Bush Blitz discovers new species of blind crustaceans

Stygofauna are aquatic animals that live in the pitch black waters of underground caves. Photo: Julian Finn, Museum Victoria

Stygofauna are aquatic animals that live in the pitch black waters of underground caves. Photo: Julian Finn, Museum Victoria

Two new species of blind crustaceans from the pitch black waters of underground caves are just some of the exciting finds made during our Bush Blitz here at Lake Condah in south-west Victoria.

We’ve been working in rain in leech-infested areas to unearth an array of interesting scorpions, spiders and dragonfly-like lacewings as well as skinks and six species of frogs, including the pobblebonk, tree frogs and froglets. We’ve also found two moths which we suspect are new species.

Bush Blitz is a continental scale biodiversity discovery program being coordinated by Parks Australia in partnership with BHP Billiton, Earthwatch and TERN AusPlots. This is our eighth Bush Blitz and we have a team of about 30 or so scientists who are working alongside Gunditjmara rangers and traditional owners to document the plants and animals in the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape.

Sinkhole. Photo: M Norman, Museum Victoria

A sinkhole in the ancient volcanic landscape at Lake Condah. Photo: M Norman, Museum Victoria

It’s beautiful and rugged stone country. The land is rippled with lava flows from an ancient volcano and pitted with freshwater lakes and sinkholes. It’s the traditional meeting place and camping area for the Gunditjmara people who farmed eels in the region over thousands of years.

We’ve found different species of aquatic bugs, including isopods and other little crustaceans. Our botanists have been busy mushroom collecting – they’ve found a couple of truffles species which haven’t been previously found in this area.

The mountain katydid defends itself by flashing bright colours and squirting noxious liquid. Photo: Julian Finn

The mountain katydid defends itself by flashing bright colours and squirting noxious liquid. Photo: Julian Finn

This lumbering mountain katydid caused some excitement. As its name suggests, this grasshopper-like insect is usually found in alpine areas. Finding a population in a lowland region is good news because it could mean that this species may be buffered from the worst impacts of climate change.

The sheer diversity of life in these reserves is just amazing!

Find out more about our Bush Blitz here, or see Museum Victoria’s  blog.

Kate, Bush Blitz team leader

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