Insects, Reptiles and other Hazards

Contents


Spiders

Living with spiders (Compiled by Bob MacLennan)

Although most of the large numbers of types of spiders in the Mt Nebo/Mt Glorious area are harmless to humans and are essential members of our ecosystem, there are several with which great care must be taken. Some of these live in or around houses, and residents need to know which ones to avoid. Dangerous spiders should not be disturbed, and help from professional pest controllers is recommended.

A fascinating survey of the spiders living on the range was presented at a MEPA meeting by Dr Robert Raven, Senior Curator (Arachnology) at the Queensland Museum. Videos presented included some taken through fibre-optic probes placed down the tunnels of trapdoor spiders, a group that is in decline at Mt Glorious for reasons unknown. There are many species of spiders in the area that have not yet been identified and remain unknown to science. They could include venomous species. Because of the potential hazards from spiders in this area, additional information has been obtained and is summarised below.

Around the home, great care must be taken to avoid contact with Black House spiders, White-tailed spiders, Redback spiders, and Funnel-web spiders which are prevalent in the area, and may enter houses at times. Much of the following text has been taken from Queensland Museum information sheets Number 35 and 39 prepared by Dr Raven and Philip Lawless (Box 3300, South Brisbane, Q 4001). We also thank the Queensland Museum, and Steve Wilson in particular, for granting us the use of Museum photos reproduced below.


BLACK HOUSE SPIDERS
 
Black House Spiders are highly prevalent in and around houses in Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious. While conversing in Mt Nebo hall after his talk, Dr Raven removed one from the chest of a resident. It apparently had descended from the ceiling. This may occur especially in hot weather when the spiders are overcome by the heat near a ceiling. If they fall on one's arm, they may bite.

The venom is highly toxic, and may cause severe pain, numbness, headache, giddiness, vomiting, sweating and muscular pain. Because of bacteria also carried by the spider, a bite may cause a chronic localised area of tissue destruction that may require extensive surgical removal.

These spiders may be seen moving on the floor of a house and have the appearance, from a distance, of a small funnel-web spider. "Black House spiders may be identified by their webs alone although their forms may vary depending on their positions. Webs are always built against some form of backing - in crevices, in tree trunks, and among rocks, and commonly in the corners of windows, walls, doors, doors and eaves, under guttering, and on brick walls, where they eventually become shaggy and untidy. The silk is very lacey and webs have one or more entrances. Some webs may appear funnel-shaped. The spider is timid and retreats when approached, so bites are rare and usually occur when people attempt to remove the webs" (Raven and Lawless, 1993).

The spiders are black or very dark, hairy, and have an indistinct faint pattern of lighter hairs on the body and legs.


WHITE-TAILED SPIDERS
 
White Tailed Spiders have grey or black hairy bodies always with a white tip at the end, and sometimes with several paired white spots on the back.The legs are shiny and may span a 20 cent coin. They hide in narrow spaces but roam the walls of houses at night. They bite readily and frequently. They seem to have an undeserved severely nasty reputation because "despite reports of necrosis and ulceration, records from authorities throughout Australia show definite bites from White-tailed Spiders as causing no more than minor local reactions (Raven and Lawless, 1993).


DADDY-LONG LEGS build delicate tangled webs in corners inside sheds or houses and are well known. They apparently arrived in Australia with Europeans. Their venom is harmless to humans, but not to other spiders, and their prey includes the White-tailed spider.


REDBACK SPIDERS are typically entirely black, except for a broad red band down the back of the body and a red hourglass-shaped mark underneath. Large females may span a 50 cent coin, but males are much smaller. Immature spiders do not have the typical colouring. They are not native to the area, but are common in Brisbane and are sometimes seen around houses on the range.

Redbacks build anywhere out of the direct effects of the weather - on buildings, in parks, under steps, in corners, grass, junk piles,, under window sills, around pot plants. They are generally timid except when an object is placed in the web, or when tending young or eggs in the nest. Only the female is large enough to effectively bite people. They are highly venomous.


FUNNEL-WEB SPIDERS
 
Funnel Web Spiders are potentially the most dangerous in the world. In Queensland they tend to be more common in moist cool rainforests, but are found along the D'Aguilar range. Male Funnel-web spiders are encountered during the summer when they wander in search of females. They thus may enter houses. Alone, the head or body of a female Funnel-web spider can cover a 50 cent coin; the legs can easily span the width of an adult hand.

