David P

DISPLAYING POSTS BY: David P (2)

David P

David is new to the world of animal keeping, but his enthusiasm is certainly making up for his experience. He is no stranger to getting muddy on the job.

Bug of the month

Author
by David P
Publish date
1 September 2011
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Comments (1)

Prior to becoming a keeper with the Live Exhibits team at Melbourne Museum, my knowledge of grasshoppers was quite limited. Locusts were probably the type of grasshopper of which I was most aware, due to their high numbers during the warmer months. They are also responsible for the must-have car fashion accessory adorning the front of vehicles, in the form of flywire to stop cars from overheating. In truth, locusts are just one of an estimated 700 species of grasshopper in Australia.

Common Toad Hopper The Common Toad Hopper (Buforania crassa) is an inquisitive creature.
Image: David Paddock
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Live Exhibits keeps many different types of grasshoppers and I am quite intrigued by them all, but the species which first caught my attention was the Common Toadhopper (Buforania crassa) from Central Australia. They are not particularly big - females are approximately 60mm long and males 40 mm long - and contrary to their name they rarely hop or jump, preferring to walk around. They have been described as an inquisitive grasshopper and that is what drew me to them. As with pets at home, if you are looking after an animal and you buy it a new toy or feed it a new food then you hope that they will enjoy it or get a reaction from it. I found that not too long after I added food they would be on it or in it. This included pollen, orthopteran mix (made up of muesli, fish flakes and other ingredients), and various forms of foliage, such as abelia, emu bush, acacia, and callistemon. You soon find out that they have their favourites - I would say that callistemon is in the top two.

Common Toad Hopper eating callistemon Common Toad Hopper (Buforania crassa) eating callistemon, one of its favourite foods.
Image: David Paddock
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Like most grasshoppers, Common Toadhoppers use camouflage to hide from predators. As you can see from the picture, once they are perched on a rock or stick during the daylight hours they can be very difficult to see. If they are brought up on a light sand substrate then their colours will reflect that.

Common Toadhopper camouflage Common Toadhoppers are masters of camouflage. Their colours can vary depending on what colour substrate they are brought up on.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Camouflaged Toadhopper Toadhopper perfectly disguised to match the branch it's sitting on.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Their reproductive cycle is very interesting. Grasshoppers generally breed in the summer months with the male perching on the female's back, either mating or guarding her from other males. The female then deposits her eggs in the soft sand and plugs them with a foamy substance. Our toadhopper populations here at Melbourne Museum vary seasonally and in some enclosures we currently have none at all, but we can see where females have deposited their eggs. Grasshopper eggs are good at withstanding drought periods. Normal incubation time for Common Toadhoppers is 1-3 months but it can be as long as 1-2 years, the eggs simply waiting for the right conditions. We can recreate those conditions, simulating warmer days with longer heat and light periods, and heavy rain through flooding the enclosures with water. Then hopefully not too long afterwards, little toadhopper nymphs will appear and even though they may not live up to the second part of their name, these grasshoppers certainly love eating grass.

young Common Toadhopper. A young Common Toadhopper.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the meantime, come along to Melbourne Museum and visit our male Common Toadhopper, featured in the arid section of our Habitats display in Bugs Alive!.

arid habitat display Toadhoppers are in the arid habitat display in Bugs Alive!.
Image: David Paddock
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The world’s slowest hunters

Author
by David P
Publish date
18 April 2011
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We have many different types of snail here at Melbourne Museum. They range from the very well-known Common Garden Snail (Cantareus aspersa), which was introduced into Australia from Europe in the early 1800s, to Australia’s largest snail, the Giant Panda Snail (Hedleyella falconeri), from the forests around the border of New South Wales and Queensland. There are many differences between the snails in our collection but one trait that they generally share is what they eat. Most snails are herbivorous and feed on plant matter or fungi – much to the frustration of many gardeners. However, some snails have different eating habits and they are in fact carnivorous. We have one such predatory creature here.

Carnivorous snail Carnivorous snail feeding on a Common Garden Snail.
Image: David Paddock
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Now, a snail is not exactly known for its speed, but these snails actually chase down and eat other animals, feeding on worms and other molluscs, including snails. While what they eat is different, the way that they eat is exactly the same. Snails have a radula – a tongue-like structure covered by rows of rasping teeth. To see the feeding structure (mouth) of a snail, place it on a clear glass sheet and watch from below.

Carnivorous snail Carnivorous snail eating a Common Garden Snail.
Image: David Paddock
Source: Museum Victoria
 

These pictures were taken here at Melbourne Museum in our back-of-house animal care facility. The smaller carnivorous snail (Terrycarlessia tubinata) is eating a Common Garden Snail. A few days later all that was left of the victim was an empty shell!

If you are interested in snails and would like to see some of Australia's biggest species, come along to Melbourne Museum and see our Rainforest Snails and Giant Panda Snails on display now in Bugs Alive.

Links:

Infosheet: Land snails of Victoria

MV Blog: Snail of a surprise

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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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