Kohler F.,Western Australia |
Kohler F.,College St
Malacologia | Year: 2011
The Western Australian Kimberley region harbours a diverse fauna of camaenid land snails characterised by marked patterns of narrow range endemism. A recent survey of previously poorly known areas along the Kimberley coast has resulted in the discovery of a number of further, yet undeschbed camaenid taxa. One of these, the genus Australocosmica, is newly described herein based on comparative studies of genital anatomy, shell and radular morphology, and analyses of partial sequences of the mitochondrial marker 16S rRNA. Australocosmica is characterised by a broadly conical to semi-globose shell with moderately elevated spire, well-rounded, convex whorls that are separated by a deeply incised suture, and a sculpture of dense, regularly spaced axial ribs. The most distinguishing feature of the inner penial anatomy is the presence of a furrowed, collar-like vergic papillum forming the entrance of the vas deferens into the lumen of the penial chamber. Three new species, Australocosmia augustae, A. sanctumpatriciusae, and A. vulcanice, are described based mainly on differences in penial anatomy. All species are well differentiated by uncorrected pair-wise p-distances of 15% to 20% in the 16S rRNA gene. Similar to most camaenids in the Kimberley region, species of Australocosmica are narrow-range endemics being restricted to single islands, sometimes including the immediately adjacent mainland coast.
News Article | February 16, 2016
A team of miners working for an Australian company has dug up what could be the largest piece of diamond ever to be found in Angola. The massive 404-carat gemstone is believed to be worth about $14 million. Miles Kennedy, chairman of the Perth-based Lucapa Diamond Company, said that they were not used to determining the value of a 400-carat diamond. Miners from the company found the large diamond in one of its mines located some 300 miles east of Luanda, Angola's capital city. Kennedy pointed out that when they first surveyed the 3,000-square kilometer (1,158-square mile) property, they thought that it was at a very remote area, being located 700 kilometers (435 miles) inland from the Angolan coast. He said that discovering the massive diamond on this site is a form of vindication for all the years of hard work they have done. According to Lucapa, the gemstone is the largest of its kind to be found in Angola. It is also the biggest one to be unearthed by a miner from Australia. The company said that the diamond measures about seven centimeters (2.75 inches). Angola is considered the fourth largest diamond-producing country based on value. Kennedy has been in search of diamonds ever since he established the Ellendale mine in the Kimberley region of Western Australia during the 1990s. When he went on to start The Lucapa Diamond Company, Kennedy brought his geology team from Ellendale to his mine in Angola. "I started the Ellendale diamond mine and was there from 1993 to 2007, so 14 years, and in that time we only got one diamond greater than 10.8 carats, known as a special diamond," Kennedy said. Through Lucapa, Kennedy has now discovered more than 100 special diamonds over the past six months alone. He said that he plans to use the sizeable cash injection from the sale of the diamond to expand Lucapa's operations to include other areas. The discovery of the 404-carat diamond comes months later after another firm, Lucara Diamond, unearthed a massive 1,111-carat diamond of its own in Botswana. The Lucara find is considered to be the second-largest diamond in the world, following only the 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond discovered in a mine in South Africa back in 1905.
Smoke clouds from a large bush fire are seen behind a police road block at the turn off onto the South Western Highway near Pinjarra, Western Australia, January 7, 2016. PERTH Two people have been killed, at least one other remains unaccounted for and more than 121 buildings have been destroyed by a bushfire that continues to burn out of control in Western Australia, police said on Saturday. The remains of two men were found by authorities searching burnt-out buildings in the historic timber milling town of Yarloop, 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital, Perth, which was destroyed by the fire on Thursday, police confirmed. The men, both believed to be in their 70s, haven't been formally identified. A state of emergency has been declared and residents evacuated from five nearby towns in the major beef and dairy farming area. Dairy farmers near the fire have been forced to dump thousands of liters of milk since Thursday as road closures prevent tankers being able to reach farms and power cuts prevent production. Holiday makers in nearby coastal resorts have also been evacuated by ferry as exit roads remain cut and damaged by the fire. The fire, ignited by a lightening strike on Wednesday, has now burned through some 67,000 hectares (166,000 acres) of land, is uncontained and has a 222 km perimeter. Firefighters have flown in from New South Wales to relieve fatigued local crews. Another large fire in the state's south east, west of the town of Esperance, is also burning out of control and threatening homes. Wildfires are an annual summer event in Australia, but rising temperatures have prompted some scientists to warn that climate change could increase the length and intensity of the summer fire season. Four people were killed in a series of bushfires sparked by lightning in Western Australia in November and more than 100 homes were destroyed in fires on Christmas Day in Victoria. Australia experienced its fifth hottest year on record in 2015, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, which has been keeping statistics since 1910.
