Monthly Archives: March 2014

TG #16

Another season has come- with the Equinox on the 21st, the South now moves into autumn. Don’t believe any of that talk of the official start to the season on the 1st of the month – the season changes on the 21st at the Equinoxes and Solstices.

In recent days, Tasmania has just completed a State Election, and as the political landscape changes abruptly, so too we may find the physical geography of the land will change as well.

There’s four wonderful articles waiting for you in this issue, including a year’s retrospective video of microcopter flights, a novel student research study on leeches and thylacines, a collection of technically superb cave photographs, and an introduction to a fearsome marsupial carnivore.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed preparing them.

Enjoy!

— The Editor

Applied Cryptozoology – Using Leeches to Locate the Thylacine

Authors: Michael Weinzierl ’15 and Professor Eugene Domack, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, USA.

Learn more about their field excursion at Tasmanian Field Studies

Abstract

The Tasmanian Tiger (scientifically known as the thylacine) has survived in Tasmanian folklore as a legend and highly elusive animal to many who insist in its existence. A new technique in cryptozoology has allowed researchers to locate highly elusive and thought-to-be extinct animals, thereby proving their existence and increasing efforts to protect these ultra-rare animals. The technique, which involves collecting local leech samples and cross-analyzing the ingested blood with known target animal genomes, has proven effective in past trials and could be applied to Tasmania and the Tiger. Piggybacking off previous work from thylacine researchers, it may be possible to find leeches containing tiger blood and narrow the extent of their geographic range.

Thylacine Poster - Entire

 

Full Text:

The Future of Cryptozoology: Locating a Legend with a Leech

Michael Weinzierl

Blood sucking animals, including leeches, mosquitos, ticks, bedbugs and fleas, have always been regarded by humans through a negative context. They can be vectors and carriers of disease, pain and annoyance, which have earned them the universal label of ‘pests’. Various anti-flea, ticks, mosquito and leech products exist for both humans and our pets; a market subsists to purge the world of these decidedly pesky organisms. However, recent research and subsequent effort in the field of cryptozoology has utilized newfound abilities of these blood-sucking animals, giving them a purpose with a more positive connotation. This technique, which involves extrapolating sucked blood from these invertebrates and cross-analyzing the blood with known genomes, can be used to identify and potentially locate host animals that the blood-suckers have been in contact with (Hance). This emerging technique sheds blood-sucking animals in a new, positive light and adds a huge economic and scientific importance to these widely underappreciated animals. By analyzing mealblood, it can be possible to prove the existence of or even locate ultra-rare and endangered species that are difficult to find with conventional techniques, such as traps, cameras, infrared detectors, etc. The economic viability and relative ease of this method is noteworthy and attention should be given to this emerging method as cryptozoologists continue to search for endangered or thought-to-be extinct species, such as the Tasmanian tiger. Tasmania and the Tasmanian tiger, otherwise known as the thylacine, would be the perfect next logical location and target for this technique because of the quantity and quality of the blood-sucking organisms (especially leeches) found in Tasmania and the immense public attention and financial support such a project would receive.

Copenhagen Zoo and University of Copenhagen have in collaboration developed a new and revolutionary, yet simple and cheap, method for tracking mammals and getting an accurate account of the biodiversity of a tested area (Hance). Researchers collected haematophagous leeches from tropical jungles and cross-analyzed the blood for mammal DNA using extensive DNA library databases. By using this method, researchers can get an overview of the biodiversity of the mammals of the region without having to find them (Schnell et al.). Though the method has only been tested in the Central Annamite region of Vietnam, it could potentially be used universally wherever leeches are present. Before the advent of using leeches, it was difficult and expensive to monitor mammal species and populations living in impassable rainforest areas around the globe. Conventional methods such as camera traps, infrared sensors, collecting hair or fur samples, analyzing feces and tracking footprints are all time consuming and relatively ineffective, especially when dealing with rare, shy animals that occupy dense forest habitats. The problem is particularly acute in these tropical forests, where a disproportionate number of species are listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)as ‘data deficient’ due to the difficulty of monitoring with these conventional approaches. Collecting leeches, however, requires little more than watching and waiting, as hungry leeches will eagerly come to the researchers in search of a host. The sampling and analysis does not require specially trained scientists, but can be carried out by local scientists. This would not be possible without recent advances in DNA-sequencing technology, which is what makes this method so innovative and contemporary.

