The Wildlife Of Undara Queensland

A while ago - Jo, myself and the English outlaws (Jo's family), took a trip to check out the Undara lava tubes - which, unsurprisingly are situated within the Undara national park a few hours drive from the east coast of North Queensland. What follows is a brief pictorial review of what we came across along with a smattering of pics taken in the garden ...

Undara is blessed with an absolutely gob smacking amount of butterflies and moths and it would be impossible to include all we saw and snapped. However here are a few to pique your interest.


Cressida_cressida


Mating


'Common' Crow


Eurema_hecabe


Unknown but I like the smiley face on its butt :)


Of course with all this lepidopteran activity going on, their predators were going to be around too - and so they were ...


Nephila_edulis


As the latin name suggests, this large and handsome Orb-weaver (above), is sometimes eaten by people ... (Bear Grylls would be positively foaming at the mouth eh?).

Our second spider gave me pause, I'm pretty sure it's a comb footed spider and perhaps even the oft maligned "Red Back" of legend ... I certainly wasn't going to argue the toss with her, and anyway she obviously had quite enough on her plate without me adding to the drama ...


Theridiid? sp Guarding her precious eggs


We were also lucky enough to find an impressive array of Scorpions too - thanks to Jo who had gotten me a black light, it worked a treat!

This Mottled scorpion, (below), with its relatively diminutive chelae (pincers), and fat 'tail' ending with its over-sized telson (stinger), told me that this little guy probably packs quite the punch!.

There have been no deaths from scorpion envenomation that I'm aware of here in Oz ... Still - there's always a first time eh?


Lychas sp


And a nice surprise - a mildly truculent New Holland frog ...


Cyclorana novaehollandiae


Not all the predators were so small - this resplendent and truly iconic Frilled-neck lizard is, in my opinion - the King of the dragons.


Chlamydosaurus kingii


It wasn't all dog eat dog though, the place abounds in macropods - including these disingenuously named 'Wallaroo's". They aren't as one might suppose a mix of Kangaroo and Wallaby - but have their own distinct species.


Macropus robustus


All in all it was a great little trip and if you're up this way, one I'd encourage you to do ... here's a little of what they say about themselves ...


For millions of years Undara was an active shield volcano. About 190,000 years ago, in the Cainozoic Era, there was a massive eruption and lava flowed more than 90 km to the north and over 160 km to the north-west. An estimated 23.3 km3 of lava flowed from the volcano at a rate of about 1000 m3 every second. A lava flow this large could fill Sydney Harbour in six days. It is thought that the lava flowed at a temperature of around 1200 °C.

The lava tubes and caves were formed when rivers of lava confined to a valley crusted over and formed a roof. Insulated in its casing of solidified lava, the lava flow carried on for tens of kilometres before draining out, leaving an empty tube of lava. Weaker sections of the roof of the tubes later collapsed to form caves and depressions. More than 50 caves have been found in the park. ^


And thus it was back to the garden, not a wallaroo in sight - but as always there are a number of interesting critters just waiting to be bothered. And judging by the clingy behaviour of this misty-eyed Green tree frog upon our return, perhaps we were missed as well ;)


Yeah, missed you too little guy :)


This pretty little frog was reflecting in the rain on the pool fence - I'm unsure of the species, but at a guess I'd say it could well be a juv orange thighed or graceful tree frog - doesn't really matter I suppose - it's just nice to see them ...


Pondering the mysteries of the universe eh?


The grasshoppers are fairly conspicuous at this time year - with the poor critter in the second photo being attacked by ants as she emerged from her discarded skin. Being all moist and soggy, there was nothing she could do to escape the onslaught and was systematically dismembered and carted off to feed the nest - all rather grim ...


It may not be easy being green ...


But being brown is no picnic either - unless you're the ant


Speaking of grim, I snapped this predatory wasp as she was putting the finishing touches to her nest. I've posted about these wasps before, but as I think they're fascinating I'll give you the skinny once again ...

