North Queensland Naturalist

Volume 47 (2017)

 

New and important distribution records for Candalides butterflies in Australia, with observations on their biology and adult food plants

Kelvyn L. Dunn, pp. 1-5

 

Abstract

 

This paper lists fourteen (14) new or important locations in Australia for six species of butterflies from the genus Candalides Hübner (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae: Polyommatinae), namely C. helenita (Shining Pencil-blue), C. cyprotus (Copper Pencil-blue), C. hyacinthina (Varied Dusky-blue), C. erinus (Small Dusky-blue),  C. delospila (Spotted Dusky-blue) and C. heathi (Rayed Blue). Notes associated with particular records provide insight into the ecological circumstances and the behaviour of the species at particular sites.

If it smells like a bower and functions like a bower then … response to Frith

Graham Harrington, pp. 6-7

... it's a court .... response to Harrington

Clifford B. Frith, pp. 8-9

 

A colourful new Australian reaches Talaroo: the Tawny Coster butterfly, Acraea terpsicore

Donald C. Franklin, Scott C. Morrison and Gary W. Wilson, pp. 10-13

Abstract

Since being first found in Australia near Darwin in 2012, the Tawny Coster butterfly (Acraea terpsicore; Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae) has spread rapidly. We report its presence at Talaroo Station between Mt Surprise and Georgetown in far north Queensland, the species being detected at six of 13 sites that were surveyed for butterflies in February 2017. More than ten individuals were present at three sites, and breeding was confirmed at one of these. Talaroo falls a little outside the predicted preference envelope for the species in being in uplands well away from the coast, and in that the vegetation is little-disturbed, prompting the notion that the Tawny Coster may be even more versatile in its occurrence than previously suggested.

 

Musky Rat Kangaroos and other vertebrates feeding from the flowers of the root parasite Balanophora fungosa

Ray Pierce and Colin Ogle, pp. 14-20

Abstract

Balanophora fungosa subsp. fungosa (Balanophoraceae) is an animal-pollinated flowering angiosperm found in Queensland rainforests. The ecology of this root parasite is poorly known and a preliminary study was undertaken at Speewah to identify vertebrates that feed at Balanophora flowers and may thus be pollinators. Seventy-two vertebrate feeding events were filmed with motion-detecting cameras on two flowering clumps of B. fungosa. The two most frequent visitors to flowers were Bush Rats and Musky Rat Kangaroos, but other mammals and birds (honeyeaters) were occasional visitors. Some individually recognisable Bush Rats and Musky Rat Kangaroos were repeat visitors to the same plants where they fed gently and mainly from the male flowers. Honeyeaters of four species take a higher risk than is normal for them in coming to ground-level to feed, suggesting that the nectar and/or pollen of B. fungosa is of high value to them. Most feeding took place at male flowers. This study identifies flowering B. fungosa being visited by a broad guild of vertebrate visitors not previously known to visit these plants, but it is currently not clear how these animals or the plant benefit.

 

Use of reforested rainforest by arboreal marsupials on the Atherton Tablelands, North-Eastern Australia – a preliminary assessment

Steven Zachar, John Grant, John Winter and Mark McCaffrey, pp 21-27

Abstract

Conservation efforts over the past two decades have restored some of the tropical rainforest cover in the fragmented landscape of the Atherton Tableland, north Queensland. This study is the first to systematically assess whether or not endemic arboreal mammal species are colonizing revegetated areas. We measured their use by five target arboreal marsupials: Lumholtz’s Tree-Kangaroo, Coppery Brushtail Possum, Green Ringtail Possum, Herbert River Ringtail Possum, and Lemuroid Ringtail Possum. Using spotlights, we conducted five surveys in each of 10 sites on the Atherton Tablelands in both restored and remnant reference plots.

 

Statistical power was low due to few observations so assessing differences between experimental (replanted) and control (remnant) plots was not possible. However, Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroos, Coppery Brushtails, and Green Ringtails were observed permanently inhabiting replanted sites, including one, not adjacent to remnant rainforest. Herbert River Ringtails and Lemuroid Ringtails were, as expected, restricted to the two higher altitude sites and occurred in remnant rainforest. The Herbert River Ringtail occurred in the replanted forest at both sites, whereas the one observation of a Lemuroid Ringtail was on the edge of a replanted site that was closely bracketed by remnant forest.

 

Findings from this study support revegetation projects throughout the Atherton Tablelands based on their successful uses by arboreal marsupials for habitat.

 

Arrival of Tawny Coster butterflies on the East Australian Coast coinciding with the winds of Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Ashley Raymond Field, pp. 28-31

Abstract

Acraea terpiscore, the Tawny Coster butterfly was first observed on the east coast of Australia in Cairns on the 27th March, 2017. It arrived in large numbers as scattered southwesterly to southeasterly migration over Trinity Bay on hot prevailing winds drawn by Tropical Cyclone Debbie. Migration rates were concentrated on the first day of arrival and decreased as the butterflies dispersed or continued migrating. The expansion of A. terpiscore from near Darwin to Cairns yields a revised estimate of their rate of expansion at 334 km year-1.

