Subterranean bugs discovered on Cane River Bush Blitz

This dragon is one of the many creatures scientists are finding during a Bush Blitz at Cane River Conservation Park in WA's Pilbara

This dragon is one of the many creatures scientists are finding during a Bush Blitz at Cane River Conservation Park in WA’s Pilbara

An array of subterranean invertebrates — never previously recorded by science — are just some of the amazing discoveries scientists are making here in Western Australia’s Pilbara.

The weather has been great and our team of Bush Blitz scientists are putting in long days to record and identify as many plants and animals as they can during this two-week biodiscovery expedition in the Cane River Conservation Park, managed by WA’s Department of Environment and Conservation — more than 1,400 hours in the field so far!

This red sand dune country is just blossoming following a lot of rain earlier this year. Swathes of wildflowers, including lots of pea species, are keeping the botanists busy collecting and pressing plant samples. And while the Cane River has been reduced to a series of large rock pools, the relative abundance of water means that insects are quite active in the area.

Scientists from the South Australian Museum have been particularly excited with the many new species of underground bugs, known as stygofauna, which have been found in bores and wells on the property.

A diversity of small mammals has also been found — from rock rats to hopping mice —as well as reptiles such as the bearded dragon, geckos, whip snakes and moon snakes.

An inquisitive black-headed python slivered out of a rocky outcrop to investigate us intruders. It must have been at least 1.5 metres long and it was fat and healthy — a good sign of a productive environment!

Bush Blitz is a nation-wide biodiscovery partnership between the Australia Government, BHP Billiton, Earthwatch Australia and TERN–AusPlots Rangelands.

 Bethany Blowfield, Parks Australia

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