With nearly one-quarter of mammalian species threatened, it is important to understand and maintain an accurate description of their distribution and conservation statues (Schnell et al.). In order to resolve this issue, the first leech field test was conducted in late 2012 in the dense forests of Vietnam with high success (Hance). Ultra-rare mammalian species, including the soala (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) native to the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos, were the primary targets. This first (and only) field test did not present evidence for the existence of the target animal (the soala), but it did manage to present evidence for the existence of several other extremely rare species. 21 out of 25 leeches tested yielded mammalian mtDNA sequences, representing six species spanning three orders — Artiodactyla, Carnivora and Lagomorpha (Schnell et al. – See Figure 1b). The orders represented included the mainland serow (Capricornis maritimus), Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata), the Annamite stripped rabbit (Nesolagus timminsi) and the Truong Son muntjac (Muntiacus truongsonensis) – some of which have not been seen in over twenty years.

There are several blood-sucking invertebrate candidates that could prove useful in implementing this technique, such as ticks, mosquitos or louses; however, the leeches are by far the most efficient and viable contenders for this project for specific reasons. According to Ida Schnell et al., in their research paper following the trial in Vietnam, “In addition to ticks and mosquitoes, haematophagous leeches represent promising candidates as, following feeding, they store concentrated blood for several months”. Later in the paper, they go on to describe the advantage of using leeches: “Terrestrial Haemadipsidae leeches (found in Southeast Asia, Madagascar, South Asia and Australia) are ideal for this method, due to their diverse prey base and readiness to attack humans, making them easy to collect.” Leeches are segmented, eucoelomate worms of the phylum Annelida, distinguished from other annelids by anterior and posterior suckers used for locomotion and feeding – on blood or soft body parts of other animals (Weisblat 752). Annelids (also called “ringed worms”) are a large phylum of segmented worms, with over 2,000 modern species including ragworms, earthworms and leeches, though are not to be confused with nematodes. Leeches have precisely 32 segments from five bilaterally paired stem cell lineages and are not capable of regeneration and do not add body segments throughout their life (Weisblat 752). They are bilaterally symmetrical, triploblastic, coelomate organisms and have specialized parapodia for locomotion (parks.tas.gov). They are found in marine environments from tidal zones to hydrothermal vents, in freshwater and in moist terrestrial environments. There are 650 known species of leeches in the world and about one fifth of leech species live in the sea, where they feed on fish. Leeches are hermaphrodites, each individual having both male and females reproductive organs. The bite of a leech is painless, due to its own anesthetic. After contact, an anti-coagulant serum is injected into the victim to prevent the blood from clotting. The leech will gorge itself up to five times its body weigh until it has had its fill and then just fall off. Sucked blood can stay in the leeches’ bloodstream for up to 4-18 months, depending on the leech, which represents a significant time frame for extrapolation and blood analysis. Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated that in the medical leeches (Hirudo medicinalis), viruses remain detectable in the blood meal for up to 27 weeks, indicating viral nucleic acid survival (Schnell et al.). A leech can survive several months to a year before feeding again, and its relatively large size and slow movement (compared to other blood-sucking invertebrates) make it the ideal candidate for this study.