She never would have dreamed she'd work in Queensland's desert country or that she'd take to the air on a helicopter to access some of the most remote islands in Australia. She never thought that she'd dodge crocs on her way to work or camp for weeks in near complete isolation, battling heat, humidity and flies in her quest to better understand Australia's often harsh yet fragile natural environment. But now as one of Department of Parks and Wildlife's (DPaW) leading scientists Dr Gibson says she would never swap the career she's forged as a zoologist. "I decided science was far more interesting than economics," she says. "I love how it explains why things are the way they are. And I'd always been interested in animals." After completing an honours project on the reproductive behaviour of wallabies, Dr Gibson won a position surveying kangaroos based in Charleville in south-west Queensland. But, while working there, she found herself enchanted by another creature—bilbies. She went on to do a PhD on a population of bilbies in the channel country of outback Queensland. The work was hard, with weeks spent in the field in great heat amid a featureless landscape. Yet she marks it as a career highlight. The experience held her in good stead for her first position in Western Australia—a job she took on 12 years ago with DPaW for its biological survey of the Pilbara. Again she found herself packing her swag and spending weeks in stunning and remote countryside, intent on understanding its natural wonders. Next Dr Gibson was charged with responsibility for coordinating DPaW's biodiversity survey of the Kimberley Islands. This job would challenge and delight her like no other. The logistics were a nightmare—organising helicopter landings and boat access to areas inaccessible by other means. But the results were astonishing, with the discovery of more than 70 new species of land snail, and many new island populations of vertebrate fauna, including three endangered mammals. "It was amazing—you felt like you were walking across country that only Aboriginal people were ever likely to have set foot on," she says. Dr Gibson now hopes to conduct similar survey work in WA's Cape Range subregion—yet another remote and stunning landscape with all sorts of biological secrets to uncover.
So why do they do it and what do they want? Flies are one of the most diverse insect orders, with more than 150,000 species described worldwide in more than 150 different insect families. In Australia, entomologists (scientists who study insects) estimate there are more than 30,000 species of fly, and yet only 7,700 species have been described. There are two main types of fly: the Nematocera (which includes mosquitoes and non-biting crane flies) and the Brachycera (which includes house flies, fruit flies, and horse flies). In Australia, there is only one type of fly that's attracted to us, rather than our blood: the bush fly (Musca vetustissima, Diptera: Muscidae), which is a non-biting fly and close relative of the house fly (Musca domestica). These flies are after the proteins, carbohydrates, salts, and sugars naturally present on your skin. All the other flies around you are probably after your blood, and that includes mosquitoes and horse flies. And yes, unfortunately some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. Although mosquitoes and other blood-feeding insects are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, we know the insect sensory system also helps find exposed skin. Since the skin near our faces is often exposed, that's one reason flies are always buzzing around your face and hands. In the mosquito, the proboscis is sharp and needle-like; in the deer fly (also known as the horse fly, or march fly in Australia), it is a large, wide spike. This reflects the different feeding styles found in flies: mosquitoes use a hypodermic needle approach, and are so selective about where they bite research has shown they can actually find capillaries underneath the skin. As most people know, these bites can be very itchy and in rare cases the proteins transferred during a mosquito bite can cause anaphylactic shock. Horse flies use a "slash and suck" approach, where they cut the skin and then lap up the blood that comes out. These bites are my least favourite of any insect. Biting midges, also known as sandflies in Australia, are blood-feeding flies (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), and are known vectors of lesser human pathogens and major veterinary pathogens in livestock. Their bites are also intensely itchy. Fruit flies and house flies use a slightly different method: their mouthparts are like sponges, and they regurgitate a mixture of digestive enzymes onto the surface they're feeding on and then lap up the resulting liquid. Although they are irritating, they don't bite humans. Along for the ride The biggest problem with fly bites isn't so much that the injury is painful or irritating, it's the pathogens the insect can transmit through their bite. In order for a vector-borne disease to spread, three things need to be present: For some diseases, such as dengue fever, in Australia we have the mosquito but generally don't have the virus. Outbreaks of dengue occur when someone brings the dengue virus into the country, and then the mosquitoes that are already here can spread the disease. When you look at the number of notifications for dengue virus infection, you can see that Queensland has the highest number of cases. But when you factor in the population size, how does that change? When you look at the number of notifications per 100,000 people in the population, the tropical areas of Australia (the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland) are by far the most at risk. That's because those areas are where you're most likely to have the disease, the insect that spreads the disease, and humans. How can you reduce your risk of being bit? DEET or picaridin containing topical insect repellents work best to stop mosquitoes from biting. Wristbands have been shown not to repel mosquitoes, and botanicals rarely if ever provide the same level of protection. For nuisance flies this may not matter, but for those insects that can carry human disease your best method is to remove all the standing water from around your house (to prevent eggs from developing there), and stay inside when you are able at dusk (to prevent being bit when the mosquitoes are most active). Most blood feeding flies, like mosquitoes, take opportunistic blood meals to complete their lifecycle. The blood meal is required in order for females to lay eggs. In several species of mosquito, females aren't selective and will take their blood meals from a range of vertebrates. Adult males and sometimes females feed only on nectar or pollen. In tabanids like horse flies, nectar feeding occurs frequently in both males and females. When flies land on a series of plants to feed on nectar, they spread the pollen between flowers and help fertilise the next generation of plants. As pollinators, flies perform a valuable role in the ecological community for our native plants, and are also helping farmers. Recent research from scientists in Australia has shown that non-bee pollinators, including flies, play an important role in crop pollination across the world. So next time flies flood your picnic, bushwalk or barbecue, consider that they may have helped put some of that food on your table. Explore further: Researchers investigate new suspect in West Nile deaths of pelicans