Both males and females of all species of funnel-web spiders are very aggressive, and bites from either sex are potentially dangerous, even fatal. The venom of males is three to five times more toxic than that of females. Although the venom of funnel-web spiders in this area ahs not been tested, that of the female Toowoomba Funnel-web has been found to be more toxic than that of males of the Sydney Funnel-web. Hence it is likely that bites from local Funnel-web spiders are more dangerous than those of the Sydney Funnel-web.

There is an effective anti-venom, but adequate first aid is essential to ensure survival until it can be given. Deaths have occurred in as little as 15 minutes. Although there have been no deaths in Queensland, Funnel-web bites have made people, particularly children, very ill.

 



GREY HUNTSMAN SPIDERS
 
Grey huntsmans are pretty much harmless. They are timid and their bites will be little worse than an ant bite.

They grow to about the size of a hand and a common in the area, often hunting inside on walls, etc. When hunting they can move fast. Though perhaps worrying because of their frequency and size, they can be easily removed from the house in a dust-pan if necessary. Best left alone or befriended!



WOLF SPIDERS
 
Pictured left is a wolf spider with young clinging to it. These spiders are comon in hot dry areas out in the garden or in the bush. They grow to about the size of a 50c piece, have a black cross on the head and black undersides, and large front eyes.

Though not aggressive they will bite if provoked or interfered with. The bite is not considered dangerous but may produde mild, local pain.

According to the Queensland Museum, two Wolf spider species are known to be predators of cane toads. Lycosa lapidosa will take small toads and frogs while L. obscuroides has been noted biting and killing a large toad within one hour.



MARATUS VOLANS
 
This spider is a member of the group of jumping spiders. "The jumping spiders are the personalities of the spider world. Though generally small in size (up to 12 mm body length), their large eyes, prodigious jumping ability, often brilliant colours and cocky, inquisitive activity make them very appealing. Many are daylight hunters, using their excellent vision to track, stalk and calculate distance, before suddenly leaping on their prey, propelled by their strong back legs. 

Males are often more strikingly coloured, patterned or adorned with leg or body hair tufts than are females. They use these adornments to impress the females during often elaborate courtship displays. No group illustrates this better than the southern Australia jumpers of the genus Maratus. Its members could justifiably be called peacock spiders, both for the bright colours of the males and the way that they display them. Males have flap-like lateral extensions of the abdomen that fold down along each side and are edged by white hairs. When a red, blue and black coloured male of Maratus volans courts his relatively nondescript mate, he expands and raises the lateral flaps so that the abdomen forms a white-fringed, circular field of colour which is tilted up towards the female above the brightly coloured carapace, a truly spectacular sight." (Australian Museum)



ARCYS sp.
 
Growing to the size of a 20c piece, this spider is fairly common in the bush. With its two pairs of front legs  with strong spines for catching prey and its two hind pairs legs being very small it is suppposed that they mimic something to attract prey.

Their bite is harmless, producing mild local pain for half an hour or so.


(Further detailed descriptions and pictures can be found in Wildlife of Greater Brisbane.)


FIRST AID FOR SPIDER BITES (after J Pearn, Sunday Mail, Spiders poster)

1. Apply ice to the bite.

2. Assume that a bite from a large black spider is by a Funnel-web. Action should be taken urgently, as for a snake bite.

3. Apply a very tight overlapping crepe bandage (or improvised bandage) over the bite. If on a limb, splint the limb to prevent movement.

4. Seek medical help urgently.

5. If the attacker is seen to be a Redback spider, or if other than trivial local symptoms occur, seek medical advice. Redback venom is not fatal but it can make victims quite ill.

Further information can be obtained from Poisons Information. Telephone: 131126.
 

PREVENTION OF SPIDER BITES

Most spider bites occur because spiders are disturbed by human intervention. The best preventive measure therefore is not to mess about with spiders. Leave them alone, and put up with the cobwebs.