About 100 species of leeches are known from Australia, and at least a dozen are found in Tasmania – most of which live in water. Among the common terrestrial species in Tasmania are Philaemon pungens, reaching about 20mm, and the striped P. grandis, or Tiger leech, which reaches about 56mm (parks.tas.gov). The Tiger leech is known locally as ‘limatang’ or ‘pacat’ (leaf leech), because it is usually found on leaves of lower vegetation (parks.tas.gov). It sports green, yellow / orange and black stripes and the bite can be physically felt. All leeches utilize thermoregulation to locate and identify prey, which is why warm-blooded mammals, such as the Tasmanian tiger, comprise the majority of their prey. It would not be uncommon for a leech to feed on the thylacine; in fact, leeches would have an easier time locating the elusive animal than humans would because of their specialized ability to locate prey. Leeches use a basic visual and mechanical system to locate prey, interpreting vibrations and shadows in their environment to determine where a potential host animal is located and what direction it is going (Harley et al/). As leeches mature, the visual system and the mechanical system don’t really change. What does change, however, is the integration of the visual and mechanical cues to make a final, more informed behavioral decision (Harley et al.). Terrestrial leech species, including the Tasmanian tiger leech, have been known to attack a host aerially by dropping out of the dense forest brush onto unsuspecting animals below using their acute visual and mechanical targeting systems. Additionally, the small size of the leech would go unnoticed by a thylacine, or any other elusive rare mammal, unlike the clumsy movement of a human, which would easily scare a suspecting tiger. Another strength of using leeches is that most leeches show clear species preferences in feeding, and some have strong preferences as to the anatomical site of attack (Weisblat 752). The thylacine would be an ideal host for a hungry leech because of its short fur, which would make it easier for a leech to penetrate its skin, its propensity to dwell in thick forest habitats, and its relatively large body, which would create substantial vibrations and offer a big target for a leech to locate and aerially attack.

The Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus), declared officially extinct after the last known specimen died in the Hobart Zoo in 1936, has become a creature of legends and the subject of various Tasmanian folklore. The Tasmanian tiger, otherwise known as the thylacine, is a carnivorous marsupial native to Tasmania. The animal can reach up to 1.3 meters (51 inches) long, with its tail accounting for between 19-25 inches of that total (Campbell). Long, distinctive stripes cover its back and tail, which is inflexible and could be dragged along the ground. It had an incredibly large and powerful jaw as well as distinctively shaped paws. They do not howl but have been observed to produce a “yip-yip” sound when hunting and have been observed as having a very distinctive odor (Paddle 78).

Ignorance and irrational fear led to the supposed extinction of the Tasmanian tiger. The perceived economic threat of the thylacine against the livestock of the island-state led to a concerted government funded war of extermination waged against the species (Paddle 43). This led to a focused hunting of the thylacine and its eventual destruction by the “Tasmanian Bushmen”. By the time the persecution was seen as the tragedy that it was, the thylacine had been reduced to the brink of extinction, with the last known surviving member residing at the Hobart zoo his death on September 7th, 1936 (Bailey 26). Today, the thylacine is listed as officially extinct by the WWF and IUCN. However, the Australian Rare Fauna Research Association reports to have 3,800 sightings on file from mainland Australia since the 1936 extinction date, while the Animal Research Centre of Australia recorded 138 reports up to 1998 and the Department of Conservation and Land Management recorded 65 in Western Australia over the same period (Fausch). Additionally, Independent thylacine researchers Buck and Jonne Emburg of Tasmania have 360 Tasmanian reports and 269 post extinction reports (Campbell). Mainland sightings are frequently reported in South Victoria. Col Bailey, Thylacine researcher and author of Shadow of the Thylacine, has dedicated his life to proving the existence of the animal, stirring public support and protecting it from any further potential harm. He has had several supposed personal sightings and has documented all local sightings in Tasmania. Judging by his experience, any thylacine left in Tasmania would be in either Northeast or Southwest corners of the island, where the wilderness is the most dense and undisturbed. Thylacine dens tend to be in caves near large bodies or water or semi-aquatic environments, much like terrestrial leeches (Bailey 142). Lobster Lake, located in southern Tasmania, might be a good place for the first leech blood analysis beta test.

Despite the proven success of using leech blood to identify the DNA of the leech’s last meal, there are still some obvious limitations involved. First and foremost, though leech blood can help determine the biodiversity of an area, it does not help determine specific time and location of a host animal. A leech may feed on an animal and, 3 months later, the animal may be many miles away from the site of the feeding, especially fast-moving, nomadic mammals. Another issue may arise when trying to find a correlation between the initial feeding and the concentration of DNA left in the leech and the time that has lapsed (See Figure 1a). There is still no exact formula for determining the time between feeding and extrapolation/analysis, but rather a general curve, which is a weakness if trying to pinpoint the exact location or movement of an animal. Despite this, the method works well in determining the biodiversity of a general area. This is important in the field of cryptozoology, where proving the existence of an ultra-rare or assumed extinct animal is a success in itself. In the future, as the method receives more attention and develops, it may be possible to more accurately determine the time that has lapsed between feeding and extrapolation. Another useful advance may be to use other blood-sucking invertebrates, including ticks and mosquitos, for the same purpose. Though there is little primary research that has been conducted, there is one paper accepted in February 2012 focusing on Lyme disease in ticks that proved the viability of using tick blood meal for identifying the last host animal. The results were promising: “Of the 61 field-collected ticks, conclusive genus- and species-level identification [of the last host] was possible for 72% of the specimens” (Gariepy et al. Abstract). However, no further research has been implemented and leeches still remain the superior vector for identifying host DNA.

