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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: desert (2)

The bountiful Mallee

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
17 December 2014
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In Bugs Alive! you can see almost 50 displays of live invertebrates. Most of them from either tropical or arid parts of Australia, illustrating the adaptations needed for living in extreme environments.

Blue butterfly and bee fly resting on grass stems Sleeping beauties, clothed in condensation in the early hours of the morning. | Left: Common Grass Blue (Zizina labradus) Right: A bee fly (Family Bombyliidae)
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So each year, when the weather conditions are right, we head out to the Mallee to boost our stocks of insects and spiders. The best time to visit is on a hot, humid night—which happened last week—just before or just after a thunderstorm. Like most desert species, Mallee insects wait months for the rain and then emerge from the spinifex in their thousands.

Two people in arid landscape Chloe Miller and Maik Fiedel searching through typical Mallee habitat.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

At night the desert resonates with the songs of katydids, the loudest of which come from Robust Fan-winged Katydids (Psacadonotus robustus). Unfortunately the fat abdomen of this dun-coloured species is often host to the larvae of tachinid flies (family Tachinidae). These parasites feed on the internal organs before emerging from the katydid which dies soon afterwards.

Brown katydid grasshopper A male Robust Fan-winged Katydid (Psacadonotus robustus).
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Most katydid species are surprisingly colourful, sporting bright greens, blues and reds.

Three katydid grasshoppers Left: Female Striped Polichne (Polichne argentata); Centre: The undescribed ‘Mystery Hump-backed Katydid’ (Elephantodea species); Right: The unfortunately-named Victorian Sluggish Katydid (Hemisaga lanceolata).
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

One of our prime targets is Mitchell’s Cockroach (Polyzosteria mitchelli) which we breed at Melbourne Museum off-display, perhaps the most beautiful cockroach in Australia. With its golden markings and eggshell-blue legs, this species is one of more than 500 native cockroaches that are rarely seen by the average Australian but which are extremely important in native ecosystems. They shouldn’t be confused with the five or so introduced cockroach species that infest our houses–native cockroaches are happy in the bush and almost never come inside.

colourful cockroach A female Mitchell’s Cockroach (Polyzosteria mitchelli)
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The desert seems to wake up after a rainstorm, with unexpected species such as snails and damselflies making an appearance.

Damselfly and group of snails Left: A female Metallic Ringtail damselfly (Austrolestes cingulatus). Right: Tiny desert snails (Microxeromagma lowei) living under bark.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

Wolf spiders are the dominant ground species, their emerald eyes shining in the torchlight. This male wolf spider (below) was seen halfway down a burrow and was difficult to distract until we discovered the source of his interest—a large female wolf spider at the bottom of the burrow.

Wolf spider and burrow Left: A male wolf spider (LycosaRight: Close-up of the male.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Little Desert, Big Desert, Sunset Country and Hattah-Kulkyne each have their own distinct habitats and faunas, just a few hours’ drive from Melbourne.

Landscape with blue sky The endless sky and flat horizon of the Mallee region.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Bush Blitz at Neds Corner

Author
by Mark Norman
Publish date
30 November 2011
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Mark is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria. He's reporting back from Neds Corner in this series of blog posts.

Researchers from the museum's Sciences and Live Exhibits departments have gathered in the far north-west corner of Victoria to survey the wildlife of Neds Corner Station on the state's desert fringe. The Neds Corner survey is part of the Bush Blitz program, a biodiversity discovery partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia. It aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. The 30,000 hectare reserve is managed by the Trust for Nature, an independent not-for-profit organisation that purchases and permanently protects properties to conserve nature.

Saltbush Saltbush at Ned's Corner
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The survey encompasses animals, plants and fungi, so the museum team has joined scientists from the National Herbarium of Victoria, the Queensland Museum and the University of New South Wales. They have also been joined by five staff from BHP's Environmental Division around Australia, who will be aiding the researchers in the field and lab.

Ned's Corner Bush Blitz team The Ned's Corner Bush Blitz team.
Source: Museum Victoria

The aim is to survey across the many arid fringe habitats found in the Neds Corner reserve including saltbush plains, mallee scrub, clay pans, sandy rises and amongst the River Red Gums and Black Box eucalypts that line the adjacent Murray River.

Ned's Corner habitats Habitats at Ned's Corner. Above: River Red Gum forest. Below: Black Box eucalypts.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The survey runs from 21 November to 2 December and the museum team are using extensive visual and acoustic surveys, pitfall trap lines, small mammal traps, baited cage traps, bat sonic listening devices and moth light stations to census the wildlife.

two types of traps Two types of traps in use at Ned's Corner. Above: small mammal trap Below: pitfall trap
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity partnership discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia, that aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. Museum Victoria also participated in Bush Blitz at Lake Condah in March 2011.

Links:

Parks Australia blog

Bush Blitz

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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