Australian Aquatic Biological

Australian aquatic biodiversity research and consultancy

East Gippsland Survey Season Commences 2016

Euastacus crassus

Euastacus crassus upper Murray River

The high country of East Gippsland is a difficult area to survey as the window of opportunity is small. In summer it’s too hot and subject to bushfires and road closures. In winter, it’s too cold and the crayfish have retired to their deep burrows being extremely difficult to find. This just leaves the spring and autumn crayfish survey season.

Our surveys in East Gippsland are targeted to answer a number of questions we have concerning the species present and their distributions. Unfortunately, the more we research the more questions are raised and we don’t seem to be making much forward progress despite accumulating huge amounts of new information.

 

1st Survey

The first survey was conducted in March by Craig Burnes and Rob McCormack, of the upper Murray and upper Snowy River tributaries in the Victorian Alpine National Park.

New Euastacus crassus Little River

New Euastacus crassus Little River

They surveyed the start of the Murray River from its most eastern and southern point in the Alpine National Park of Victoria. They were looking for Euastacus rieki, Euastacus claytoni and Euastacus crassus which occur in tributaries of the Murray River further north. What they found most closely matched Euastacus crassus in morphology but had a gastric mill count closer to Euastacus claytoni. Morgan 1997 did record lower TAP counts from specimens further west from the Bogong High Plains but genetic analysis will be very interesting.

Gastric mill upper Murray River

Gastric mill upper Murray River

Craig and Rob also surveyed the adjoining drainages of the upper Snowy River. The Little, Suggan Buggan and Buchan rivers were surveyed providing comparative material. Specimens from the Little River a tributary of the Snowy River for example vary in morphology but the gastric mill more closely resembles the norm for Euastacus crassus.

Gastric mill upper Little River (Snowy Rv)

Gastric mill upper Little River (Snowy Rv)

Specimens collected from each drainage will be included in a broad genetics study including specimens from the Tambo River in Victoria and the new population of E. crassus discovered in the Shoalhaven drainage. Stay tuned for results.

For further information on Euastacus crassus from the upper Murray & Snowy rivers see http://www.austcray.com/2016/04/alpine-national-park-victoria-new-euastacus-crassus/

 

2nd Survey

Surveys of the eastern tributaries of the Snowy River have been completed and resulted in the redescription of Euastacus diversus.

Coughran J, McCormack RB and Fetzner Jr. JW (2015). Re-description of the Orbost spiny crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in eastern Victoria, Australia. Freshwater Crayfish 21(1): 185-197.

In that paper we identified the species occurring within the next drainage east – the Bemm River as being a potentially new species. This has generated a species specific project, requiring the surveying of the Bemm and adjoining eastern drainages.

As part of this project an ACP survey team gathered to survey the Arte River drainage a major tributary of the Bemm River. We hadn’t surveyed this river before so it was essential information needed as part of the project to help increase our knowledge base.

Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards, Jim Reside

The Team – Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards, Jim Reside

The team consisted of Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards and Jim Reside. We met up in Orbost and Kuark Forest to survey the tributaries of the Arte River.

Euastacus sp. Arte Rv - Spec 5737

Euastacus sp. Arte Rv – Spec 5737

We surveyed a large number of streams and were successful in finding Engaeus, Euastacus sp, and Euastacus kershawi. We were specifically targeting Euastacus sp and the specimens collected will be used for our morphological and genetics program for this species. Further surveys are needed in the other tributaries of the Bemm and adjoining drainages, hence, this project will continue for some time.

Euastacus sp. Arte River, Victoria

Euastacus sp. Arte River, Victoria. Spec 5739

My thanks to the team members who guided us through the back roads of the forest despite many of them being disused and overgrown.

The survey convoy held up by a blocked road

The survey convoy held up by a blocked road

Clearing the forest road

Clearing the forest road

The 3rd Survey

Was conducted by Craig Burnes and Rob McCormack of tributaries of the Cann and Genoa Rivers. This survey again created more questions than answers. We were expecting to find Euastacus bidawalus and we were successful in finding them with the ones we found matching the morphological description of E. bidawalus. Then however, we found specimens in the Genoa River catchment that did not match the current description. This is a dilemma, is this just morphological variation between populations 1 km apart or two separate species. Instead of answers again more questions and further research needed.

