News


Biologic’s Brad Maryan describes a new species of reptile
10 September, 2013

Members of the lizard family  commonly known as legless lizards or flap-footed lizards, are amongst the most poorly known reptiles in Australia. Several genera are described and 35+ species currently known, of which all are restricted to Australia and New Guinea.
During recent Biological surveys at Western Australia’s Dongara and Turtle Bay on East Wallabi Island in the Houtman Abrolhos, researchers found three specimens of the genus Aprasia, a morphologically conservative and fossorial pygopod genus. Through allozyme and morphological studies, these specimens have now been formally described as Aprasia clairae by Biologic’s Brad Maryan and colleagues.

Maryan, B., How, R.A. and Adams, M. 2013. A new species of the Aprasia repens species-group (Squamata: Pygopodidae) from Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 28:30-43.



Crocodile survey at Augustus Island
28 June, 2013

In early July, David Woods from the Department of Environment and Conservation and Ruchira Somaweera from Biologic along with two traditional owners (Pedro Palacios and Erwin Kibily), conducted a survey for crocodiles at Augustus Island, Western Australia. Augustus Island is the largest of the Kimberley islands off the north-west coast of Western Australia and one of the few islands with permanent freshwater bodies. The study was aimed at verifying some recent records of crocodiles inhabiting the freshwater pools on the island. Both day time searches and night time spotlight surveys were conducted along three freshwater creeks, and the team encountered small saltwater crocodiles in all three. These small salties are likely moving into the upstream freshwater habitats to avoid cannibalism from larger crocodiles and predation pressure from other aquatic predators (e.g. sharks) in the tidal regions. The survey also recorded a number of other vertebrate species not recorded from the island before. Specimens and photographs taken during the survey will be lodged at the Western Australian Museum and the results will be published soon.

 

 



New populations of Airlie Island Ctenotus
6 June, 2013

The Airlie Island Ctenotus (Ctenotus angusticeps) is a little-known scincid species, previously only recognised from three locations: Airlie Island, Thangoo Station and Port Hedland, all along the north-west coast of Western Australia. In May 2012, Biologic undertook a nine day targeted field survey to search for this species along the coast between Onslow and Broome in Western Australia. As a result, several new populations of this species were discovered in separate locations. This survey has substantially increased the knowledge on the distribution, habitat requirements and basic ecology of this species, details of which will be published soon in a scientific journal. Available information has now been uploaded to the Species Profile and Threats Database (SPRAT) of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (see http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=25937).



World Crocodile Conference


Biologic’s Dr Ruchira Somaweera was the Deputy Conference Director at the ‘World Crocodile Conference’ (www.csgsrilanka.com) held recently in Sri Lanka. This annual international event, organized by the IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG), was attended by over 150 participants. The CSG is a worldwide network of biologists, wildlife managers, government officials, independent researchers, NGO representatives, farmers and fashion leaders actively involved in the conservation of the world’s 23 living species of alligators, crocodiles, caimans and the gharial. On top of three-days of scientific sessions (during which over 80 papers on crocodilians were presented), the programme also comprised a hands-on training workshop on capturing, obtaining samples and conducting necropsies on crocodiles (especially focusing on capacity building among the researchers in South Asian and Iran regions), red-listing workshops, field trips and thematic committee meetings. Ruchira presented three talks on the impact of invasive species on freshwater crocodiles of Australia; the effects of increasing monsoonal floods on crocodile hatchlings, and using traditional knowledge to mitigate the human-crocodile conflict in Sri Lanka. Next year’s conference will take place in Louisiana, USA in May 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Brad Durrant Appointed as Director
17 January, 2013

Biologic is pleased to announce the appointment of Brad Durrant as a Director of the company. This is in recognition of his skills and ability to grow the business, particularly in the invertebrate field. Brad has over 17 years experience working with marine and terrestrial invertebrates with the Northern Territory Museum, WA Museum and the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), and has extensive experience in field surveys, taxonomy and scientific writing. For several years, Brad provided specialised scientific advice on SRE fauna, threatened invertebrates and subterranean fauna to the Office of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), DEC (Environmental Management Branch, Native Vegetation Conservation Branch, Threatened Species and Communities Branch and Regional Services), local governments, environmental consultancies and resource and development companies.

