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Snapping Turtle, Jumping Spider BioBlitz Finds

Snapping Turtle, Jumping Spider Surprise Finds At BioBlitz

An aggressive pest turtle, a new native spider, a parasitic wasp, a perfumed mushroom and a wandering vegie are among the finds from BioBlitz in Waitakere this weekend.

“BioBlitz – finding nature in the city” is a 24-hour search for every kind of life, from plants to fungi to fish to animals and lots more. A crack team of biologists from around the country have just completed their search at this year’s venue, Corban Estate in Henderson.

Green MP Keith Locke officially closed the event, and announced the total number of species found: 1, 262.

And among these are the good, the bad and the ugly, as one of the organisers, Landcare Research mycologist (fungal scientist) Dr Peter Buchanan explains.

“A large red-eared slider turtle was found by the Opanuku stream, which is bad news. This pest turtle is probably a pet that has been released. These turtles breed rapidly, carry diseases, and have a painful bite.”

But the news is not all bad stream-side.

“There were large numbers of native banded kokopu whitebait previously considered endangered, but which appear to be making a strong comeback.

“Also there was a large range of freshwater equivalents to what we mainly think of as marine animals – mussels, sponges, limpets, crayfish, shrimps and crabs – which indicates good stream health.”

Back on dry land, Landcare Research arachnologist (spider scientist) Grace Hall discovered a new species of native jumping spider, which she describes as small (about a centimetre in size), furry, and “cute”.

Researchers also found an unidentified exotic wasp, thought to be a parasite on leafhopper insects.

An unexpected Manawatu resident was discovered: a native fly (Palmomya sp.) previously found only in small numbers in Palmerston North, and now found in good numbers in Waitakere.

Among other discoveries are a new type of aquatic fungus in stream foam, and under trees, the harlot hebeloma mushroom (so named in Victorian times as it was purported to smell like a harlot’s cheap perfume!).

And curiously, a vegetable has ventured forth from gardens to grow streamside: Jerusalem artichokes were both found growing in the wild, along with taro.

These are thought to have washed downstream from gardens, and were not previously thought to grow in the wild.

Dr Buchanan says BioBlitz was a great success, and a range of walks with scientists were a particular hit. “Children especially loved the night walks – spotlighting for moths and searching for reptiles.”

Waitakere City Council Ecology and Policy Co-ordinator Jacki Byrd describes Bio Blitz as “an eye-opener”.

“Most of us most of the time are quite oblivious to the many forms of life all around us. It’s great to get an idea of the biodiversity in just one, quite ecologically degraded park. We have about 500 parks in Waitakere, not counting the ranges, which are a real ‘ecological hotspot’, so the true variety of life around us will be far greater.”

BioBlitz was organised by Landcare Research and the Waitakere City Council along with science colleagues from other organisations, with sponsorship from the Waitakere City and Auckland Regional councils.


ENDS

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