Funnel-web Spiders (Mountain News July 1992)

I 've been living down Forestry Road for six months now. I came across a large funnel web spider on my living room floor one night a while back, and a smaller one the following night. It's a bit scary. Straun Sutherland in his book, "Venomous Creatures of Australia", says: "The male is of a more delicate build than the female. Both sexes are very aggressive and when approached will usually rear up into a ready-to-strike position. Their massive fangs can penetrate a child's fingernail. However, most people bitten by them are not injected with sufficient venom to cause any illness. Often it falls off the tips of the spider's fangs as it makes a preliminary downward thrust. People bitten by the female spider may, at the most, suffer pain around the bitten area. The venom of the male spider is five times more toxic than the female. Man and monkeys appear to have a special susceptibility to the venom. In all human cases where the victim has died...it has been a male spider."

And on first aid: "It has been found that when pressure/immobilisation is used some of the venom is actually destroyed by the body while it is trapped under the pres sure bandage. Thus correct first aid allows the body to destroy the venom (if any has been injected) and allows the patient to arrive at hospital in good health." (directions and simple pictures on p 12.)

Has anyone else had close encounters with funnel webs? I wonder if there are a lot around. (Helen, Forestry Rd, Mt Nebo)


Ticks and mites

In addition to spiders, the local forests also play host to ticks and mites. Though the likelihood of tick bite depends on season and how frequently the human or animal ventures into the surrounding bush, and the reaction people and other animals have to them varies from individual to individual, residents should be aware of the potential danger these arachnids pose to themselves and their pets. Residents of both Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious have had life threatening reactions to tick bites in the past year or two and a number of cats and dogs have succumbed to the paralysis tick.

The ticks inject a toxin into their host which can cause paralysis in animals (hence their common name) and may lead to respiratory problems in humans. The early symptom in animals is unsteadiness in their back legs. Treatment is by way of an expensive anti-serum which may save the animal if given in time. Treatment of humans is by way of antihistamines which alleviate the symptoms, symptoms which include intense itching, swelling around the throat, and drop in blood pressure with possible fainting).

Ticks can either be killed in situ or removed. Care must be taken when removing them to not squeeze the body (which will inject more toxin into the body, exacerbating the risk of problems).

"Scrub-itch", though sometimes used to refer to the itchy swellings caused by tick larva (common in late summer and autumn), properly refers to the skin irritation caused by chiggers, larval mites of the family Trombiculidae. Larval ticks are very small (0.5mm) and pale whereas pest chiggers are minute (ca.0.3mm), bright red and easily dislodged by scratching. Prevention is one solution, applying Citronella Oil or Tea Tree Oil, on the skin at places where the mite can gain access (e.g. neck of shirt, above socks). Bites can be treated with an over-the-counter lotion like Ascaboil, which will kill the mite, as will dabbing with kerosene, petrol or alcohol.


Snakes

(Irene Opper, Mountain News May 1998)

As most of you will have heard, Jeremy Picknell had a tussle with a snake a couple months ago. We learnt a few things from that. The obvious - use a torch at night and preferably wear shoes, rather than sandals. Luckily, we did the right first aid measures and the hospital did the rest and after 24 hours of intensive care and some care in the ward, Jeremy was released back to the community, his only parole conditions being the completion of a course of drugs and a return visit to the hospital for supervision.

Some people I have spoken to have said that they would not know what to do in such a situation. In a nutshell:


SNAKE CATCHERS

If you have an unwanted snake around the home and you want it removed, it would be advisable to give a snake catcher a call. Dealing with snakes at close quarters can be an extremely dangerous exercise and great skill and care may be required. When cornered (in your house, for example!) snakes can be very agressive and may attack. Do not be fooled. Leave snake-catching to those with experience.

Try:

  1. Jason Flesser.

  2. Phone: 3289 3117.
     
  3. Marc Furbank, 'Brisbane Snake Catcher'.

  4. Phone: 0417 614678.



The following descriptions of some of the snakes found on the Range begin with those considered dangerously venomous.

COMMON DEATHADDER (Acanthophis antarcticus)
 
One of Australia's most distinctive snakes characterised by a short thick banded body, broad triangular head and slender rat-like tail; segmented at the tip and terminating in a short curved spur. Average maximum length in SE Queensland is about half a metre.