The wasp builds her nest of mud mixed with water and her saliva. She then seeks out spiders or caterpillars that she paralyses with her sting, before stuffing them into her nest where she lays an egg upon the unfortunate animal and seals the nest. Leaving the spider to the truly torturous fate of gradually being eaten alive by the developing wasp ...


Sceliphron sp


And then there's this glittering little lady - the northern jewel spider who has a special local claim to fame. She was the first species of spider to be scientifically recorded by Joseph Banks while on Cooks expedition to Australia in 1770. A specimen was transported all the way back to England and presumably is still tucked away in some dusty corner of London's natural history museum


Gasteracantha fornicata


Well my friends, that's about it - hope you enjoyed the post, and as always take care and I'll catch ya soon

- Paul :)



A wallaroo is any of three closely related species of moderately large macropod, intermediate in size between the kangaroos and the wallabies. The word "wallaroo" is a portmanteau of "wallaby" and "kangaroo". In general, a large, slim-bodied macropod of the open plains is called a "kangaroo"; a small to medium-sized one, particularly if it is relatively thick-set, is a "wallaby": most wallaroos are only a little smaller than a kangaroo, fairly thickset, and are found in open country. All share a particular habit of stance: wrists raised, elbows tucked close into the body, and shoulders thrown back, and all have a large, black-skinned rhinarium. ^

Four O'clock Moth and Friends

Despite having a much wetter winter than is the norm for the tropics of Far North Queensland we've had the 'normal' dry season visitors. Including the dazzling ulysses butterfly and the intriguingly named four o'clock moth. Both feed on the Carallia brachiata plant sometimes called a freshwater mangrove but more commonly, and simply known as a 'rainforest tree'. We have a number of these plants scattered throughout the yard. None were deliberately planted but were probably seeded by birds or perhaps rodents.

Interestingly two species of Lepidoptera have taken up residence on two separate Carallia growing just 2.5m apart and yet it seems that neither species lays on the others plant. And it isn't as simple as having a single adult laying on each plant as the instars of both are in varying stages of maturity so there have been multiple eggs laid, presumably from different adults of each insect.

Noting that one plant is in shade for a greater proportion of the day than the other, my theory is that Dysphania fenestrata (a.k.a. Dysphania numana); or the four o'clock moth, prefers the shade. This is re-enforced by the fact that when pupating the Dysphania constructs a chamber by tying leaves together with silk, also the pupa itself has a casing vaguely reminiscent of the thin crinkly brown skin found on a husked pea-nut ... not very resistant to U.V at all eh?

So shade along with a 'retreat' to prevent the insect drying out makes complete sense ... at least in my head.

Below are a series of pics comparing the two species from instar, pupa to adult. (click to enlarge)


Dysphania fenestrata


Papilio ulysses


Dysphania fenestrata


Papilio ulysses


Dysphania fenestrata


Dysphania fenestrata


Papilio ulysses


Typically for Papilionidae, the ulysses instar has a striking defence mechanism. When disturbed they erect their osmeterium, which for all the world unfurl like twin light-sabres from the head of the insect and release a smell that some have described as pungent, but I disagree - to me the smell is sweet and a bit citrusy. The osmeterium of the ulysses is vivid orange however, in an orchid swallowtail it's fluorescent pink.

The Dysphania is a member of the looper or Geometridae family of moth. The adjective looper describes the method of locomotion the instar or caterpillar uses when getting around. They first clasp the stem or leaf they're on with modified back legs that resemble a baseball glove, stretch their body out to gain purchase with a set of front legs and then draw their rear up towards the head creating a loop. The boldly contrasting patterns of the adult give a clue to it's diurnal nature and is probably a warning to hungry predators that it wouldn't make a very tasty snack. The instars seem to come in two colour variations of predominantly green or yellow and I wonder if this is due to the pigmentation for the leaves they feed on as the Carallia plant (at least at this time of year), has both green and yellow leaves ... something to ponder eh?