 

Large, temporary camps of the Little Red Flying-fox at Herberton

Donald C. Franklin, Terry A. Barnes and Kate Prout, pp. 32-42

Abstract

The Little Red Flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus) is the ultimate nomadic nectarivore of woodlands and open forests, tracking mass-flowering of eucalypts and other trees over great distances and forming large, temporary day-time camps (roosts) where food is available in quantity. We here report the formation and subsequent disbandment of two such camps along the Wild River in the town of Herberton in north Queensland. The camps were present in the warmer months of 2013/14 and 2016/17 and were associated with unusually extensive flowering of a number of local eucalypts and especially the Inland White Mahogany (Eucalyptus mediocris syn. E. portuensis). In both periods, the camps occupied, at their peak, more than 500 m of riparian vegetation, and flying-foxes roosted in at least 32 plant species ranging from tall trees to 3-m shrubs. The basis for population estimates are scant, but it is suspected that numbers peaked at c. 50,000 to 100,000 in 2013/14 and c. 10,000 to 15,000 in 2016/17. The occurrence of these large camps in Herberton was short-lived and unusual, and coincided with the mating season. We argue that these events are ecologically important and fascinating, and should be viewed as an asset to the town.

 

The fire ecology of Allocasuarina littoralis and Banksia plagiocarpa in montane heath of the southern Wet Tropics

Paul R. Williams, Patrick Centurino and Mark Parsons, pp. 43-48

Abstract

Montane heath on Hinchinbrook Island and adjacent mainland of the southern Wet Tropics is of conservation significance, due to the restricted distribution of the ecosystem and the co-dominant shrub Banksia plagiocarpa (Blue Banksia). Fire is the primary land management action and it has previously been established that B. plagiocarpa is killed by fire, while the other dominant shrub Allocasuarina littoralis (Montane Oak) can survive fire via coppice shoots. This study provides further specifics about the fire ecology of A. littoralis and B. plagiocarpa. Observed fires were patchy, and long unburnt heath appeared to be senescing. Around half of A. littoralis plants survived fire by coppicing and quickly regrew towards pre-fire stem heights, although age to seed production by seedlings remains unknown. Banksia plagiocarpa has fire-promoted seedlings that grow slowly, averaging around 30 cm at three years of age and begin to produce seed in their fifth year. It is proposed that current recommendations of patchy burns every six to ten years be extended to predominantly 10 to 20 year intervals to allow adequate seed production, with occasional more frequent fires and some longer unburnt patches. Patchiness can be achieved by burning with good soil moisture and igniting from ridges downwards. We recommend that montane heath populations of A. littoralis receive taxonomic assessment as a potential distinct subspecies because they differ from forest populations in being shrubby and resprouting.

 

The Black-eared Catbird, catbird taxonomy, and the contemporary proliferation of bird species

Clifford B. Frith, pp. 49-55

Abstract

The recent use of the common name of Spotted Catbird for what was originally described only as Ailuroedus melanotis is incorrect from the historic, scientific, and vernacular name point of view. The literal translation of melanotis is "black-eared" and the scientific name A. melanotis was that logically applied when the species was described. It was then referred to as the Black-cheeked or Black-eared Catbird in foundation literature and the latter name persisted until changed without justification to Spotted Catbird. The species is extensively distributed across New Guinea, where it is called Black-eared Catbird, with but a tiny north-eastern Queensland distribution in Australia. Black-eared Catbird is more informative and helpful given that this species is no more spotted than other catbirds and that there is a White-eared Catbird A. buccoides in New Guinea. Black-eared Catbird was applied as the vernacular name for A. melanotis in recent authoritative literature about the bowerbird family, the Australasian avifauna and particularly New Guinea, and world bird listings, and should be used so long as the taxon is A. melanotis. A recent genetics-based study resulted in systematists elevating most catbird subspecies to species that are morphologically so similar as to be all-but unidentifiable in the field. The similarly genetics-based elevation of some bird of paradise subspecies results in species that appear identical in the wild. Perhaps there is a need to address the practicality of such species in view of their detrimental consequences for ornithology, bird watching, and field guides.

 

The strange case of Queensland Peppermint (Eucalyptus exserta) on Dunk Island

Donald C. Franklin & Christine Sanders, pp. 56-64

Abstract

In 1951, botanist Stanley Blake visited Dunk Island for a day, subsequently lodging 33 collections of 16 plant species from there with Australian herbaria. Among those collections are three of Eucalyptus exserta (Queensland Peppermint). This struck us as strange because Queensland Peppermint is a small tree in north Queensland otherwise associated with harsh woodland sites with 500 to 1,400 mm mean annual rainfall and a long dry season, whereas Dunk Island has a mean annual rainfall of 2,800 mm, a muted dry season and dense vegetation. Eucalypt specialists confirmed the correctness of Blake’s identification from his specimens and agreed that the location was quite out of character.

We visited Dunk Island twice to search for the species. On the second occasion we had the information that Blake’s specimens are labelled as being 4 m above sea level (no other specific location information being available), and found the species readily. On Dunk Island, Queensland Peppermint occurs along the walk to, and behind, Muggy Muggy Beach at the north end of the island along at least 850 m of coastline, and the population is likely to number several hundred mature individuals. Many are scarcely above the high-tide mark and overhang the sea, but others grow on the adjacent slope to about 40 m ASL. The species is associated there with jagged upturned outcrops of strongly-metamorphosed layered rocks that generate harsh growing conditions.

 

The occurrence of Queensland Peppermint on Dunk Island raises intriguing ecological and biogeographical questions.

North Queensland Naturalist

ISSN  2651-9739

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