Fieldwork Spring2014

Come spring temperatures start to skyrocket.  Usually, this brings the wet season, with the springs country being characterised by blazing mornings but a refreshing shower to bring the temperature down and fill up the surrounding clay pans with water.  The wet season often brings great opportunities to ‘move house’ and disperse around the landscape because intervening habitats between springs which are usually bone dry and scorching become extensive lakes and water courses that can be navigated to a new spring.

This November however was a SCORCHER.  Average temperatures of 45 in the shade, all the springs have shrunk to at least a third of their winter size.  This creates testing times for all the aquatic organisms.  A huge number of animals have died from being caught in areas of the spring that dry up or get beyond their physiological limits in the day.

This trip also saw the beginning of my experimental phase with some interesting data coming up.  Unlike South Australian species of snails, the Queensland springs snails are far less salt tolerant.  There seem to be different strategies to deal with the springs environment – some are hyper tolerant and range widely others are super sensitive and have to make sure they stay somewhere safe.  All the types that speciated from the Hydrobidae inhabitants of the spring are far less tolerant to extreme conditions, which may explain why they are restricted to only the permanent and deeper parts of the spring.  In contrast however, one species is so resilient it can survive 24h out of water and temperatures up to 50C!


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