Euastacus bidawalus, Cann Rv, (Spec 5751)

Euastacus bidawalus, Cann Rv, (Spec 5751)

Euastacus sp, Genoa Rv, (Spec 5755)

Euastacus sp, Genoa Rv, (Spec 5755)

It’s always a pleasure investigating the East Gippsland forests and streams; we will be back as soon as we can to do it all over again.

Cheers

Rob McCormack

 

 

Second Hand Yabby Hatchery, Purging, Holding and Display System For Sale

SOLD-THIS SYSTEM HAS BEEN SOLD

The disposal of a complete yabby aquaculture set up has become available. This is a Yabby Hatchery/Holding/Purging and display facility. It represents a unique opportunity to purchase a complete recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) at an affordable price.

Two complete rooms are available:

ROOM 1

The first room consists of 12 rectangular fiberglass tanks hooked up to a RAS system. Water is supplied to each of the as new fiberglass purging/holding tanks (2.37 m long x 0.64 m wide x 0.3 m deep) by 40 mm PVC water supply pipes. Water enters each tank through 6 x inlet hoses c/w control valves. Each tank has additional aeration supplied by the diaphragm air pump and airstone in the tank. Water flows into the tank, through and then out via a stand pipe that sets the waters depth in the tank. Water is filtered by the Pantera sand filter and U filter. Recirculated around the system by the Onga Pool Pump. This complete system is available for only $5,500 ono.

For further details and photos “Click Here”

Fiberglass Yabby Holding Tanks

Fiberglass Yabby Holding Tanks

ROOM 2

The second room is an aquarium and packaging room. 82 glass display aquaria are included c/w stands, bases, filters and lids. Many unused in immaculate condition. The Aquaria are drained by hose and electric pump. The pump is activated by an electric switch. Just press and the hose sucks and when empty press again and the pump shuts off. You can drain and clean each tank in seconds. There are also a large assortment of stainless steel, sinks, benches and tanks. The complete room and everything in it is available at only $5,500 ono.

For further details and photos “Click Here”

Aquaria For Sale

Aquaria For Sale

ADDITIONAL

Additionally there are 6 full bales and one half bale of bird netting available, and 440 pairs or 880 individual plastic yabby containers available.

For further details and photos “Click Here

Yabby cages

Yabby cages

This complete system represents many years of work which has been abandoned due to ill health. It is all still assembled and functional. Potential purchases would need to inspect to value and make an offer. We are located at Seymour Victoria, adjacent to the Hume highway:

Contact:

Linda McKenzie

BOORANDARRA FARM

Ph: 0414 418766

Email: linda_mckenzie@bigpond.com

An expedition to Victoria –November 2015

I had the pleasure of traveling to Victoria to present a lecture on “The Freshwater Crayfish of Victoria” to the Bendigo Field Naturalists Club. They were great crowd and I had a great time chatting with them.

Bendigo Field Naturalist Club

Bendigo Field Naturalist Club

Whilst in the Bendigo area I sampled the local creeks and streams, only finding yabbies Cherax destructor.

Cherax destructor from Bendigo

Cherax destructor from Bendigo Creek

The following day I had an aquaculture consult in the Seymour area and whilst there I took the opportunity to sample the local creeks and streams. Again abundant Cherax destructor but then a very nice surprise. I found a colony of Engaeus lyelli. This was excellent as I also managed to capture berried females, something I haven’t come across in this species before.
For a full article on Engaeus lyelli “Click Here”

Engaeus lyelli

Engaeus lyelli

Travelling south to the Otways the following day I sampled creeks, streams and rivers, finding mostly Cherax destructor and glass shrimp Paratya australiensis. One nice surprise in the Campaspe River were Australian Basket Shell Mussels Corbicula australis. They are a widespread and common species but usually hard to find so finding them easily was a pleasing result.

Australian Basket Shell Mussel

Australian Basket Shell Mussel

Further south around Waurn Ponds another nice surprise was the capture of a berried female Engaeus merosetosus. Enagaeus merosetosus are relatively common and widespread in that area however, females with eggs are exceptionally rare so the capture of one greatly increases the general knowledge on the species. For a full article on Engaeus merosetosus “Click Here”.