Deathadders are sedentary creatures, sheltering beneath leaf-litter and low shrubs. From these sites of concealment the employ a "lure and ambush" feeding strategy unique among Australian snakes. At the approach of a potential prey item - usually a bird, lizard or small mammal - the tail-tip wriggles convulsively in mimicry of a small invertebrate, thus drawing the animal within striking range.

Though once common here, deathadders have gone into decline in recent years. Dependence on surface vegetation renders them particularly vulnerable to fire, while occasional attempts to feed on introduced cane toads (skin secretions of which are extremely poisonous) usually results in the death of the snake. Several specimens in the Queensland Museum with toads lodged in their mouths bear testimony to this.

 


ROUGH SCALED SNAKE (Tropidechis carinatus)
 
The rough scaled snake, the most commonly encountered dangerously venomous species in Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious, derives its name from the distinctive longitudinal ridges running through the centre of each scale, aligning to form numerous keels along the length of the body. Only one other SE Queensland snake is similarly adorned - the harmless keelback or freshwater snake (Styporhynchus mairii).

Both snakes attain an average maximum length of 1.0 metre and both are grey to brown or olive with irregular transverse darker markings. Positive identification can be determined by counting scales (excluding broad ventral plates) along a diagonal line around the midbody; the rough scale has 23 scales; the keelback has 15 to 17. As keelbacks are essentially a lowland species, common along creeks in Brisbane and rare or absent at the altitude of Mt Nebo, it is probably best to regard all keeled snakes here as venomous.

Rough scaled snakes favour moist habitats such as rainforests or margins of creeks and dams. In mild weather they tend to be diurnal, while during summer they usually forage at night. Their diet consists of a broad range of small vertebrates, particularly mammals and frogs. Approximately 12 living young are born in late spring.


RED-BELLIED BLACK SNAKE (Pseudechis porphyriacus)
 
This handsome powerfully built snake is readily identifiable by its colouration; glossy black above and cream to pink on the belly. Outer edges of the ventral surfaces and the adjacent first row of body scales are flushed with deep pink to red. Adults, sometimes exceeding 2 metres in length, are unlikely to be mistaken for any other snake, but confusion sometimes exists between juveniles and small-eyed snakes (Cryptophis nigrescens).

Young black snakes have large bulbous heads (a characteristic shared by most young animals, including man), prominent eyes and distinctive ventral colouration. In contrast, small-eyed snakes have small, somewhat depressed heads, minute eyes and a uniform pink belly; i.e. the ventral colour does not intensify along the outer edges, nor does it usually extend onto adjacent body scales.

Red-bellied black snakes are diurnal, generally dwelling near rivers or other fresh water. They are essentially frog feeders and the effects of introduced cane toads has been devastating. Black snakes are now very rare in areas where they were once abundant. During spring, males engage in vigorous ritualized combat, entwining their bodies and pushing against each other in apparent tests of strength. Presumably these bouts determine mating priority. From 8 to 40 are born per litter, each snake enclosed in a transparent sack from which it emerges shortly after birth.

Though generally regarded as dangerous, black snakes are somewhat overrated. Only one human fatality has been proven and it is unlikely an untreated bite would kill the average health adult.


STEPHENS BANDED SNAKE (Hoplocephalus Stephensi)
 
This snake occurs in mountainous regions from NE NSW to SE Qld. It is readily distinguished from all other snakes in the Mt Nebo region by combination of slender build, broad distinct head and prominent black and white barred lips. Most individuals are further characterised by their banded pattern; generally dark grey to black alternating with cream to pale grey. In contrast, the Bandy Bandy (Vermicella annulata) has a narrow indistinct head and a pattern comprising sharply contrasting black and white rings. Occasionally Stephen's Banded Snakes lack virtually all pattern but some indication of lip markings are always retained. It grows to a little over one metre.

Stephen's Banded Snakes are adept climbers, sheltering beneath loose bark or high in the hollows of standing timber. At night they forage for food, raiding birds' nests or descending to the ground in search of lizards, frogs and small mammals. Females give birth in early summer each bearing about 6 large offspring.

Though shy and seldom encountered, Stephen's Banded Snakes can be pugnacious when provoked. No deaths have been recorded following their bites but uncomfortable local reactions (including haemorrhaging and severe swelling) are known to occur.


