North Queensland Naturalist
Volume 46 (2016)
Natural history, science and conservation: the 70 year legacy of the North Queensland Naturalist 1933-2002
Peter S. Valentine, pp. ii-x
This paper presents an over-view of the original journal based on a review of the collection held by the Cairns Historical Society. It focusses on the scope of material covered, examples of subjects and some of the many significant authors who published their observations over the period.
A mast flowering event in a eucalypt of tropical upland dry sclerophyll forest
Donald C. Franklin, Terry Barnes and Alan Winlaw, pp. 1-10
Synchronised flowering of individuals of long-lived plant species at intervals of greater than one year, and which is bimodal between “much” and “few”, is known as masting. Masting appears to be common among eucalypts but has not been formally described as such. We provide quantitative data on a mass-flowering event in the Inland White Mahogany (Eucalyptus mediocris) in upland dry sclerophyll forest in north Queensland, along with anecdotal evidence that mass-flowering events in this species occur as infrequently as once per decade. Based on a survey of 549 trees spread across 37 sites, we estimate that 97% of healthy, mature Inland White Mahogany flowered between late November 2013 and February 2014, and 75% of these flowered heavily. Within the study area, flowering was staggered over about 12 weeks, with local synchrony being greater than regional synchrony. Fourteen percent of trees had capsules from a previous flowering event, and these trees displayed lower flowering effort than those without capsules. We argue that the event is appropriately described as masting. The factors driving masting in eucalypts are unknown, but this event may have been synchronised by a short but sharp drought 12 months prior.
Southerly extension of the known range of the mangrove Bruguiera cylindrica
Hidetoshi Kudo, pp. 11-15
This report describes the discovery of the mangrove Bruguiera cylindrica near Cairns, Australia. This is a southerly extension to the known range of approximately 170 km.
Charles Weldon (de Burgh) Birch (Count Zelling), an unassuming botanical and zoological collector in central and north-eastern Queensland
John Leslie Dowe, pp. 16-46
Charles Weldon (de Burgh) Birch (Count Zelling) (1821-94) was an amateur botanical and zoological collector active in central and north-eastern Queensland 1852-93. He was the embodiment of the wandering naturalist, but as with most amateur collectors he remained on the fringe of ‘official’ science. Birch’s first documented zoological collections were land and freshwater shells collected in 1857 at the Namoi River. He went on to collect freshwater invertebrates, fishes, insects, gastropods and later reptiles, a total of at least 60 specimens which were mainly sent to the Australian Museum and later the Queensland Museum. His first documented botanical collection, a Nymphaea sp. from Thomson River, was made in 1870, and was collected with the encouragement of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Victorian Government Botanist, and the most eminent Australian botanist of the nineteenth century. About 760 botanical specimens collected by Birch are extant, most of which are in the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. A significant early influence on Birch’s later activities was Samuel Stutchbury, New South Wales Government Geological Surveyor to whom Birch acted as assistant 1852-55 and for whom he anonymously collected palaeontological, mineralogical and zoological specimens as part of his field-work duties. In 1870, Birch became involved in the search for the lost explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, and was commissioned by the Ladies’ Search Committee to undertake an expedition to investigate a possible survivor of Leichhardt’s missing party living in the Thomson/Diamantina Rivers area. The search revealed no positive evidence of Leichhardt or his party. Birch took on additional names which he related to his ancestry, ‘de Burgh’ in 1871 and ‘Count Zelling’ in 1874, and which he used in official documents, written works and specimen labels. Based on specimens that he collected, Birch is commemorated in four plant and animal taxa including the Galvanised Burr, Sclerolaena birchii (F.Muell.) Domin; the Gidgee Skink, Egernia stokesii zellingi De Vis, 1884; the Proserpine Dual-banded Snail, Bentosites birchi Iredale, 1933 [Sphaerospira gavisa Iredale, 1933]; and a clam-shrimp Limnadopsis birchii Baird, 1860. Including the above eponymous taxa, Birch collected the type specimens of bryophytes (2 taxa), lichens (2), angiosperms (14), gastropods (1), branchiopod crustaceans (1), insects (1) and reptiles (5).
