Sunday, 1 December 2019

Recent Chistenings

We recently described three new katydid species that may be of interest. All are in the tribe Agraeciini of the subfamily Conocephalinae. While that may be a mouthful, agraeciines are an important component of the Australian katydid biota, especially in the tropical regions. Many species remain to be described and their relationships established. A number of genera show relationships with those of New Guinea and the Pacific while others are wholly Australian.

Austrosalomona Rentz was described to accomodate three species. A. falcata (Redtenbacher) occurs along the coast from Bateman's Bay to Sydney, NSW. It is a common visitor to gardens in the Sydney area and can be heard and found in Sydney's Hyde Park. A. personifrons lives on Norfolk Island, South Pacific and A. zentae Rentz is known only from Lord Howe Island. Several species remain to be described occurring along the east coast of Australia from Fraser Island north to the Daintree.

Austrosalomona destructor Rentz & Su-The Destructive Katydid
We think this species is aptly named. Anyone trying to grow orchids, ginger or other plants with outstanding flowers will know this katydid because after dark it finds developing flowers and literally "nips them in the bud". In general these katydids are omnivorous opportunists. They will eat any plant or animal material that they find. And they are common. Co-incidentally, these katydids can be transported in or on vehicles or goods. During the day they secrete themselves in cracks and crevices and can be transported considerable distances to new habitats.

 Austrosalomona destructor Rentz and Su, Adult female
Austrosalomona destructor Rentz and Su frons. With some specimens the eyes are strikingly purple.
Austrosalomona destructor Rentz Su, nymph
Austrosalomona destructor Rentz and Su, ventral surface of abdomen.

Austrosalomona poecila Rentz & Su-The Grey Katydid
This is a larger and less common species than A. destructor. It occurs over much of the same geographic region and has been found on several coastal islands in the Cairns region. It seems to have much the same habits as A. destructor but is less common. Most dead specimens appear grey in colour but when living specimens are viewed closely, they are a variety of subtle colours.

 Austrosalomona poecila Rentz and Su, Adult female
  Austrosalomona poecila Rentz and Su, adult female head and pronotum.
 Austrosalomona poecila Rentz and Su, adult female frons.
 Austrosalomona poecila Rentz and Su, adult female, ventral view showing distinct thoracic markings.

Salomona Blanchard

Salomona is a widespread genus occuring on many Pacific islands. Two species have been recorded from Australia. One, S. solida Walker was described from Sunday Island in the Torres Strait. It has not been seen in the 150 years since its original description. The other S. nori Rentz & Su is a large, aggressive species frequently seen by tourists in Iron Range, far north Queensland. The katydids live in tree holes that result from dead branches. They use their powerful mandibles to hollow make a hole that they live in for many days, gradually increasing the size of the hole as they grow. They make nightly forays and return to the same hole for many days. This demonstrates a homing instinct in these katydids.

Salomona nori Rentz and Su-Nori's Katydid
We named this species in honour of our colleague Dr Norihiro Ueshima with thanks for his interpretations of the karyotypes of many of our species over a period of more than 45 years!

Salomona nori Rentz and Su, Adult female


Rentz, DCF, Su, YN. 2019 Studies in Australian Tettigoniidae: Three new species of Agraeciini from north-eastern Australia. Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae; Conocephalinae; Agraeciiini. Zootaxa 4623: 283-305.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo in Kuranda

There have been a few sitings of the Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo in Kuranda over the years. A dead individual was seen along the Kuranda Range Road and one was reported near the railway station years ago.

But here's a recent siting in a garden on Gregory Terrace, Top of the Range, Kuranda.

The Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo is the smallest of the Tree-kangaroos weighing a little over 7 kg. These animals are more associated with altitudes higher than in Kuranda (330 m). Although they have a limited geographic range they are not uncommon on the Atherton Tablelands. Viral infections
 were said to lead to blindness in these creatures. However, this hypothesis has been largely discredited.

Tree-kangaroos frequently come to ground and there they are susceptible to attacks by dogs. And they don't mix well with automobiles. They are often seen during the day as well as night.

Thanks to Ms Carrie Bies for the photo

Monday, 2 September 2019

Moth Night, Cairns, Australia, 2019


The annual Moth Night was held in the Botanic Gardens, Cairns on 28 August 2019. More than 50 members of the public attended, including several children. It was a perfect night--warm, windless and dry. Moth Night is an international event with over a dozen countries taking part. It was organised in the Northern Hemisphere during July. Of course, it is mid-summer in July in those climes and moths are at their peak abundance at that time. We decided to hold our Moth Night a month later this year so it would be closer to Spring and maybe a few more moths than usual would be active. It seemed to be a good move but we feel it would have been even more productive if it were not so dry. A good rain a couple of weeks prior to the even might have prompted more insects to emerged from their winter slumber.

Moth-ers assembled at 6.00 pm in the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre for a short talk and to meet one another and view a couple of drawers of local moth specimens that they might encounter later. Light refreshments were served and then the attendees went out to check the two light sheets, We wandered around observing and photographing insects that were active in the vicinity of the light sheets. Most folks agreed that spiders outnumbered the insects. Several large Wolf Spiders and Huntsmen of various sizes were out and about. Lacewing eggs and a few caterpillars as well as nymphal katydids were discovered.

Photos were provided by Kylie Brown (KB), Louisa Grandy (LG) and Buck Richardson (BR).

The talk KB photo
The talk KB photo
Ava picks the one butterfly amongst a drawer of moths. KB photo
DR setting up the lightsheet. LG photo
Buck Richardson setting up his lightsheet .LG photo
Ava checks out an Amerilla. KB photo
Nyctemera-secundiana. BR photo
Argina-astraea. BR photo
Heterallactis-niphocephala. BR photo
Amerila-rubripes. BR photo
Mecodina-bisignata. BR photo
Rusicada-revocans. BR photo
Autoba-abrupta. BR photo
Chrysodeixis-illuminata. BR photo
The Moth of the Night
The Four O'clock Moth, Dysphania-numana. BR photo

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Flight of the Zodiac

In the past couple of months people from around north Queensland have been reporting aggregations of the day-flying Zodiac Moth, Alcides metaurus.

Click on the photo to enlarge

This is a spectacular moth to say the least. Most people think it is a butterfly because it feeds at flowers and behaves somewhat like a butterfly. The moth is a member of the family Uraniidae, a family of often gaudy moths many of which are diurnal. It is a large moth, measuring 50-60 mm across and is active in late afternoons. The caterpillars feed on leaves of the large vine, Omphalea queenslandiae of the family Euphorbiaceae. Judging by the numbers of moths and the extent of the reports of the migrations, these vines should be quite bare by now!

Mass movements of the Zodiac Moth  in north Queensland have been known for years. They always attract attention because the moths rest en masse in selected trees. That is what attracts the attention of the public.
We observed small numbers of the moths in the Daintree and they all seemed to be travelling in a southerly direction.
Thanks to Christina for use of the photo. It was taken at Wondecla, Qld.

Hong Kong Students Visit the DRO

Recently some 45 high school students from Hong Kong paid a visit to the Daintree Rainforest Observatory of James Cook University. It was part of a lengthy visit to northern Queensland. Considering that they had probably never been so close to nature, they were quite interested in what biologists do and how they do it. They had a go with insect collecting and recognising the various insect groups. A night walk was greeted with enthusiasm and no one exhibited any sort of fear. AND curiously, being without their social networks by phone did not seem to worry them.

Click oin the photos to enlarge
 The mountains in the Daintree

This is what they saw

Thanks to Buck Richardson for most of the photos