As cryptozoologists work to increase our knowledge of global biodiversity- and even work to prove the existence of animals thought to be extinct- it will be important to develop more sophisticated methods of locating and documenting these animals. The prospect of using blood sucking invertebrates, animals typically seen as harmful and annoying, to help identify target animals is promising. Using leeches to this effect has produced substantial results for the beta test in Vietnam in late 2012, and Tasmania and the thylacine are a great next logical step in continuing this research. In the future, more accurate results concerning time lapse may be possible, as well as using other blood sucking invertebrates such as ticks and mosquitos. Movement of the research to aquatic or marine environments, utilizing aquatic leeches, may be possible, but no research has yet been published in this realm. Future attention will be necessary to perfect this emerging method of cryptozoology, and the prospects of consequent results are exciting.

 

Figure 1. (Source: Schnell et al.)

A. Survival of mtDNA in goat blood ingested by Hirudo medicinalis over time, relative to freshly drawn sample.

B. Vietnamese field site location and examples of mammals identified in Haemadipsa leeches. From left to right: Annamite striped rabbit, small-toothed ferret-badger, Truong Son muntjac, serow.

Works Cited

Hance, Jeremy. “Does the Tasmanian Tiger Exist? Is the Soala Extinct? Ask the Leeches.”Mongabay.com. Mongabay.com, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Aug. 2013. <http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0430-hance-leeches-DNA.html>.

Hance, Jeremy. “Beyond Bigfoot: The Science of Cryptozoology.” Mongabay.com. Mongabay, 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2013. <http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0326-hance_interview_shuker.html>.

“Leeches.” Parks & Wildlife Service -. Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 19 Sept. 2013. <http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=17016>.

Bailey, Col. Shadow of the Thylacine. Scoresby, Vic.: Five Mile, 2013. Print.

Campbell, Cameron R. “A Natural History of the Tasmanian Tiger.” The Thylacine Museum – A Natural History of the Tasmanian Tiger. The Thylacine Museum, 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. <http://naturalworlds.org/thylacine/index.htm>.

Paddle, Robert. The Last Tasmanian Tiger: The History and Extinction of the Thylacine. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print.

Fausch, Jeff. “Cryptozoology – Haunted History Society Australia.” Haunted History Society Australia. N.p., 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <http://paranormalandscience.weebly.com/cryptozoology.html>.

California Insititue of Technology. C. M. Harley, J. Cienfuegos, D. A. Wagenaar. “Switching Senses: Leeches shift the way they locate prey in adulthood.” ScienceDaily, 2 Nov. 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2013

Ida Bærholm Schnell, Philip Francis Thomsen, Nicholas Wilkinson, Morten Rasmussen, Lars R.D. Jensen, Eske Willerslev, Mads F. Bertelsen, M. Thomas P. Gilbert. “Screening Mammal Biodiversity Using DNA from Leeches”. Current Biology – 24 April 2012 (Vol. 22, Issue 8, pp. R262-R263)

Gariepy, T.D., R. Lindsay, N. Ogden, and T.R. Gregory. “Identifying the Last Supper: Utility of the DNA Barcode Library for Bloodmeal Identification in Ticks.” Molecular Ecology Resources 12 (2012): 646-52. Medsp.umontreal.ca. Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Weisblat, David A. “Leeches.” Current Biology 13.19 (2003): R752. Print.