Brad joined Biologic almost two years ago and in that short time has made a strong contribution to the company’s client list and the services that are offered. Brad remains the Manager of Invertebrate Zoology and in addition to this will fill an essential role in business development and growth, human resources, marketing and client retention at Biologic.



A big appetite
4 January, 2013

The invasive Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) is an opportunistic predator. While most of its diet comprises terrestrial invertebrates, these amphibians are also known to consume smaller cane toads and, occasionally, chicks of ground-nesting birds. Since 2008, Ruchira Somaweera (now at Biologic) and colleagues at University of Sydney Tropical Ecology Research Facility in Darwin, have studied over 3000 adult toads and recorded 10 incidents of cane toads consuming snakes of the genus Ramphotyphlops (commonly referred to as ‘Blind Snakes’ belonging to the family Typhlopidae). They found parts and whole animals of R. unguirostris, and R. guenterii and the introduced species R. braminus in the gut and faecal samples of cane toads. The results of the study are published in the current issue of Herpetological Review [43(3): 469-471].



Dr. Gardner wins the UAE Natural History Award
2 January, 2013

Congratulations to Biologic’s Dr. Drew Gardner for winning a Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Award for Natural History. The Emirates Natural History Group Committee voted to award Dr. Gardner in recognition of his substantial, original contribution to the knowledge of the natural history of the UAE and Oman by means of extensive research, publication and presentations on reptiles, bats and other flora and fauna in 35+ publications. The Sheikh Mubarak award comprises an inscribed silver dhow and a cash prize, and was presented at the formal award ceremony by Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research on 13 November 2012.

The Vice President of Zayed University (third from left) officially accepted Dr. Gardner’s award on his behalf.

 



Caring mums
14 December, 2012

Parental care is uncommon among reptiles, except in crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, caimans and the gharial). In most crocodilian species, adults provide some level of parental care, which can range from guarding nests to looking after the young, in some cases up to several years after hatching. One of the consistent features in crocodilian parental care is adults opening nests and carrying the newly hatched babies to the water. However, this behavior has only recently been documented in detail for the Australian freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) in Northern Australia.

Ruchira Somaweera (currently at Biologic) and Prof. Richard Shine (University of Sydney), conducted extensive research over the last three years on the ecology of this species at one of the largest artificial lakes in Australia, Lake Argyle in the east Kimberley region of Western Australia. The findings of this research have recently been published (http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1670/11-056?journalCode=hpet). They used motion-sensitive digital cameras to study 67 nests and recorded eight instances of nest excavation and parental transport of babies to the water. In this artificial environment, where the substrate is extremely coarse, parental support in exiting the nest is essential for newborn hatchlings.

Female freshy digging a nest at Lake Argyle



Plan for Black Cockatoos
13 December, 2012

All three WA species of black cockatoos- Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris), Baudin’s Black Cockatoo (C. baudinii) and the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (C. banksii naso) – are listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPAC) has released the final referral guidelines for these species (download at http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/wa-black-cockatoos.html), which details the procedures to follow if a planned action will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on any of these species.



Invasives have a good side too!
12 December, 2012

Throughout the world, many invasive plants have adverse affects on native species and their habitats. Among the most aggressive invaders is European Gorse (Ulex europaeus), which forms large impenetrable stands that reduce access by grazing animals, modify native ecosystems, and out-compete trees in regenerating forests. Gorse was introduced into Australia during the early 1800s as a hedge or ornamental plant and is now found in all Australian states. The plant has also been introduced to the high-altitude regions of Sri Lanka, where it is now naturalised, especially in disturbed habitats. However, the ecological role of Ulex in these disturbed habitats is not well known.

Biologic’s Ruchira Somaweera, with collaborators from Sri Lanka and Australia, studied the relationship between Ulex and the threatened and endemic Black-cheeked Lizard (Calotes nigrilabris) of Sri Lanka. They found that these lizards prefer Ulex bushes over native and other introduced vegetation in disturbed habitats. The selection of Ulex bushes may be driven by both reduced risk of predation and increased benefits in foraging. This work highlights the importance of understanding the ecological functions of introduced species when planning eradication and restoration programs.

The full paper is available at http://herpconbio.org/Volume_7/Issue_2/Somaweera_etal_2012.pdf for download.

Male Black-cheeked lizard on Ulex bush in flower