SMALL-EYED SNAKE (Cryptophis nigrescens)
 
Also called the eastern small eyed snake.  Widely distributes along the east coast of Australia, from Victoria to Cape York.  This snake lives in wooded areas, where is hunts small reptiles or frogs at night. 

The body is slender and usually black or greyish brown.  The average length is around 0.5m, with a maximum of 1.2m.  Small litters of 2 to 5 young are liveborn. 

Little is known of the toxicity of this snake's venom, although illnesses have occurred, usually in snake handlers, and one fatality has been associated with a bite from this species. Myotoxicity is a feature of envenomation.  The venom is neutralized by tiger snake antivenom.


YELLOW-FACED WHIP SNAKE (Demansia psammmophis)
 
The Yellow-faced Whip Snake is a slender and fast-moving snake, active during the day. It is common throughout most of Australia. It is often confused with the Eastern Brown Snake, and it is hard to observe closely, being alert and fleeing quickly when disturbed. 

This snake is found in a wide range of habitats, except swamps and rainforest.

It is pale grey to brown in colour, with reddish colouring on the head, and sometimes on the tail as well. The belly is grey-green to yellowish. A dark comma-shaped streak runs from the eye to the corner of the mouth. The face is usually but not always yellowish, with a narrow, yellow-edged dark bar around the front of the snout from nostril to nostril. The average length is 80cm, with a maximum of 1m. Males are larger than females. It can be distinguished from the Eastern Brown by its facial markings, and smaller size. 

It feeds mainly on small diurnal lizards, as well as frogs and lizard eggs. They have good eyesight, and can chase and capture lizards on the run. During winter it may shelter beneath rocks, and has been observed aggregating with several other individuals on occasion. 

It lays eggs in early summer in the south of its range, with clutches of 5-20 eggs (the average is six) being recorded. Communal egg-laying of up to 200 eggs, in deep soil or rock crevices, has also been reported. 

It is a venomous snake, but is not considered dangerous. However, a bite could be extremely painful, with much local swelling. Medical attention should be sought.
 


BANDY BANDY (Vermicella annulata)
 
The bandy bandy is a most unusual snake in several respects. It lives on a highly specialised diet, has a remarkable defensive strategy and is one of the most strikingly patterned species in Australia.

The body is cylindrical with a narrow round head and a blunt tail, encircled throughout its length with sharply contrasting black and white rings. The bold pattern forms a surprisingly effective camouflage, breaking the body outline against the variegated textures of the forest floor. Maximum length is about a metre but most individuals are somewhat smaller.

By day the bandy bandy shelters deep within soil cavities, in tunnels of ants nests or under stones and logs. It shares this domain with its sole food source, the blindsnake (see below). This small shiny, wormlike snake is in turn an exclusive ant-egg and termite feeder, so the bandy bandy forms part of an extremely specialized food chain.

When harassed bandy bandys alternate between between wild thrashing and contortion of their bodies into one or more rigid, vertically orientated loops. These abrupt changes of posture probably combine with the sharp pattern to confuse or frighten an adversary. Bandy bandys are only weakly venomous, and reluctant to bite, hence can generally be considered harmless.


CROWNED SNAKES (Cacophis species)
 

Two species of crowned snakes occur in the Mt Nebo area. Residents occasionally encounter these small, shiny, weakly-venomous snakes - named for the distinctive pale markings on their necks - while digging compost, or moving old boards, rocks or logs etc.

The dwarf crowned snake (Cacophis krefftii - top left) is probably the smallest snake on the range, attaining length of only 20cm. It is readily identified by a narrow yellow band across the neck. The body is greyish brown and the belly is yellow. 

The golden crowned snake (Cacophis squamulosus - bottom left) is much larger (up to 75cm) with a slightly more complex pattern. The golden brown neck markings do not form an unbroken collar, sweeping instead from either side of the head to form two broad, roughly parallel streaks. The body is greyish-brown and the belly orange, with a line of dark brown blotches extending down its length.

Although inoffensive and reluctant to bite, crowned snakes perform an elaborate bluff when harassed. The head and neck are raised high off the ground, accompanied by mock strikes (generally with the mouth closed ) and thrashing and hissing. They are secretive nocturnal snakes which feed largely on small diurnal skink lizards. It seems likely that their prey - sleeping under cover - is captured at night by the foraging snakes.

