Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fungus - White Punk

The insect-riddled fungus brought to the August meeting was Laetiporus portentosus. It is also called White Punk. They are mostly on the ground rotting and full of insect holes as they often grow in the top branches of tall Eucalypts. This one was found by Trish Gardner and Francis Mangubhai while bushwalking in Eucalypt forest in the Hellhole Gorge area between Cunningham's Gap and Goomburra. This website has more information.

(Information supplied by Glenda Walter and Trish Gardner.  Photo by Barbara Weller)
White Punk Laetiporus portentosus


Land snails, Bardee Grubs and the Packalacca -- by Rod Hobson

These few notes are presented as a result of member’s enquiries after our August monthly meeting and the subsequent field trip to Emu Creek. At our monthly meeting two specimens were presented for identification and the member’s comments. The first was displayed by Trish Gardner and was the dead, bleached shell of a native land snail Sphaerospira fraseri (Fraser’s Banded Snail). The mollusc was given to Trish by Steve Plant. Steve had found the shell in an area of revegetated dry vine scrub on his property at Pechey along with another native land snail Pedinogyra hayii (Hay’s Flat-coiled Snail). Both snails are sympatric across a lot of their range in south-east Queensland although Fraser’s Banded Snail extends south into the Clarence River area of north-eastern New South Wales. Both species are found in dry rainforest thickets although Fraser’s Banded Snail also extends into surrounding sclerophyll woodland. Both snails can be found under logs and rocks in damp situations. A very similar snail to fraseri is also found in similar situations in south-east Queensland. It is the Pale Banded Snail Figuladra mattea. Living snails can be easily distinguished as mattea has a red mantle whereas in fraseri this is black. Dead shells are somewhat more problematical to separate. A dead specimen shell of Hay’s Flat-coiled Snail was displayed at our July meeting from dry vine scrub at the base of Camels Hump east of Picnic Point. All these snails are a favourite food of the beautiful Noisy Pitta, Pitta versicolor.
Pupa case of Rain moth Trictena atripalpis (photo M. Rooke)
The second specimen from the night was brought in by Michael Rooke. It was found recently by Michael and Diane Pagel on a walk below Shannon Park at Highfields. It was an old pupa case of the Rain Moth Trictena atripalpis. This moth is also known as the Giant Rain Moth and the larva as a Bardee Grub. The Rain Moth is a widespread species belonging to the family Hepialidae and is found throughout southern Australia including Tasmania. It is a large moth with the wingspan of males reaching 12 cm and those of the female growing to 16 centimetres. The larva of this moth can spend several years underground feeding on the roots of adjacent trees. It emerges from the ground after rain hence its common name. Bardee Grub is somewhat of a misnomer for these larvae as Bardee is more correctly applied to the larva of the beetle Bardistus cibiarius. The discarded pupae cases can be found partly protruding from the ground after rain, as was the case around Toowoomba earlier this year. In March these cases were observed after rain in Garnet Lehmann Park, the Bridle Trail in Redwood Park, in the Lions Park at Picnic Point, on the Pardalote Walk below Picnic Point and from a private residence at Wyreema. The larvae are popular as baits with freshwater anglers.

On our last outing to John and Liz O’Brien’s Emu Creek property a conversation arose about a large, heavily buttressed tree growing close to their residence. It was an old specimen of the exotic Packalacca or Ombu Phytolacca dioica. It is a native of the Pampa of South America where it features heavily in gaucho culture. It can grow into a large tree with a canopy from 12-15 metres and a height of 12-18 metres. It is a valued shade tree and was a popular planting around dairies and livestock pens in south-east Queensland historically, but many have since disappeared, as these areas have been subsumed by urban spread and the dairying industry has declined. They’re getting to be a rarity these days. The large leaves are said to be palatable to cattle, but the roots are reported to be poisonous, however there is some doubt even about the palatability of the leaves as fodder. The Packalacca is in the same genus as the common local weed, the introduced Ink Weed or Dyeberry Phytolacca octandra and the Poke Weed Phytolacca americana from the United States. Pokeweed has been recorded from the Gold Coast hinterland area.  Although the Packalacca is an exotic it doesn’t appear to be invasive and its gaunt, sentinel form over old dairies on the Darling Downs and the Lockyer was a pleasant feature to behold. Its passing is with regret, at least by this writer.