Engaeus merosetosus

Engaeus merosetosus

I spent several days at Otway Crays, Bellbrae, Victoria with the owner Steve Chara. Steve is a mate and we spent a few days together surveying the general area. Mostly we were finding Cherax albidus and Geochara gracilis. Both species were abundant and we found thousands. For a full article on Geocharax gracilis “Click Here”.

Geocharax gracilis

Geocharax gracilis

We also found Engaeus sericatus at a number of sites.

Engaeus sericatus

Engaeus sericatus

Steve Chara is one of Victoria’s largest yabby farmers and I spent some time with him sorting, grading and packaging yabbies.

Cherax albidus in a holding net

Cherax albidus in a holding net

Pumkin used to feed Cherax albidus

Pumpkin used to feed Cherax albidus

Steve had a bi-coloured yabby in a tank, this is a rare treat as these are extremely rare animals. For an article on Bi-Coloured Crayfish “Click Here”.

Bi-coloured Cherax albidus

Bi-coloured Cherax albidus

Unfortunately the expedition was over all too soon and I had to head back to the office.

2015 Expedition to Far North Queensland

Cocoa Creek, Townsville, just on dusk

Cocoa Creek, Townsville, just on dusk

Early September 2015 four volunteers on the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) met at Townsville Queensland for a crayfish research expedition. We met at Cocoa Creek, on Cape Cleveland approximately 17 km east of Townsville. We all got there pretty much together just before sunset. Cocoa Creek is a small muddy deep water creek flowing through the mangroves. Last time we were there it was full of fish, mudcrabs and rumour had it one small (1.2 m) crocodile.

Karl with 4 mudcrabs in first 35 minutes

Karl with 4 mudcrabs in first 35 minutes

As soon as camp was set up we started having a fish just on dark. Karl dropped in a couple of crab traps and after 35 minutes he pulled the first out and jackpot, 4 mudcrabs. We failed to catch many fish that night but what was biting we biting midges or sand flies. They were in abundance and a major hassle as nothing repelled them.

The following morning Karl and I headed for Mt Elliott whilst Paul and Phil held the fort and stayed at base camp on Cocoa creek.

Base camp, hiking hammocks between trees

Base camp, Mt Elliot, hiking hammocks between trees

Karl and I made it to the base of Mt Elliot at the falls, set up a camp and then started climbing the mountain. We made it well up and then back that day, just blazing a trail and flagging a track ready for the early start the following morning.

The base of the Falls, Alligator Creek

The base of the Falls, Alligator Creek

We were climbing Mt Elliott to research the Mt Ellliot Crayfish Euastacus bindal one of Australias most endangered and rarest freshwater crayfish species with a small knowledge base.

Euastacus bindal

Euastacus bindal

The ACP has been researching this species since 2008 and this is our 5th expedition up the mountain. Once again we gathered more information which has been added to our paper and eventually we will publish our findings. Unfortunately, we will need further expeditions up the mountain so stay tuned.

Base camp Koombooloomba Dam

Base camp Koombooloomba Dam

After Mt Elliot we headed to Koombooloomba Dam, some 28 km south south east of Ravenshoe, Queensland. The dam has been constructed on the Tully River and we set up a base camp there to research the Cardwell Hairy Crayfish Euastacus yigara. One of the least known and researched Euastacus crayfish species in Australia. Our research on E. yigara was very successful and eventually we will publish our results. For an article on E. yigara “Click Here”.

Euastacus yigara

Euastacus yigara

Paul brought his boat which we launched on Koombooloomba Dam and we were able to access all the feeder streams that drain into the dam. We would motor up to the end of a bay, hop out and follow the stream into the rainforest and research E. yigara.

Paul Van der Werf, digging an E. yigara burrow complex

Paul Van der Werf, digging an E. yigara burrow complex

Success, an adult female Euastacus yigara

Success, an adult female Euastacus yigara

We also found both in the dam streams and those we surveyed in the wider area, Cherax parvus, Zebra Shrimp, another Caridina shrimp species, Rainbow Fish and Trout Gudgeons.