Crowned snakes deposit their elongate, creamy-white soft-shelled eggs in moist cavities beneath rocks or logs. Clutch sizes of 3 to 4 (dwarf crowned) and 7 (golden crowned) have been recorded, hatching after 2 to 3 months.


MARSH SNAKE (Hemiaspis signata)
 
This small weakly venomous snake occurs along the coast and ranges from north Queensland to south of Sydney. It is relatively common on the Range where it may be encountered basking in sheltered sunlit areas. Despite its name, the Marsh snake is by no means restricted to swampy habitats, though it does require relatively moist conditions such as rainforest or creek margins.

Marsh snakes are drably marked in brown, olive or dark grey. They can be identified by two distinct aspects of their coloration; a dark grey to black belly and a pair of narrow white lines on either side of the head, extending along the upper lip and through to the eye. Maximum size is about 45 cm.

Marsh snakes are live bearers, producing litters of 3 to 15 babies between November and March. Like all snakes the young are independent of their parents, being fully equipped at birth to forage for small skinks and frogs.


CARPET SNAKE (Morelia spilota)
 
Range residents are so familiar with carpet snakes that no description is necessary, suffice to say that the young can be confused, with Children's Pythons. Apart from a much larger adult size (up to 4 metres versus 1 metre). Carpet snakes have small fragmented scales on top of their heads while Children's Pythons have large symmetrically arranged scales.

Carpet snakes are in the python family. They are constrictors which locate their prey by means of heat sensitive pits along the lower jaw. These can detect minute temperature increases when warm blooded animals are near. Eyesight is also excellent at close range and the flickering tongue is an acute olfactory organ. Constricting snakes do not crush their prey, they asphyxiate it by preventing the diaphragm and lungs from functioning. They are renown for consuming large prey items and creatures such as adult pademelons are well within the capabilities of a large carpet snake.

Like all pythons carpet snakes are egg layers. They share with crocodiles a trait unique amongst reptiles - maternal care. Unlike crocodiles however care terminates when the eggs hatch. The female python coils around her eggs (up to 20 or so) and remains there without feeding for 2 to 3 months. She has limited control over her body temperature, raising it with shivering movements. This departure from reliance on external conditions is among reptiles, unique to female brooding pythons.

Before mating in Spring males engage in spectacular ritualized combat. With their bodies intertwined they raise their heads, each gracefully climbing the other's neck until at a height of over a metre the topheavy duet collapses, only to rise again.

Carpet snakes are completely non-venomous. However their teeth are very long and sharp, so great care should be taken when removing the odd stray from your house or when assisting a slow one safe passage across the road.


TREE SNAKES
 

Brown and Green tree snakes belong to the family Colubridae, a group which includes rear fanged (weakly venomous) and solid-toothed (completely non-venomous) species. Colubrids dominate the snake fauna in every continent except Australia - here the venomous front-fanged elapid snakes reign supreme. The two tree snakes are the only colubrid snakes in the Nebo area. Both have very slender bodies in keeping with their arboreal lifestyles, but they differ markedly in appearance and ecology. 

The Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis - top left) is pale brown marked with irregular darker bands. The head is bulbous with protruding cat-like eyes. It is rear-fanged. It can grow to a very large size (e.g. 2m) and so may be confused with more venemous Brown Snakes.

The Green tree snake (Dendrelaphis punctulatus - bottom left) is usually shades of greenish-brown (occasionally dark grey, pale yellow, or even blue) with a distinctive yellow flush on the belly and throat. The head is slender and the eyes, though large, are not protrusive. It is non-venomous.

Brown tree snakes are nocturnal. They shelter by day in hollow limbs and rock crevices, emerging at night to forage for small mammals and roosting birds. They are renowned for their skill in locating pet budgies and canaries - even those in hanging cages. Having squeezed between the bars to consume its prey the snake is unable to escape. Pet owners are seldom charitable upon discovering their beloved bird has been replaced by a snake containing a prominent lump.Though regarded as harmless Brown Tree snakes are pugnacious if harassed, coiling their bodies into a series of tight "S" shapes and striking repeatedly.

