Archive for February, 2006

At the Blue mountains

Ruin Castle, Blue Mountains

All the A’s, who happen to be invertebrate freaks, from my lab headed out to blue mountains on the last sunday. We walked towards the Ruin castle, a walk which was reported as a 4 hr return walk. The temperate forests presented a unique habitat with several species of Leptomyrmex and a few Iridomyrmex being very conspicuous all throughout the walk. The walk started off in a very predictable manner with steps along the way, that disappeared after a while, but surfaced up towards the fag end of the walk.

The ‘best bird sighted’ has to go to the male Lyrebird that A heard and we then spotted. The brilliant looking male was not singing but was making a mound by piling up leaves and twigs, a mound upon which he apparently would stand on to call and sing for the female.

The habitat was densely wooded (primarily Eucalyptus) and very wet, courtesy to the heavy rains over the last few days. Leaflitter thickness ranged from 2-9 centimeters, with canopy closed or broken at most places.

We came across a few interesting spiders and a few interesting webs. One such web was very likely of the Southern Funnel Web spider, a huge monstrous web on the tree, with the funnel penetrating the deep interiors of the tree. The web was quite devilish with tentacle like arms spread out and wound against the nearby protruding woody chunk. A few of the spiders we sighted belonged to the family Uloboridae, Araneidae (Araneaeus eburns).

Skinks, by god, there were numerous of them and they were not shy at all. One of them infact started eating breadcrumbs dropped by people at the resting place along the walk.

Saving the best for the last, the ants. I had first sightings of five species of Myrmecia, four of which new to me; some three species of Leptomyrmex, one species of Camponotus (look alike of C. sericeus present in Middle east to Southern Asia), 3 species of Iridomyrmex (all tiny ants measuring less than 4 mm), one still to be identified arboreal Myrmicine. I was truly impressed with Leptomyrmex that are commonly called ‘spider ants’ because of their long legs and the way they hold themselves high above the ground. Three of the five species of Myrmecia exhibited jumping behaviour, something I have often seen in Harpegnathos. But the jumps were short hops, rather than being elaborate >15 cm jumps as in Harpegnathos.

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More of Myrmecia and others. Soon to come, ants of the blue mountains!

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