An adventive cockroach new to Queensland: implications for the future
D.C.F. Rentz, pp. 47-52
The first record of the blattelline cockroach Margattea nimbata nimbata (Shelford) is reported from Queensland. A population of the species was discovered inhabiting the strand flora at Clifton Beach, north of Cairns. The species was recorded initially in Australia from the Darwin, Northern Territory area in the early 1960s but has not been recorded since. It is a well-known species in South Asia. Illustrations for identification and habitat notes are provided.
Two sight records of the Orange-banded Plane (Lexias aeropa) from the Iron Range area, and a note on larval foodplants
Donald C. Franklin and Graham Wood, pp. 53-56
The Orange-banded Plane (Lexias aeropa) is a large nymphalid butterfly of New Guinea and adjacent islands. Its occurrence in Australia is evidenced by three specimens and two sightings from northern Cape York Peninsula including one sighting in the Iron Range area. We report two additional sightings from the Iron Range area, along with a record of larvae being raised on the tree Calophyllum inophyllum in Papua New Guinea by the late Harry Borch.
A preliminary assessment of the natural history and conservation status of the Jardine River Turtle (Emydura subglobosa subglobosa) in northern Australia
Alastair B. Freeman, Warren Strevens, Daniel Sebasio and John Cann, pp. 57-68
This paper details work that has been carried out on the Jardine River Turtle (Emydura subglobosa subglobosa) in Australia in 2014 and 2015. Over these two years surveys have confirmed that this is an elusive and rare species of freshwater turtle in Australia seemingly confined to a very few localities in and adjacent to the Jardine River on Cape York. Details of sites surveyed, methodology and survey effort are detailed as are the results of more intensive monitoring work that has been carried out at two of the four known sites. Summary data are presented for 26 Jardine River Turtles that have been weighed, measured and individually marked as part of this monitoring program. Preliminary identification of three potential threats to the turtle in the area, feral pig predation of nests, poaching for the southern pet markets, and the impacts of climate change on the length and intensity of the dry season, are also detailed.
A new southern record of the Golden Jezebel (Delias aruna) on Cape York Peninsula
Jun Matsui and Peter Valentine, pp. 69-70
The Golden Jezebel (Delias aruna) is a large pierid butterfly known in Australia from Torres Strait and from Cape York to the McIlwraith Range, with most sightings in the Iron Range area. This paper records a new southern record, and thus a possible extension of range, in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park some 100 km south-east of previous records and in quite different habitat to normal.
Natural heritage values of the Chillagoe and Mitchell-Palmer karst and caves
David Gillieson, pp. 71-85
Karst (limestone) landforms and associated features such as caves are distributed widely throughout the world. They have many natural heritage values and many are located in protected areas including several which are on the World Heritage List. In North Queensland, two areas notable for their karst geoheritage values have been evaluated as part of the National Heritage List process. The karst towers or bluffs at Chillagoe extend over a considerable distance and achieve heights of up to 65 m above the surrounding undulating terrain. Further north, the karst towers at the Mitchell-Palmer area achieve greater heights and extend over a distance of 80 km between the Mitchell and Palmer rivers. Tower karst is an unusual landscape type in Australia, with clearly the best examples found in the Chillagoe Karst Region. They may be potentially significant at a global level with the closest comparisons being in Cuba and Madagascar. Over 1000 caves have been recorded in the towers, and contain unusual calcite formations, fossil bone deposits and unique copper sinter deposits. A National Heritage List nomination for the Chillagoe and Mitchell-Palmer karst areas was submitted in 2009. The proposed boundaries of the Heritage place were adjusted to avoid current mining leases, reducing the total area by around 50%. The Australian Heritage Council has now assessed the Chillagoe Karst Region and has identified that the Chillagoe Karst Region (including parts of the Mitchell-Palmer Karst Belt) meets the National Heritage criteria for its outstanding karst limestone bluffs, towers and cave development. The Council’s assessment was made available for public review and comment until November 2015, and following this the assessment and comments are now with the Minister for the Environment for a final decision. Current environmental issues include fire management, weed control, feral animals and the impacts of mining.
