Category Archives: Insects & Spiders

A LA LA! – Atlas of Living Australia Live At Last

Atlas of Living Australia Live At Last!

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) was launched in Brisbane on the 20th May. At a special ceremony held at Queensland Museum (QM), Dr John Hooper (Head of Biodiversity and Geosciences at Queensland Museum) spoke about the collaboration of museums, herbaria, universities and other government collections in producing the ALA.

John Hooper at ALA launch.

The ALA is an online encyclopaedia of all living things in Australia. At present the website holds 23 million distribution records for Australia’s fauna and flora, with over 300 layers for mapping and analysis. It also contains images (under a Creative Commons Attribution licence), maps, identification tools, reference species lists, literature, and databases on biological collections. Here are some images showing diverse molluscs from QM’s collection as well as some colourful sponges.

Although the ALA was only recently ‘switched on’, it is still a work in progress.

The ALA allows us to build and maintain biological collections, assists with research, and aids communication.

You can access the ALA at this link.

To learn more about the biodiversity on the Great Barrier Reef and some factors that are having an impact on this biodiversity, visit the online learning resource Biodiscovery and the Great Barrier Reef. There are lots of teacher notes and student worksheets linked to the new Australian Science Curriculum in this resource.

To learn more about the areas of John’s research, visit his biography page, Dr. John Hooper.

Fantastic Phasmids

The term ‘phasmids’ (pronounced fas-mids), is just another name for the group of insects we commonly call stick insects. These amazing creatures are so well-camouflaged that they are very difficult to see amongst foliage.

The Goliath Stick insect (Eurycnema goliath) is one of Australia’s largest phasmids. It is green with yellow patches on the head, thorax and legs. As well as its wonderful camouflage, these insects have some behavioural adaptations that reduce their risk of being chomped by ever-watchful birds. The insects stay motionless and put their front legs in front of their head to make themselves look more like part of the plant. They usually feed at night and during the day they hang motionless on plants. Even when they do move, they simulate moving leaves as they sway in the wind. When attacked, they spread their wings, displaying the bright red colour underneath, and splay their rear legs apart revealing black eye-like spots at the bases. They also kick out their spiny legs and loudly rustle their wings. These behaviours frighten off predators and work as good defence mechanisms.

Live stick insects are commonly displayed in the Inquiry Centre on Level 3 at Queensland Museum South Bank. Here is one that stands out under flash photography.

Learning about animal adaptations is an engaging activity. A new resource has just been uploaded onto the Queensland Museum website. The content and activities are matched with the Australian Curriculum. It is called ‘Adaptations Teaching Unit’ and is found in the Learning Resources section of the website.