... enough pondering - on with the post:

The rainbow/leaf-litter skinks are still plentiful and despite the fact that it's outside the breeding season they continue to engage in, what can only be described as an endless game of reptilian tag; chasing each other here and there with much tail twitching and manic head bobbing. There never seems to be much damage done and I could easily be convinced that, as doubtful as it seems, they might very well be playing - who can say?.


Something unidentifiable but obviously quite delicious 


Who's 'it'?


Just three of the numerous Carlia we have around the place


As for the frogs? Well, with relatively cooler temps they're keeping pretty quiet but there is a lovely white lip knocking around and this pensive common green tree frog turned up a little while ago - we see other species on occasion but for the most part the nights are still and maddeningly unfroggy ...


Litoria caerulea


Speaking of winter, these little Australian native welcome swallows are a common sight around the joint. They tend to migrate north in the cooler months but can be seen at any time of year here and we currently have a couple who think nothing of zooming inside and taking a break on the ceiling fans. They sit and chat away to both themselves and us (which can be a bit disconcerting if you've just stepped out the shower ...). Anyway - just this morning I had a list of things I wanted to get done, thus I was rooted to the spot staring at my coffee achieving exactly nothing when one of the swallows swooped down and settled on the brim of my cap. There's nothing quite like looking directly into the firing end of wild bird mere centimetres away to focus the mind, but before I could make any sort of decision regarding my course of action the bird flipped around so that now it was head down, gazing straight into my eyes.

He cocked his head first one way - then the other, and I swear to you, for just a moment - I was certain he was about to ask how my morning was going. He didn't (thank god) - he simply flitted off - twittering away to his partner presumably telling her that while I was definitely a bit daft, I was probably harmless ...


Welcome swallow Hirundo neoxena


Being pitied by a bird is, frankly, a little hard to take, but being completely ignored by one is damned near insufferable. The laughing kookaburra's are a law unto themselves around here and generally view the garden as a private larder - they'll eat snakes, lizards, birds (esp hatchlings), insects, frogs, scraps ... virtually anything they can grasp in their beaks and hammer into a suitable consistency for swallowing.

Like I said - they tend to ignore me, but should they deign to acknowledge my existence - they'll fix me with a steady, enquiring gaze a small smirk playing about their beak. Leaving one with the unsettling suspicion that, should the frog supply get a bit low, you may very well fit the bill - so to speak.

It doesn't help that they laugh as you're walking away either ... (how does it go? - a 'murder of crows', a 'parliament of owls', a 'flight of swallows' etc ... well, I'd like to nominate a 'bastard of kookaburra's' as the name for that particular grouping of birds ...)


Laughing kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae

I kid ... mostly ...

Now for one of my most treasured garden companions of all time - a mantis. This one is a juvenile, around 20-25mm T.L. Size aside, I watched him rock and then leap through the twigs and leaves of his world for some time. Due to its immaturity, I'm afraid I can't be sure of the species, but I think it's another Giant Mantis that I've been lucky enough to photograph and post about previously.




And finally - a little pic of an even littler creature. The omnipresent dart butterfly. I have no idea how many times I have photographed these insects - but it's easily in the triple figures. Despite this - being common is NOT the same thing as being ordinary, (although people being a bit ordinary is pretty common). Anyway - let's just enjoy the pic shall we?


Dart Butterfly sp?


Till next time and as always, take care -

Paul :)



The Lepidoptera (/ˌlɛpɨˈdɒptərə/ lep-i-dop-tər-ə) is an order of insects that includes moths and butterflies (both called lepidopterans). 180,000 species of Lepidoptera are described, in 126 families and 46 superfamilies, 10% of the total described species of living organisms. It is one of the most widespread and widely recognizable insect orders in the world, encompassing moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies.

The term was coined by Linnaeus in 1735 and is derived from Ancient Greek λεπίδος (scale) and πτερόν (wing). The Lepidoptera show many variations of the basic body structure that have evolved to gain advantages in lifestyle and distribution. Recent estimates suggest the order may have more species than earlier thought, and is among the four most specious orders, along with the Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Coleoptera ^.



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