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Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Beetles - Beutelius rutherfordi

Beutelius rutherfordi

This little beetle is seriously not your average ‘run of the mill’ beetle! This guy is special….. really special. We were incredibly lucky to find one recently, right here in the Porongurup, and were able to capture these images before releasing it back to the bush. Of course, we didn’t realise what it was initially but we did know it was peculiar so investigated further using the photographs as reference. It was Boris Buche (@borisb) on iNaturalist who gave it a name for us to follow.

The background story definitely adds to the intrigue. Coincidentally, Canadian entomologist Professor Steve Marshall had visited Porongurup about 5 years ago specifically because Farhan Bokhari had previously photographed this very rare beetle here and had shared the locality information. Marshall wanted to photograph it himself for his upcoming book on beetle natural history and diversity but did not find it, and instead later got permission from Farhan to use his image. We met Professor Marshall during that visit. Without knowing his background story, I recently sent him our photos of this exact same beetle. You can imagine his amazement, and mine; when he told me how this beetle ‘had done the full circle!’ It is such a pleasure to be able to share our images and learnings with you here.

These guys have the most ancestral characteristics of ALL beetle species still living. They are from one of the oldest lineages going back to the beginnings of all Coleoptera (The Beetle family). They are the oldest living Australian beetle species – older than Gondwana itself! 200 million years ago they were more widespread but only four of the original eighteen species remain today. All four are endemic to Australia, with only one of the four found in Western Australia including right here in the Porongurup. The general morphology of Beutelius rutherfordi diverges considerably from the other three species. The affinities and taxonomic placement of it are not yet clear and more work needs to be done.

They are rare, very rare, and knowledge of them is equally scarce. There is only 5 adult specimens and a single larva specimen in existence! The fact that it has been so well described and named from so few specimens is testimony to its importance. This critter is absolutely significant as far as beetles go but it is by no means the only critter to be amazed at in this place that in itself is incredibly ancient.

Why does it matter? Because knowledge is powerful. By understanding the evolutionary processes that enabled critters like this to survive, despite the odds, can only be a good thing for a whole host of reasons – a much bigger conversation for another day.

But more about the beetle! Without a degree in beetle morphology, it is fair to say Beutelius exhibit a number of stand-out features. Besides its Jurassic origins, it has a unique combination of spines and scales covering its body. It is the male that is flightless (rare among beetles) and lives in rotting logs or underground! According to CSIRO entomologist Dr John Lawrence, who described this beetle, ‘it’s a living fossil and is living proof that Australia still harbours an enormous wealth of ancient animals and plants which remain unknown and undiscovered’. Going forward, Professor Marshall makes the valid point ‘What exactly was the beetle doing in the field? So little is known about the biology of these things that every observation is interesting!’ There is still so much we don’t know.

Rumi Quotes ~ ‘If our eyes are opened, we will see the things worth seeing’

Friday, 5 March 2021

Frogs - an Overview



Frogs - an Overview

The best way to identify frogs by far is by their call and the Australian Museum has the perfect App for the job - FrogID. Listening to their call in this non-invasive way without impacting on their habitat is a great way to identify the frog. By uploading a recording of the call via the App you are also adding to our overall knowledge. Interestingly, it's only the males that call and usually only in season.

Sometimes you might find a frog without hearing it and want to identify it. If you do photograph it, please upload your observation to iNaturalist to help us with mapping our biodiversity. If you can photograph the frog without handling it then that's best but if you really do need to handle it for whatever reason then make sure your hands are clean and wet. The safest way to hold the frog with minimal impact is to gently hold its back feet between your fingers while it sits comfortably on your hand.

Frogs are notoriously difficult to identify visually because they are often highly variable in colour and markings. It is really helpful to get several photographs - from the top, the tummy, the eye and even the foot (front & back). Photograph the habitat and note the temperature, date and time of day. The more information you can gather the better the quality of your observation. If you find another frog at another time that you think might be the same, record its call and/or photograph it as well. Over time, we can build a bigger picture of the species based on potential shifts in distribution and population density.

You can access a free online Field Guide called 'Frog Watch Porongurup' from iNaturalist here. This guide is great to help narrow down the ID possibilities.

To the Minang Noongar people the frog was known as Kwooyar and although it was considered a spirit Totem, it was also used as food when plentiful. By assigning a plant or animal as a spirit Totem in this way the Noongar people were in fact actively practicing conservation.

Frogs are said to be the 'Canary in the Coalmine' which means they are a great indicator for the environmental health of their habitat. They are pretty cute too!

Please also visit iNaturalist Porongurup Biodiversity mapping Project.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Introduction

Welcome to the Friends of the Porongurup Range Fauna Blog! 

The Porongurup range itself is like an incredibly old granite island -1.2 billion years old in fact - standing alone on the edge of the Jarrah Forest Province to the west, the Esperance Sandplain to the east, the Kalgan Valley to the north and the Albany-Fraser Craton to the south. The surrounding area is like the shores of this ancient island and since Gondwanan times 'The Porongurup' has become a refuge for some remarkable creatures that have clung to existence from their often primitive origins.

With the help of iNaturalist we are on a journey to map the entire biodiversity of the Porongurup area with the aim of fostering awareness and appreciation for the many iconic and often endemic species that exist here.

Please also visit iNaturalist Porongurup Biodiversity mapping Project.

Frogs - Geocrinia leai

 


Geocrinia leai - Ticking Frog
This little smooth-bellied frog, commonly known as the Ticking Frog, is found predominantly along the South-west Coast but isolated populations do extend north of the Porongurup Range and somewhat beyond the limits of it's usual distribution range. 

It is the only Smooth-Bellied (Geocrinia) small ground frog (Myobatrachinae) found in the Porongurup area, the other members in this genus are all found in isolated pockets along the coast and all are considered threatened. It is thought that Geocrinia leai has thrived where the others haven't because it has adapted to a changing climate with an extended breeding season. Geocrinia leai's smooth belly is what sets this frog apart from all other small ground frogs in the area (the Crinia and Pseudophryne).

Geocrinia is a climbing frog and unlike any other small ground frog it has slightly expanded discs on its fingers and toes to help it climb. 

Geocrinia leai prefers moist forested areas beside creeks and ponds. Eggs are laid between autumn and spring as a cluster on land in a jelly 'nest' close to the waters edge. The tadpoles develop in the nest and when the rains come they are washed into the water. The tadpoles of this species are relatively small and take a long time to develop (as much as 4 months). The frog itself though is a relatively short lived species. 

There has been some excellent and detailed research done of the various clades of this species within the southwest by Danielle Edwards under the supervision of Professor J. Dale Roberts.

 The lineage found in the Porongurup is part of an old lineage known as the South Coast lineage which diverged 5.2mya from the Shannon-Gardner lineage. It is because of this genetic distinction and it's extended range that Geocrinia leai is a most useful moist refugia indicator species for the Porongurup locality.

Please also visit iNaturalist Porongurup Biodiversity mapping Project.

Beetles - Beutelius rutherfordi

Beutelius rutherfordi This little beetle is seriously not your average ‘run of the mill’ beetle! This guy is special….. really special. We w...