Friday 10 April 2015

Cooloola Monster

MONSTERS in paradise!

The paradise in question is the Cooloola National Park in Queensland, eastern Australia. In 1976 scientists discovered something rather strange lurking in a pitfall trap they'd set on the forest floor.

They weren't sure exactly what it was. It was an inch long, pale and had long, thick legs, tiny, flightless wings, and short, stubby antennae. It was clearly some kind of Orthopteran but they weren't sure whether it was a member of Caelifera, which would make it a weird-looking grasshopper, or Ensifera, which would make it a weird-looking cricket.

Either way, it was definitely weird-looking!

Image: CSIRO
Eventually they concluded that it was on the cricket side of things but sufficiently unique to be given its own family, Cooloolidae, the first Orthopteran family for almost 100 years.

They also found a female. She's even more extreme than the male. She has no wings at all, her eyes are small and blind, her legs are magnificently thick but her feet are so small and her body so plump that she can barely walk!

As it turns out, this is no problem for the Cooloola Monster. It looks like females spend their entire lives underground, burrowing through sandy soil in search of beetle grubs and young cicada to feed on. Males are similar but they climb up to the surface on rainy nights, probably so they can walk around and seek out females.

Over the next few years, three more species of Cooloola Monster were discovered, all of them within Queensland. Who would've thought that the true queens of Queensland were fat, monster crickets?


Crunchy said...

Oh, Australia. You're wacky.

TexWisGirl said...

funky things!

Lear's Fool said...

I love that 'Is this an insane grasshopper or a cricket' was a question.

Esther said...

My brain is unable to comprehend what my eyes are seeing!

Joseph JG said...

@LCrunchy: Never knowingly normal!

@TexWisGirl: So true!

@Lear's Fool: Haha! Gotta love those unexpected mysteries!

@Esther: MASSIVE legs mostly!

Ken said...

In 1971 I was working in the coal testing laboratory at the South Blackwater mine, aka Laleham, which is a few kilometres west of the Blackdown Tableland. I opened the lab one morning and a very similar insect was on the floor. I got it into a glass beaker where it promptly died. I showed it to a few people who didn't know what it was, but one of the laborers said it was a Blackdown monster. No hesitation, he just came out with it. This was probably a related species, Cooloola dingo (Dingo is a village not all that far from the mine)

It seems that some of the locals knew about it years before it was scientifically described.

Joseph JG said...

I'm sure that happens a lot! It's often the case that people are completely accustomed to things others would find extremely fascinating. Small animals are a sure candidate for that.