The tree house came down this morning after a wet night aloft. I have a vague memory of waking at some dark moment and hearing tree crashing down in the distance. Or it might have been thunder? Either way, the rainforest week a drawing to a close, just one last special creature to find...
Dr Alastair has a long held interest in freshwater burrowing crayfish and I told him that there were lots of 'chimneys' in the forest here. Chimneys are the clue on the surface that a crayfish lives in the earth below. The chimneys are formed when the little diggers deposit their excavations onto the surface.
After I'd lowered and dismantled the tree house there was just enough time for a last but hung before Dr Alastair arrived with spade and gumboots. Zoologists don't mind getting their hands dirty! There are two species of crayfish here. One lives in or near the stream beds where the water table is close by but the other species lives up higher on the mounds above the water table. These ones create chambers in the clay soils that collect rain water. A bit like building your own swimming pool!
Dr Alastair dug carefully for the stream bed residing crayfish, Engaeus fossor, and chased burrows through the cold and sloppy mud. Success! It was too dark to see if it was a female or male but a crustacean it certainly was. In the small patch of stream bed we were searching there might have been 20 or more individuals living beneath the ground. Imagine the life of a burrowing crayfish for a moment. Days, weeks and years (how long do they live?) living in darkness, creeping onto the surface occasionally, eating a worm here and some roots there.
Perhaps you could write an adventure story for a burrowing crayfish? Something like: 'Craig the Crayfish Explores a Cave and Befriends a Cave Spider'. Or maybe something more exciting?
I've packed up the tree climbing gear for this week and am spending the last night in the rainforest on the ground. Tomorrow I'll post a brief video report and then the next major report will be on Sunday night as we prepare for the big one... the wet eucalyptus forest. Giant trees await.
Today's t-shirt winner is MightyRock.
What do freshwater burrowing crayfish eat?
5-13 degrees, rain, hail and sunshine.
What are features of crustaceans, especially freshwater ones?