend to change from place to place, whereas the scientific names are fixed (until the taxonomists start having arguments, bless them). But until you get used to them, scientific names can be a mouthful (I thank my Latin teachers at high school plus my zoology training for not having too many problems). And sometimes the common names are delicious.

There’s the spiny lumpsucker, the pleasing fungus beetle, the pink fairy armadillo, the raspberry crazy ant, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko, the hellbender, the star-nosed mole, the blob fish, the strange-tailed tyrant – if you google these names, you’ll see that they are pretty descriptive.

And take this weevil, probably a species of Leptopius, called the wattle pig, as it feeds on wattle leaves. According to George Hangay and Paul Zborowski’s A Guide to the Beetles of Australia, CSIRO 2010 (hello, George!), not all Leptopius are associated with wattles.

It was on the clothes line at the back of my house. Even a chore like hanging up washing can be interesting if you keep your eyes open.

Leptopius

Leptopius species

Beetles are often hard to see and I’d rather see them alive, but sometimes one can marvel at exhibits in museums,  like the one below in the Queen Victoria Museum, Launceston.

Beetle display, Launceston Museum

Beetle display, Queen Victoria Museum, Launceston, Tasmania

Scientific names often describe the creature’s features in Latin, but scientists do have a sense of humour and there are some pretty strange scientific names out there. The names all have to conform with the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Australian Geographic magazine has an article on some of them: Gelae bean (say it out loud – a small, shiny beetle), Macrostyphlus frodo and M. gandalf (beetles again), Ytu brutus (and again, for all you Latinophiles), and Agra vation, Agra cadabra and Agra phobia (all beetles). Lest you get the idea that entomologists are more fun than other scientists (though they may well be), there’s Ittibitium (a genus of very small molluscs), Wunderpus photogenicus (an octopus), Ba humbugi (a Pacific island snail), Han solo (a trilobite, extinct), Arthurdactylus conandoylensis (a pterosaur, extinct) and Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi (a spider). There are many other examples, but you get the general idea.

Usually it is the describing scientist who creates the name but, as the Smithsonian says, if you want one named after yourself:

You can discover one and name it yourself.

A colleague, friend or family member might have enough new species lying around and be willing to name one after you.

If you have enough money, you could pay an institution or charity to give a species your name. Scripps Institution of Oceanography [in 2008] offered naming rights for several ocean species, starting from the rock-bottom price of US$5,000.

Of course, if you’re famous, a scientist may honor you. But naming a creature after a person seems to lack a certain amount of creativity. After all, the rules for naming species are surprisingly open: the name must not be offensive, must be spelled in only the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet and may be derived from any language. In fact, a name need not be derived from anything at all; the rules state that an arbitrary combination of letters is also perfectly acceptable. (In contrast, astronomical bodies—like stars, asteroids and planets—have strict naming conventions overseen by committees.) So why shouldn’t a biologist have some fun when naming something she discovered?

Why not, indeed?

Neon cuckoo bee

This pretty bee was photographed by my neighbour, Amanda, in her backyard. It’s the neon cuckoo bee, Thyreus notidulus.

Neon cuckoo bee; photo by Amanda Pawski

Neon cuckoo bee; photo by Amanda Pawski

It’s a native bee, about the same size as the European honey bee, and does sting (Amanda was stung on the foot). Many of our native bees don’t.

It parasitises the nests of another native bee, the blue-banded bee, Amegilla cingulata. A. cingulata burrows in the ground and lays each egg in a separate cell, packing them with pollen food provisions. T. notidulus slips in before the cell is sealed and lays its own egg. The cuckoo bee’s larva hatches before the blue-banded’s and eats the pollen, starving the blue-banded. Australian Geographic has an article about this behaviour.

It’s a jungle out there.

Dancing the flamenco at Woody Head

We went to Woody Head on Saturday for the regular folk music/dance event that our friends have been doing for over 20 years, but only for the day. It’s a good spot for snorkelling and looking in rock pools (nudibranchs!), as many of my previous posts attest.

We weren’t there Sunday but Peter and Linda were in the water as usual, and Linda found a Spanish dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus). I’ve longed to see one in the wild and managed to while snorkelling in the Lord Howe Island lagoon, but it was a long way down so I didn’t get a proper look. (All photos by Linda Scharf)

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Hexabranchus sanguineus 15/5/2016 Woody Head NSW

Wikipedia says:

During daytime, the Spanish dancer hides away from the light in the crevices of its natural habitat to only come out late at night. It feeds on various species of sponge. Like all nudibranchs, it is hermaphrodite and its bright red to pink egg ribbon has a spiral shape related to the size of the animal so relatively large. The latter is coveted by some other species of nudibranch as Favorinus tsuragunus or Favorinus japonicus. The Emperor shrimp, Periclimenes imperator, is a commensal shrimp that is commonly found living on Hexabranchus sanguineus.

Well done, Linda. Next time I’m staying overnight!

What is it with roses?

For humans, roses have a connection with romance and love – the beauty and the pain, I suppose. For giant spiny stick insects, my rose bush provided food, protection and a place to mate. Seems it is the same for slugs!

Mating red triangle slugs

Mating red triangle slugs

 

I had initially looked at them from a different angle and thought it was one huge slug, as they reportedly grow up to 15 cm. These both looked about 4 cm, but would have been longer when stretched out.  The hole within the triangle is a breathing pore. The red triangle slug (Triboniophorus graeffei) is Australia’s largest native land slug and is common down the east coast in Queensland and New South Wales.

One giant slug?

One giant slug? No!

The Australian Museum says:

The red triangle slug is usually found grazing on microscopic algae growing on the surface of smooth-barked eucalypt trees, leaving behind scalloped tracks as it goes. If given the chance, it will also remove bathroom mould.

Now there’s an idea!

It also says:

Native slugs can be differentiated from introduced slugs because they have only one pair of tentacles, while introduced snails and slugs have two pairs. Also, the saddle-shaped mantle seen in introduced snails is reduced or absent in native snails and slugs.

The slugs have gone now, and so have the three stick insects. One female stick insect disappeared, and then I found the remains of the male wrapped in spider silk. There’s a garden orb weaver spider that nightly weaves a big web a couple of metres from the rose bush, and it seems he flew into it. Last to go was the second female – I was working in my office, which overlooks the rose bush, and heard a crash, looked out the window and saw a kookaburrra entangled in it. The kookie inelegantly disentangled itself and flew off with the female in its bill. The rose leaves had been eaten by the stick insects to such an extent that she was not hidden so well.

Now that these tenants have left, I am going to cut back that rose bush, with the aim of encouraging more leaf growth for future tenants. Wonder what I’ll find there next?