 

The Ultimate Marsupial Carnivore – Thylacoleo


Thylacoleo carnifex, a Pliocene to Pleistocene marsupial from Australia, based on the skeleton at the Victoria Fossil Cave, pencil drawing, digital coloring, by Nobu Tamura via Wikimedia. Check out his astounding portfolio at Palaeocritti.com

The marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) is an extinct species of carnivorous marsupial mammal that lived in Australia from the early to the late Pleistocene (1,600,000–46,000 years ago).[1] Despite its name, it is not closely related to the lion, but is a member of the order Diprotodontia.

The marsupial lion is the largest meat-eating mammal known to have ever existed in Australia, and one of the largest marsupial carnivores from anywhere in the world (although see Thylacosmilus and Borhyaena). Individuals ranged up to around 75 cm (30 in) high at the shoulder and about 150 cm (59 in) from head to tail. Measurements taken from a number of specimens show they averaged 100 to 130 kg (220 to 290 lb) in weight although individuals heavier than 160 kg (350 lb) might not have been uncommon.[2] This would make it quite comparable to female lions and tigers in general size.

The animal was extremely robust with powerfully built jaws and very strong fore limbs. It possessed retractable claws, a unique trait among marsupials. This would have allowed the claws to remain sharp by protecting them from being worn down on hard surfaces. The claws were well-suited to securing prey and for climbing trees. The first digits (“thumbs”) on each hand were semiopposable and bore an enlarged claw. Palaeontologists believe this would have been used to grapple its intended prey, as well as providing it with a sure footing on tree trunks and branches.

The marsupial lion was a highly specialised carnivore, as is reflected in its dentition (teeth). Like other diprotodonts, it possessed enlarged incisors on both the upper (maxillae) and lower (mandibles) jaws. These teeth (the lower in particular) were shaped much more like the pointed canine teeth of animals such as dogs and cats than those of kangaroos. The most unusual feature of the creature’s dentition were the huge, blade-like carnassial premolars on either side of its jaws. The top and bottom carnassials worked together like shears and would have been very effective at slicing off chunks of flesh from carcasses and cutting through bone.

Numerous fossil discoveries indicate the marsupial lion was distributed across much of the Australian continent. A large proportion of its environment would have been similar to the southern third of Australia today, semiarid, open scrub and woodland punctuated by waterholes and water courses.[citation needed]

It would have coexisted with many of the so-called Australian megafauna such as the previously mentioned Diprotodon, giant kangaroos, and Megalania, as well as giant wallabies like Protemnodon, the giant wombat Phascolonus, and the thunderbird Genyornis.[9]

Many of these animals would have been prey for adult marsupial lions. The marsupial lion was especially adapted for hunting large animals but was not particularly suited to catching smaller prey. The relatively quick reduction in the numbers of its primary food source around 40,000 to 50,000 years ago probably led to the decline and eventual extinction of the marsupial lion. The arrival of humans in Australia and the use of fire-stick farming precipitated their decline.[10]

The marsupial lion is classified in the order Diprotodontia along with many other well-known marsupials such as kangaroos, possums, and the koala. It is further classified in its own family, the Thylacoleonidae, of which three genera and 11 species are recognised, all extinct. The term marsupial lion (lower case) is often applied to other members of this family. The marsupial lion’s closest living relatives are the herbivorous koala and wombats.

 

Read some of the earliest attempts at classifying the skeletons of these amazing creatures: On the Affinities of Thylacoleo. Owen, P-  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1854-1905). 1883-01-01. 35:19–19

 

  • You can read a more modern and succinct description of the Marsupial Lion at The Australian Museum and the Western Australian Musuem.
  • You’ll especially enjoy a write-up of the early discussions on marsupial megafauna diet conducted in Victorian England at Wired.

 

 

Text via Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thylacoleo_carnifex

Picture credits

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thylacoleo_BW.jpg
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thylacoskullcope.jpg
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thylacoleo_skeleton_in_Naracoorte_Caves.jpg
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thylacoleo_carnifex_1.JPG

In Utter Darkness

There’s world class low-light photography happening here. Come and capture some photons in a technical photoshoot deep underground…

First Person View Racing Microcopters- RianRex’s Best of 2013

Published on 3 Jan 2014

Thank you all for subscribing to my channel and liking my videos. Another year is over so I thought I would put together a compilation of some of my favorite clips of 2013 and some extra stuff I hadn’t gotten around to posting. After hundreds of crash repairs and thousands of $ I have found my new passion for FPV. (hopefully one day I can actually make some $ back).