In contrast Green tree snakes are diurnal sunloving snakes, usually encountered gliding gracefully through thickets of vegetation. They feed mainly on frogs. When threatened the forebody is inflated with air, stretching the scales apart to reveal bright blue or cream skin beneath. This sudden display of colour probably functions to startle an adversary.


BLINDSNAKES
 
Some 30 species of blindsnakes occur in Australia. One of these, Ramphotyphlops nigrescens (pictured left), is common in this area. Blind snakes are easily recognised by their smooth, closely-fitting scales cylindrical worm-like bodies and blunt tails, terminating in a small spur. Despite the name they are not completely blind though their eyesight is undoubtedly weak. The eyes, a pair of black spots set beneath transparent scales, can distinguish between light and dark but little else.

Blindsnakes have no use for acute vision; they are burrowers which dwell in or under rotting logs and stumps or within nests nests of ants and termites. Their smooth glossy bodies, devoid of any contours, facilitate easy passage through loose substrates while the terminal spur provides a "foothold" to enable a snake to push itself forward. Blindsnakes consume a specialised diet - termites and the eggs and larvae of ants.

Blindsnakes share with pythons a very unsnakelike characteristic; both retain a rudimentary pelvis. For this reason they are regarded as primitive snakes, having retained elements of a lizard-like ancestor from which snakes and lizards diverged millions of years ago.

Though non-venomous, blindsakes are not completely defenceless. When grasped they emit a foul odour, described by some as "musty", by others as disgusting. Steve Wilson agrees with the latter.


Leeches

In rainy periods leeches are a problem in many areas, and not only in wet forest and near streams. They can attach to shoes when walking across a small patch of lawn to the car and move under one's trousers. Hours later a patch of blood on one's trousers may be the first, and sometimes only indication of their presence. Although unpleasant to most people, leeches are not dangerous, and still are still used occasionally for medical therapy. Insect repellents deter leeches. They quickly detach when sprinkled with salt.

(Mountain News June 1988 - Steve Wilson)
Leeches belong to a specialised group of worms. They have a muscular body, a pair of suckers and a mouth containing thousands of minute teeth. A few species are predators of worms, snails and insect larvae, but most are blood sucking parasites. Having located their prey by a combination of refined senses (such as detection of body heat, and gases including carbon dioxide) they attach themselves firmly to an area of thin skin. They are especially fond of the skin between the toes. They then slit the skin; One species performs its incisions at a rate of two slices per second. The cut is anaesthetised and an anticoagulant is introduced ensuring a free flow of blood. Having engorged to many times its size, the leech drops off and seeks a secure moist retreat in which to digest its meal. We may well complain about leeches plundering our bodies and messing up our socks, but spare a thought for the Sumatrans where a giant leech is found. Fully distended it assumes the proportions of a small coke bottle.


Poisonous Plants

(Mountain News Nov/Dec 1986)

Whilst some rainforest or closed forest type plants are considered edible and sometimes even palatable, (in fact aborigines from the surrounding valleys made treks into our area for delicacies) others are poisonous. Those likely to succumb to ungovernable herbivorous urges are advised to consult A.B. & J.W. Cribb's Wild Food in Australia before attempting to supplement their diet with the local flora.

Several rainforest plants are capable of inflicting painful stings. Most common are:

All three of these species are light-loving plants and are most likely to be found on the forest edges or in clearings. So - Watch Out!

Geckos

(Steve Wilson, Mountain News June 1988)

Geckos inhabit most houses in Mt Nebo, either as permanent residents or occasional visitors. Of the 90 species known in Australia only one occurs here, the velvet gecko (Oedura tryoni). They are well known for their ability to climb on smooth vertical surfaces, and even upside down on ceilings. They do this thanks to thousands of microscopic hooks beneath their broad flat fingers and toes. These hooks catch onto irregularities to provide a sure hold.

Unlike most lizards, geckos are unable to blink. Their eyes are covered by transparent spectacles like those of snakes. Adhering grit is removed with a wipe of the tongue. They are also unusual in having a true voice, as opposed to a noisy exhalation such as the hiss of a snake. When grasped roughly, or when facing a rival, they can emit a loud wheezing bark.

Geckos feed on live prey such as insects and spiders. For this reason they are generally welcomed by householders in Mt Nebo and throughout the warmer parts of the world where they occur.


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