An observation of Black-necked Stork hunting and eating an Australasian Grebe
Peter S. Valentine, pp. 86-89
In October 2015 a male Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus australis) was seen stalking, catching, killing and eating an Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) at Hasties Swamp National Park, northern Queensland. This appears to be only the third record in Australia and the first in Queensland of predation on a waterbird. Detailed photographs are included.
Rainbowfishes (Melanotaeniidae) of the Rocky Creek springs district on the Atherton Tablelands, north Queensland
Keith C. Martin and Susan Barclay, pp. 90-98
Rocky Creek is a tributary stream of the upper Barron River, on the Atherton Tablelands, north Queensland. Freshwater spring systems occur in the upper reaches, the largest of which is Barney Springs. A rainbowfish variety collected from the spring systems and other sites in the Rocky Creek catchment appeared to be distinctively and unusually coloured compared to other Melanotaenia splendida splendida and Melanotaenia eachamensis samples that were collected from nearby streams elsewhere in the upper Barron catchment. The Rocky Creek rainbowfish is most likely allied to Melanotaenia s. splendida although the form appears to have some colour and patterning characteristics of Melanotaenia utcheensis, a rainbowfish species from the Johnstone River catchment, to the south of the Barron River.
The distinctive colour form of the Rocky Creek springs rainbowfish may be due to its long isolation in an unusual environment combined with genetic introgression with other forms. Rainbowfish from the main channel of Rocky Creek may be mixed to varying degrees with the more continuous and widespread Melanotaenia s. splendida populations that occur further downstream.
Camera-trap surveys of the northern Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus gracilis) in the Cairns to Innisfail hinterland
Luke Jackson and Alberto Vale, pp. 99-106
The northern subspecies of the Spotted-tailed Quoll, Dasyurus maculatus gracilis, is confined to rainforests and adjacent habitats in Queensland’s Wet Tropics, where it was estimated to number 540 individuals and to be in on-going decline. Using motion-sensor cameras equipped with a flash and set at chicken baits, we surveyed eight rainforest areas from which the subspecies has previously been recorded. Survey areas ranged from Barron Gorge National Park south to Mt Bartle Frere, with cameras set at elevations from 400 to 1,600 m ASL. A total of 740 camera days of effort yielded eleven images of the Spotted-tailed Quoll from four cameras in two areas – the Bellenden Ker Range and Mt Bartle Frere. From these, five individuals are identifiable on the basis of spot patterns. Given the proven record of this technique in detecting the species, our failure to detect quolls at two other high-elevation areas is cause for concern. Twenty-one other species, including the Endangered Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii), were also detected in camera images.
Bowerbird display site nomenclature: The court case for the Tooth-billed Bowerbird
Clifford B. Frith, pp. 108-114
The male Tooth-billed Bowerbird clears a display court on the ground. Some authors have erroneously referred to this court as a bower. This is incorrect and confusing from the English language, scientific, and ornithological literature points of view. The reasons for this misuse of the word bower are explained and discussed, and another example of how such inappropriate nomenclature have persisted in the bowerbird literature is detailed. The recent standard and widely used nomenclature for bowerbird display sites is provided. In addition, the males of Tooth-billed and one or two other bowerbirds have been described as forming exploded leks at their display sites, but this has never been unequivocally demonstrated, for reasons detailed and discussed.
Koel response to a small python
Rupert Russell, pp. 115-116
A male and female Eastern Koel responded to a small Australian Scrub Python, a possible predator, with noiseless bobbing behaviour and flaring of the tail, behaviour that has not previously been reported.