In 2013 I discovered the world of brushless gimbal stabilization and very unexpectedly and more importantly the joys of mini FPV proximity flight which has completely turned my world upside down for the better. The technology and community is now growing at an exponential rate and I cannot wait to see what 2014 will bring our way. I always thought that multicopters would only get larger but I was wrong. I am now convinced that the future of FPV UAV technology is in Mini machines which are faster, more agile and crash resistant than ever before.

LET THE FPV RACING BEGIN!

Special thanks to Karlosvontrapp for his technical help and Blackoutthedrunk for developing cutting edge FPV dream machines. Check out www.minihquad.com and order yourself the parts to build your own custom high performance mini FPV racing machines like mine. Have a safe and happy 2014 and remember to have fun, keep crashing and learn from it.

Music: Ellie Goulding Break the Noize Remix wish I stayed

TG #15

There are some things we really love over here at TG.

We love mountains, and have a mountaineering memoir from the former head of the Tas Uni Bushwalking Club. A Queenslander sailor turned Norwegian skier, Angus Munro spent several years tramping around Tasmania’s peaks, and we are very glad to share his photos with you!

We love Citizen Science.We like to support Citizen Science projects whenever and however possible, so do take a look at the Wellington Park Management Authority’s call for platypus sightings. If you’re on the mountain above Hobart, keep a sharp eye out for these marvellous and curious animals.

We love macropods! Rootourism helps us fill out our online field guide to the major marsupials of Tasmania- check out their info sheet on the Pademelon.

And we love fine music. So, to wrap up the issue, there’s Steve Gadd and friends with the photo-illustrated fiddle song, Far From Home.

We’ll be having a play with Pinterest this upcoming week. Do you use this social network? Let us know any ideas or comments!

— The Editor

Field Guide: Tasmanian Pademelon

Tasmanian Pademelon by JJ Harrison via Wikimedia

The Macropods

Kangaroos are marsupials and belong to the Family Macropodidae (i.e. big feet) that is grouped with the Potoroidae (potoroos, bettongs, rat-kangaroos) and Hypsiprymnodontidae (musky rat-kangaroo) in the Super-Family, Macropodoidea. This comprises around 50 species in Australia and a dozen or more in New Guinea. Some of the smaller species, such as Yellow-footed Rock-Wallabies, Burrowing Bettongs, accompanied Pig-footed and Golden Bandicoots, Bilbies and possibly Hairy-nosed Wombats into extinction with the advent of pastoralism. However, the largest species remain in much of their original range with the grey kangaroos expanding inland as grazing habitat increased and coastal habitat was lost in clearance for agriculture. The defining feature of the kangaroo family is that they are the largest vertebrates to hop (both currently and from what we know from palaeontology).

The Pademelons are small, compact, short-tailed wallabies that typically inhabit wet sclerophyll and rainforests from Tasmania to New Guinea. The genus is equally diverse in New Guinea (4 species) and Australia (3 species) with one of the latter, the Red-legged Pademelon (T. stigmatica), in both regions.  The Pademelons occupy an interesting taxonomic position and may have been the ancestors of both Tree-kangaroos and Rock-wallabies a few million years ago. Given the absence of Rock-wallabies from New Guinea but presence of Pademelons in both Australia and New Guinea, Tree-kangaroos likely evolved first, probably in New Guinea, and two species entered the far north through Cape York. Rock-wallabies evolved later in Australia, probably on the east coast where Pademelons are found, and when no suitable habitat breached the Torres Strait or Bass Strait given their absence from Tasmania.

Reddish coloured fur is something of a theme with red-bellied, red-necked and red-legged in the species common names. They emerge from forest cover at night to eat succulent grasses and take some browse. They have remained common over much of their geographic range but the Tasmanian Pademelon was once found in south-eastern South Australia and Victoria. Dense thickets of vegetation are required for shelter and so habitat fragmentation and clearing reduce the viability of populations.