Euastacus parvus

Euastacus parvus

Northern Trout Gudgeon Mogurnda mogurnda

Northern Trout Gudgeon Mogurnda mogurnda

Zebra Shrimp Caridina zebra

Zebra Shrimp Caridina zebra

Between researching crayfish we also had a fish in the dam. Sooty Grunter were plentiful and we caught quite a few for dinners at night after a hard days cray chasing.

Phil with a nice Sooty Grunter

Phil with a nice Sooty Grunter

For 5 days we researched E. yigara then we moved to Hinchinbrook Island.

Our base camp at Lucinda

Our base camp at Lucinda

We made camp at Lucinda opposite the southern end of Hinchinbrook Island in the “Wanderers Holiday Village”. Camping was at a premium and we only just managed to get a space squeezed in between caravans. This was our base camp for daily expeditions across the bay to Hinchinbrook Island. We would motor across to Hinchinbrook then follow the creeks up into freshwater and survey for freshwater crayfish.

Paul foreground and Karl background surveying a freshwater stream of Hinchinbrook Island

Paul foreground and Karl background surveying a freshwater stream of Hinchinbrook Island

It was a great trip and we will do it again next year. I drove 5,500km to get there and back so 2 days each way just gettings there. Hopefully, next year we will do a fly in and fly out trip.

Cheers

Rob

A Day in the Swamps of Katoomba Chasing the Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea

The Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea

A Male Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea

In late December 2014, I met up with Dr Ian Baird one of Australia’s foremost experts on Giant Dragonflies and we spent the day together wandering selected swamps of the Blue Mountains hunting this rare and elusive species. This was an eye opener for me and I had a fantastic day learning all about Giant Dragonflies. The following information on the species was provided by Ian.

The Survey Swamp at Katoomba

The Survey Swamp at Katoomba (880 m a.s.l

Petalura gigantea, commonly known as the Giant Dragonfly or Southeastern Petaltail is a very large dragonfly which may have a wingspan up to 13 cm. It is recorded from selected peat swamps, bogs and seepages (mires) along the coast and ranges of NSW from Nadgee Nature Reserve near the Victorian border, to near the Qld border in and around Basket Swamp National Park and Boonoo Boonoo State Forest. It has also been observed in nearby Girraween National Park in southeastern Qld.

It has been recorded in swamp habitats from near sea level to 1240 m elevation. Listed as endangered in NSW under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, with habitat loss and degradation identified as the main threats to the species.

Ian Baird photographing a Giant Dragonfy caught in a spiders web

Ian Baird photographing a Giant Dragonfy caught in a spiders web

In addition to the large size and widely separated dark eyes, the species (and genus) is characterised by a long pterostigma (darkened cell) towards the distal end of the leading edge of the wings, and large petaloid superior anal appendages in adult males. Adult females lack the conspicuous petaloid appendages and are somewhat bulkier than males.

A dragonfly perching in the swamp

1. A dragonfly perching in the swamp

A Giant Dragonfly perching on a stick

2. Closer up perching on a stick

The Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea

3. The Giant Dragonfly Petalura gigantea

The family is unique amongst dragonflies, in that larvae excavate burrows which extend below the water table in soft peaty soils in mires, seepages or along stream margins. The larvae (mudeyes) occupy and maintain these burrows for their entire larval period, generally surviving on creatures captured within the burrow system, or perhaps ambushed at the burrow entrance. Larvae may leave their burrows to hunt under favorable conditions, but this behaviour has not been confirmed. Petalurid dragonflies have very long larval stages, which are known to extend for at least five years in two overseas species. Extrapolation from recent studies by Ian and Dr John Trueman, suggest, respectively, a larval stage of at least six years, and possibly 10 or more, in P. gigantea. Ian was extremely skilled at locating burrows and he found 10:1 to what I did. I was desperately searching for an occupied burrow but only ever found those recently vacated.

A burrow

A burrow

After this extended larval stage they emerge (October-January) and climb the nearest shrub or sedgeland vegetation to undergo emergence, usually leaving their larval skin (exuvia) attached to their shrub or sedge emergence supports. Ian and I surveyed the Katoomba swamp and I was astounded at the number of exuvia we found amongst the sedges. Ian indicated that this was an unusually large emergence event for this swamp patch.

