Thursday, February 24, 2011


While working at my computer desk earlier today, an insect began to buzz around the monitor. Its shape was unmistakable, it was a mosquito, but it was huge! After a quick search in the bookshelf its identity became clear - a Giant Mosquito, Toxorhynchites speciosus. Fortunately for Deanna (our household mozzie magnet), this species is a nectar feeder. Its larvae, however, are predatory on other mosquito larvae, so it is quite a good species to have around. Unfortunately this specimen didn't last very long after I caught it, and I was unable to get a decent photo of it alive.

The Giant Mosquito perched upon my finger.

The body of these mosquitos can reach 16mm

'Greight' eyes

It doesn't matter how many of these little guys we encounter, they always captivate us. This is Mopsus mormon, the Green Jumping Spider. It is one of Australia's largest jumping spiders, growing to around 16mm in body length. Like most jumping spiders, this species is energetic, charismatic and very inquisitive. They are continually surveying their surroundings and to watch them stalk their prey is a real treat.

With eight eyes in total, and an enormous forward facing pair, they are amongst the best in game when it comes to spider vision. They use cat-like stealth to approach prey, and then leap on it with incredible pace and accuracy. They are venomous and instantly impale their victim with their fangs in order to subdue it. Green Jumping Spiders are renowned for bringing down prey much larger than themselves, usually insects or other spiders. 

Mopsus mormon, the Green Jumping Spider

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New mum

We have had an event within our animal collection this week - one of our scorpions (Lychas sp.) has given birth to around 30 tiny babies. Scorpions are viviparous – they give birth to live young. They are born individually via a genital operculum on the underside of the mother. She forms a cradle for the youngsters with her legs, and catches them as they emerge. The babies then crawl up onto their mother's back. They hitch a ride for a around 4 weeks until they undergo their first moult. At that stage they will begin to disperse and fend for themselves. We will watch for this to occur and separate them when it does, as once they disperse mum begins to lose the maternal instinct and may eat them.

Baby scorpions being caught by the mother as they are being born.

The young make their way up to their mother's back soon after they emerge.

The female resting with around 30 offspring on her back.

This species is from the dry country about 100km west of Kuranda. It appears to be a specialist spider hunter. This individual is featured in the bug series we have just finished working on for Discovery Science in the US.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Reptilian visitor

Brown Tree Snakes (Boiga irregularis) are common nocturnal snakes in the tropics, we have seen quite a few while out at night. This one turned up at our neighbours backdoor. They belong to the family Colubridae; solid toothed and rear- fanged snakes. This particular species has rear-fangs and mild venom, and although they can be defensive at times, rarely do bites on humans cause envenomation. Birds are among their favoured prey, and due to their slender bodies they can easily enter bird cages for an easy meal.

Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis

This nocturnal snake has a very thin agile body for climbing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unusual katydid

An unusual katydid turned up at home this week, a species we had not encountered before. We suspected it was a member of the genus Austrosalomona as we are familiar with several local species, and this specimen shares many traits with them. Naturally we referred the identification to katydid guru David Rentz, author of ‘A Guide to the Katydids of Australia’. It turns out that even David may not be familiar with this one, but he thinks that it may be an Austrosalomona. These encounters make living in the wet tropics very exciting for us ‘bug nuts’. There are so many species up here, you never know what you are going to find. 

We have determined that the species is at least partly predatory as it attacked and consumed an entire herbivorous katydid Caedicia kuranda. Austrosalomona katydids are generally omnivores, and will consume plant material (particularly flowers), and other invertebrates opportunistically. We intend to house the katydid in a terrarium for a while to learn a little more about the species. As it is an adult female, there is a good chance that she may lay eggs.

The surprise visitor - an adult female (note the large ovipositor at the rear of the katydid).

Austrosalomona 'destructor' - the most common member of this genus in the Kuranda area.