Best place to see

Mt William National Park, Tasmania

Mt William National Park conserves coastal heath and dry sclerophyll woodland in north-eastern Tasmania. The nearest town is Gladstone, 320 km and about 4 hours drive from Hobart and 127 km and under 2 hours drive from Launceston. Access to the park is along short gravel roads from Gladstone (northern section) or St Helens (southern section). The Park has day visitor centres near the campgrounds located at Stumpys Bay in the north and along the coastal drive from Eddystone Point to Deep Creek in the south. Best developed in near campground 4 at Stumpys Bay which has gas barbecues. Fire our allowed except when bans operate but visitors must bring their own firewood. Bore water is supplied in campgrounds but is not recommended from drinking and so potable water should be brought in. Rubbish must be taken out as not collection facilities are provided. Campgrounds have pit-toilets but no power.

The Park has diverse wildlife including the Tasmanian sub-species of Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Red-necked Wallaby. Other mammals include wombats, Tasmanian Devils, Brush-tailed Possums and Echidnas. Bird life is diverse with species from heath, shore and sea given the coastal location. There are large grassy areas from former livestock grazing that have remained open through the foraging of native herbivores. This makes for ideal viewing of macropods, especially around dawn and dusk.

Identification

Males to 12 kg (average 7.0 kg) and females to 10 kg (average 3.9 kg).The Tasmanian Pademelon is the largest of the Pademelons and reasonably stocky in appearance.  The long fur is thick and soft indicative of the cool temperate climate of Tasmania.  The back and sides are grizzled grey-black with some rich dark brown individuals.  The head is a uniform olive-grey except for a slight pale yellow line along the upper lip and around the eye sockets.  The ears are short and have a black margin with the inner ear and base yellow-brown.  The neck and fore quarters are grey-brown.  There is a faint yellowish hip stripe in some individuals.  The undersides are yellow with a red tinge, and the area around the cloaca is brightly coloured.  The arms and legs are grey- brown, the hands and feet are brown. The tail is short (about 2/3 length of body) and grey-brown near the base changing to grey-white towards the end on the underside.

Habitat

The Tasmanian Pademelon occupies a diversity of habitats provided there are dense, moist thickets for daytime shelter. Thus it is found in wet sclerophyll forest, temperate rainforest, Tea-tree scrub, and dry sclerophyll forest with an open, grassy understorey. It is often in sympatry with Red-necked Wallabies and shares foraging areas at night but is likely to be in thicker cover during the day. Crypsis rather than flight protects it from predators whereas the larger wallaby tends to flee. The use of open grasslands for forages brings the Pademelon into conflict with agriculture and it is poisoned and shot in some areas.

Foraging behaviour

The diet of the Tasmanian Pademelon is primarily short green grasses and broad-leafed herbs (forbs). It will browse on the seedlings of woody plants bringing it into conflict with forestry where tree seedlings are planted out near cover. The graze down grasses and reduce the growth of Eucalypt seedlings but much of this damage is indirect through encouraging more insect damage. The effect is short-term and mainly during the first 15 weeks of planting out seedlings. Damage also lessens the further from cover with less foraging activity as distance from the forest edge increases.

Reproductive behaviour

Breeding is continuous but the majority of young are born in April-June. The pouch life is about 7 months so most young exit the pouch permanently in summer or early autumn when grass growth in the cold Tasmanian climate is vigorous. Gestation is about 30 d with a post-partum oestrus and embryonic diapause occurs if the pouch is occupied. Young are weaned at about 14-15 months.

The species is strongly sexually dimorphic with males larger and more muscular in the forelimbs and chest than females. Reproductive behaviour has not been described in detail and presumably males compete amongst themselves for mating opportunities with the sexes intermingling.

Social organisation

Home ranges are relatively large at around 170 ha and individuals may travel up to 2 km in a night through forest. At the forest edge, they rarely emerge more than about 100 m to graze and browse on grassy patches. Aggregations occur at night on these foraging grounds where social interactions take place. Sheltering during the day is likely solitary except for mothers and dependent young-at-foot.

Further readings

Bulinski J, McArthur C (2003) Identifying factors related to the severity of mammalian browsing damage in eucalypt plantations. Forest Ecology And Management 183, 239-247.

Le Mar K, McArthur C (2005) Comparison of habitat selection by two sympatric macropods, Thylogale billardierii and Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus, in a patchy eucalypt-forestry environment. Austral Ecology 30, 674-683.