Acacia resinicostata (Article and photo by Trish Gardner)

A diversion on our club outing to Sandisock (Sunday 05 August) gave us an opportunity to look at a very uncommon wattle. Acacia resinicostata grows in only a few disconnected places in Queensland - the Djuan population we saw on our Sunday outing, another population near Karara, and two populations in the Carn-arvon Range and the White Mountain National Park between Charters Towers and Hughenden.
Acacia resinicostata buds
This disjunct population suggests that at some time in the very distant past, the ecosystem between White Mountain and Karara provided opportunities for a continuous population to spread. The plants we saw were waist to shoulder height. They were in bud and may be showily in flower by the time you get this newsletter. Angus Stewart recommends it as a garden plant.
“Resinicostata” refers to resin and ribs. The branchlets, leaves and buds are covered in resin, with the ribs of the branchlets being covered with tiny resiny lumps. (You need a magnifying glass to see them well.)
For anyone who would like to look at the plants, head north on the New England Highway through Crows Nest then take Emu Creek Road to the right. Divert from there (another right turn) into Old Emu Creek Road. There were some roadside plants on the right just past the dump.

August Outing Report to Sandisock, Emu Creek

Twenty members took the meandering route through countryside between Goombungee and the New England Highway, pausing at Hampton. We took in the history of this once large town, and appreciated the one remaining commercial building, the very charming general store. For some members, this provided a welcome chance to buy coffee.
The roadkill count, 18 Red-necked Wallaby and two Swamp Wallaby (with the conspicuous white tip to their tails) led us to think that there must be plenty of these animals in the Hampton area. Nine living Red-necked Wallaby were also seen. Rod Hobson told us that the Swamp Wallaby had almost disappeared from the area but seems to be making a comeback.
Arriving at Sandisock, we were greeted with scones, jam and cream. Our hosts Graham and Adrienne Jocumsen have owned this getaway block for nearly 40 years and could tell us much about it. Its geology is interesting and varied, with some ancient granite outcrops, some much more modern basalt overlay, and some sandstone and conglomerate in between.
We separated into two groups, one to walk in the creek (more interesting birds) and one to go over the hill (more interesting plants). The birds were appreciating the permanent water in the creek. Like most of the district, Sandisock vegetation was looking sad because of the drought. However we found much to interest us in the narrow-leafed ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) woodland on the hill, and noted a number of vine scrub plants including Sweet Suzie, Psydrax odoratum, Triangle-leafed Hopbush Dodonaea triangularis (with its leaves that look like duck’s feet), Narrow leafed Hopbush Dodonaea viscosa, Scrub tuckeroo Cupaniopsis parvifolia, Leopard Ash Flindersia collina, Urn Heath Melichrus urceolata, Scrub Boonaree Alectryon diversifolius, and Chain fruit Alyxia ruscifolia.
Acacia paradoxa – prickly wattle (photo: Diana Ball)
We could only find small specimens of many of these plants, which suggests that in the absence of fire these rainforest-type species are invading what was once a dry sclerophyll environment. The most interesting plant was the Kangaroo Wattle, Acacia paradoxa - a prickly monster (see photo). One of the specimens was in bud and will be very pretty when in full flower. Not common in our district, it is found on the line of sandstone which runs through Goombungee. That area has some very different plants from the rest of the Eastern Downs, as often happens on poor soil.
Insects of interest were the Australian Emperor dragonfly, and an Eastern Brown butterfly. In all it was a very enjoyable day. Thank you very much Graham and Adrienne, for welcoming us to your special hideaway.

Members enjoying lunch at Sandisock (photo: Trish Gardner)
(Report by Trish Gardner)

Checklist for August outing to “Sandisock”, Emu Creek SEQ
at GDA94 – 56J E399946 x N7003822; +/- 500 metres.  (Compiled by Rod Hobson)

Golden Whistler                                  White-throated Honeyeater                Torresian Crow
Rufous Whistler                                  Brown Honeyeater                              Silvereye
Grey-crowned Babbler                       Noisy Miner                                        Red-browed Finch
Australian Magpie                               Red-backed Fairy-wren                      Striated Pardalote
Galah                                                   Superb Fairy-wren                              Pied Currawong
White-throated Gerygone                   Laughing Kookaburra                         Lewin’s honeyeater
Yellow-faced Honeyeater                   Grey Fantail                                        Magpie-lark

  • Macquarie Turtle Emydura macquarii x 1 (remains; adult; carapace and plastron only)
  • Giant Centipede Ethmostigmus rubripes x 2
  • a centipede Scolopendra laeta x 1
  • Bennett’s Woodland Snail Pallidelix bennetti x 2 (dead shells only)            
  • Australian Emperor Anax papuensis x 1
  • Wandering Percher Diplacodes bipunctata x 1
  • Monarch Danaus plexippus
  • European Honey Bee Apis meliffera (feral hive)
  • Black-headed Strobe Ant Opisthopis rufithorax
  • Brown Shield Ant Meranoplus sp.
  • Giant Bull Ant Myrmecia gulosa