The lava emerge from burrow, climb up and emerge from exuvia into dragonflies

The larva emerge from burrow, climb up and emerge from exuvia to become adult dragonflies

Exuvia from a dragon fly larva

Exuvia from a male dragonfly larvae

Adults live for a maximum of one summer flying season, which extends into February at least, with occasional late flying individuals having been observed on one occasion as late as mid-March in the Blue Mountains.

Giant Dragonflies mating in late December 2015

Giant Dragonflies mating in late December 2014

My thanks to Ian for a most enjoyable and informative day. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for Giant Dragonflies in the future.

Cheers
Rob McCormack
 

Selected references for Petalura gigantea

Baird I. R. C. (2012) The wetland habitats, biogeography and population dynamics of Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae) in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. PhD thesis, University of Western Sydney, Australia. Available from http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/509925.

Baird I. R. C. (2013) Emergence behaviour in Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae): confirmation of upright emergence. International Journal of Odonatology 16, 213-8. doi:10.1080/13887890.2013.798975

Baird, I.R.C. (2013). Larval habitat and behaviour of Phenes raptor (Odonata: Petaluridae): a review of current knowledge, with new observations. International Journal of Odonatology, 16, 79-91. doi:10.1080/13887890.2012.757723

Baird, I.R.C. (2014). Larval burrow morphology and groundwater dependence in a mire-dwelling dragonfly, Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology, 17, 101-121. doi:10.1080/13887890.2014.932312

Baird, I.R.C. (2014). Mate guarding and other aspects of reproductive behaviour in Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology, 17, 223-236. doi:10.1080/13887890.2014.979333

Baird I. R. C. & Burgin S. (2013) An emergence study of Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology 16, 193-211. doi:10.1080/13887890.2013.798580

Baird I. R. C. & Ireland C. (2006) Upright emergence in Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology 9, 45-50.

Benson D. & Baird I. R. C. (2012) Vegetation, fauna and groundwater interrelations in low nutrient temperate montane peat swamps in the upper Blue Mountains, New South Wales. Cunninghamia 12, 267-307. Available from http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/science/Scientific_publications/cunninghamia/contents_by_volume/volume_12#twelvefour

Davies, D.A.L. (1998). The genus Petalura: field observations, habits and conservation status (Anisoptera: Petaluridae). Odonatologica, 27, 287-305.

Fleck G. (2011) Phylogenetic placement of Petaluridae and basal Anisoptera families (Insecta: Odonata). Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde A Neue Series 4, 83-104.

Hawking J. H. & Theischinger G. (2004) Critical species of Odonata in Australia. International Journal of Odonatology 7, 113-32.

NSW Scientific Committee. (1998) Giant dragonfly – endangered species listing. NSW Scientific Committee final determination. Available from http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/determinations/GiantDragonflyEndSpListing.htm

NSW Scientific Committee. (2007). Petalura gigantea – endangered species listing amendment. NSW Scientific Committee determination to add Petalura litorea to Part 1 of Schedule 1 (Endangered species) of the Threatened Species Conservation Act. Available from http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/listings/PetaluraGiganteaAmendment.htm

Theischinger G. (1975) Ein “Dreigespann” von Petalura gigantea Leach. Tombo 18, 45. (In German, with English summary).

Theischinger G. (1999) A new species of Petalura Leach from south-eastern Queensland (Odonata: Petaluridae). Linzer biologische Beiträge 31, 159-66.

Theischinger G. & Endersby I. (2009) Identification Guide to the Australian Odonata. Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, Hurstville, NSW.

Theischinger G. & Hawking J. H. (2006) The Complete Field Guide to Dragonflies of Australia. CSIRO, Collingwood, Vic.

Tillyard, R.J. (1909). Studies in the life-histories of Australian Odonata. 1. The life-history of Petalura gigantea Leach. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of NSW, 34, 256-267.

Tillyard, R.J. (1911). Studies in the life-histories of Australian Odonata. 4. Further notes on the life-history of Petalura gigantea Leach. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of NSW, 36, 86-96.

Ware, J.L., Beatty, C.D., Sanchez Herrera, M., Valley, S., Johnson, J., Kerst, C., May, M.L. & Theischinger, G. (2014). The petaltail dragonflies (Odonata: Petaluridae): Mesozoic habitat specialists that survive to the modern day. Journal of Biogeography, 41, 1291-1300. doi:10.1111/jbi.12273

 

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