Le Mar K, McArthur C, Statham M (2003) Home ranges of sympatric red-necked wallabies, red-bellied pademelons and common brushtail possums in a temperate eucalypt forestry environment. Australian Mammalogy 25, 183-191.

Rose RW, McCartney DJ (1982) Reproduction of the red-bellied pademelon, Thylogale billiardieri (Marsupialia). Australian Wildlife Research 9, 27-32.

Sprent JA, McArthur C (2002) Diet and diet selection of two species in the macropodid browser-grazer continuum: do they eat what they’should’? Australian Journal Of Zoology 50, 183-192.

While GM, McArthur C (2005) Foraging in a risky environment: a comparison of Bennett’s wallabies Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) and red-bellied pademelons Thylogale billiardierii (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) in open habitats. Austral Ecology 30, 756-764.

Featured image by JJ Harrison via Wikimedia 

This fact sheet was provided by RooTourism at www.rootourism.com. Thanks!

Citizen Science- Platypus Spotting on Mt Wellington

From the Wellington Park Management Authority with Conservation Volunteers and the Rothwell Wildlife Preservation Trust

WellingtonParkWildlifePlatypusCitizenScience1

WellingtonParkWildlifePlatypusCitizenScience2

 

Why not combine your favourite activity in Wellington Park with keeping an eye on some of its residents?
 We are looking for information from Bushcare, catchment and bushwalking groups, and the general public to add to the current database of wildlife records.
A platypus monitoring project has been set up by the Wellington Park Management Trust, Conservation Volunteers Australia and the Rothwell Wildlife Preservation Trust.
With support from the community, monitoring activities will also extend to other wildlife species.
Why do we want to know?
The information gathered will help us to understand, appreciate and conserve the incredible array of wildlife we are privileged to have on our doorstep.
The information will assist to:
                         
Ensure accurate evaluation of species status;
Be aware of changes in populations;
Plan conservation activities; and
Protect existing populations from threatening processes.
        
Time and resources do not allow for this kind of large scale information to be collected by scientists alone. Community participation is extremely valuable in helping to map current distribution and to provide insight into changes over time.
Funded by the Rothwell Wildlife Preservation Trust

The elusive platypus
The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is one of Australia’s
most amazing animals, and
also one of the most difficult to monitor and track! Help from the community is vital to map local platypus distribution to use for its conservation. The platypus is totally protected throughout Australia– it is considered common, but
is vulnerable to many factors, including waterway modification, poor water quality, predation, illegal fishing activity, litter and disease.
In Tasmania, there is concern about a disease known as Mucormycosis, which causes ulceration, almost always resulting in the death of
the infected animal. Information collected will help interpret the significance of these threats to the conservation of the Tasmanian Platypus.

What information is needed?
Simple!
Who? What? When? Where?
All sighting details add something to the existing body of information. Your information could be a chance encounter, or the results of a survey session (see below).

It is important that collected information is in a consistent format. You will be asked for the following:
• Your name & contact details
• Species
• Date & time of observation
• Location (GPS coordinates, map grid
references or precise descriptions) • Notes (eg were any animals seen
with ulcers?)

How do I get involved?
Go to www.wellingtonpark.org.au and follow the links to enter your observation details.
Further information is also available, including Playtpus
Fact Sheets, Monitoring Tips, and information on how to conduct your own dawn/dusk survey session, as well as links to related programs.
This is an observation program only – please do not disturb or touch
any of the animals you happen to see. If you find an injured or sick animal, please contact the Wildlife Management Program (DPIPWE) on 03 6233 6556 or the Wellington Park Ranger on 0408 517 534.

Enquiries to:
wildlife@wellingtonpark.org.au

Mountaineering Memories – A Photo Journey

We love mountains here at Tasmanian Geographic- they are some of the most basic landmarks of a landscape and the most complicated manifestations of geology. We’re especially pleased to share these photos from the collection of Angus Munro, once-president of the Tas Uni Bushwalking Club. He’s left the island for the icy land of Norway, but on a recent trip back to Tas we managed to convince him to share some of his marvellous photos. Enjoy – The Editor.