  • Southern Meat Ant Iridomyrmex purpureus
  • a leaf beetle Paropsisterna octolineata
  • Tiger Assassin bug Havinthus rufovarius
  • a shield bug Theseus modestus (adult and nymph)
  • a cricket Leptogryllus sp. (identified by Matthew Connors)
  • a spider Hemicloea roganhoferi
  • a jumping spider Astia hariola x3 (2 female, 1 male))
  • a jumping spider Holoplatys planissima
  • a jumping spider Servaea incana x 3
  • Huntsman spider Delena cancerides x 2
  • Redback Spider Latrodectus hasseltii x 2 (female)

August Speaker Report: Pleistocene Megafauna of the Darling Downs

Ian and Diane Sobbe from Clifton brought part of their interesting collection of fossils to this presentation. Ian is a retired farmer, but he has had an interest in fossils since childhood and is now an Honorary Researcher at the Queensland Museum as well as a founder of the Clifton Megafauna Group. The extinct Darling Downs megafauna date from about 85,000 to 120,000 years ago, and their deposition characteristics represent events such as climate change and flood events during this time.
The best known of the megafauna is Diprotodon, a giant herbivorous marsupial standing two metres at the shoulder. Adults had jaws one metre long. Its closest living relatives are probably wombats. Fossil bones of the megafauna are seldom found as complete skeletons. Bones are usually found in deposits resulting from ancient creeks, in meanders where coarser sands and gravels deposited. Skulls tended to wash down first.
Carbon dating has not proved reliable, but an advanced method of dating quartz in which the fossil is deposited has proved more accurate. Quartz begins to absorb radiation when buried, and this can be measured. This dating shows that the megafauna evolved at the time when the climate changed dramatically from about 120,000 years ago. The climate seems to have dried, altering the vegetation from vine thicket to grassland. Remains of frogs and snails in earlier deposits indicate that the environment was much wetter in the past. 
Grassland suited Diprotodon and a whole ecosystem of larger fauna existed, including a five-metre carnivorous reptile Megalania, which was probably related to the extant Komodo Dragon. Three species of crocodile have been identified; one saltwater and one even larger, as well as a terrestrial species. The best-known mammalian carnivore is Thylacoleo, the so-called marsupial lion, a powerful predator with distinctive large premolar teeth and jaws, and musculature for massive bite pressure.
About 30 species of wallabies and kangaroos included some larger than any extant species and including long-faced and short-faced kangaroos. There were also larger wombats standing about one metre high. Speculation
Diprotodon jaw bone
continues as to the reasons for the extinction of Australia's megafauna. Debate concerns climate versus human involvement. Climate change seems to have been the major factor, but research continues.
Remains of megafauna are found over a large part of Australia, but the Downs have revealed a rich share of fossils. Digging and research continues, and new discoveries are being made. Fossil bones are carefully encased and removed for preservation by treatment with a Perspex-like solution. Many megafauna fossils are overseas, in the British Museum and in other places including the Paris Natural History Museum. However, the Clifton group have a large collection, and are hoping to eventually develop a dedicated museum in Clifton. About $5 million is needed to develop the building and interpretative displays.
There are a number of books about the megafauna, and plenty of online information, including short videos of Ian speaking about his work and the museum. Google 'Clifton Megafauna' to view these. There is also a Face-book group; look for Clifton Megafauna Group Inc. If any of you are going to Brisbane, there is a good exhibit of Australia's palaeontology at the Queensland Museum.

Field Naturalist members looking at fossils
(Report by Sheryl Haxen)

Monday, July 30, 2018

Update on Birdwing Butterflies at Townsville (by Barbara Weller)

The caterpillars eventually stripped and ring-barked the vine and had to be relocated for their survival. Approximately 50 caterpillars and pupae were adopted by a carer. My daughter was given a replacement vine which, when I visited recently, had two very large caterpillars living on it. There was also a female Birdwing Butterfly flying around, no doubt, looking for a place to lay her eggs.

(Photos by Karen Weller)

Stripped vine
Birdwing Caterpillar
Caterpillars ready to pupate

Queensland Road Trip - article and photos by Mary Petr

In May I took my brother and his girlfriend on a three-week road trip – Carnarvon Gorge, Blackdown Table-land National Park, Eungella National Park, Cania Gorge National Park, Lady Elliot Island, Noosa Headland, and Mary Cairncross Park, as well as Girraween and Bald Rock after we returned to Toowoomba. They loved everything. After the platypuses at Eungella, they said they wanted to see an echidna. I told them not to count on it. But three days later we saw two, which did not seem at all bothered by being followed around and photographed. In fact, one of them was about 30 seconds away from climbing over our feet when one of us stepped aside. It rolled up, then unrolled and continued on towards us. I stepped aside and this time it changed direction. But I could not give them a koala. My brother took videos of the platypuses and echidnas which are at the following YouTube links:  rxxl9F6Htas   73sXPa7kZSg.