Mountain animals have wonderful stories to tell. They often exhibit bizarre, extreme, or simply new adaptations that are not seen in animals on the flats. Mountain animals have interesting genetics with populations sometimes separated by insurmountable geographic barriers, while other times, barriers are seemingly invisible and require a deeper look to understand. Mountain animals are subjected to extremes in weather and climate, in UV, water availability, and temperature. To persist in these highly stochastic mountain environments animals have developed some extraordinary physiology. The behaviour of mountain animals must compensate for, or supersede their environmental constraints as they go about gathering food, finding mates and taking shelter.

Behaviour

Prey that frighten their predators: Deimatic display in the mountain katydid (Acripeza reticulata)

Team: Johanna Mappes University of Jyväskylä, Finland and Sebastiano De Bona University of Jyväskylä, Finland, Tonya Haff, Western Sydney University, Tom White, Macquarie University.

Warning colours should prevent prey from being attacked, so how come mountain katydids are cryptic before they are attacked and only reveal their colours afterwards? Together with Johanna Mappes and Sebastiano De Bona, in a project funded by the Hermon Slade Foundation, we are using behavioural assays, spectrophotometry, toxicology, field-based predation trials and mechanical models to try and explain this paradoxical display.


Dead-leaf mantis (Deroplatys dessicata) performing its deimatic display. Photo: James O'Hanlon

Dead-leaf mantis (Deroplatys dessicata) performing its deimatic display. Photo: James O'Hanlon

Deimatic displays in the praying mantises

Collaborators: James O'Hanlon, Kate Barry and Darshana Rathnayake, Macquarie University

Among the most impressive of defensive displays are those of the praying mantises. These stealthy predators are veracious hunters, but are also palatable prey for many predators. Mantises are not toxic and rely on camouflage as a primary defence but once detected can change their posture to reveal conspicuous colour patterns. We are reconstructing the evolutionary history of deimatic displays in praying mantises and in addition are conducting experiments on three species to determine what stimuli trigger praying mantises to perform their display.


Blue tongue lizard (Tiliqua sp.) performing her(?) deimatic display, Photo: Kate Umbers

Blue tongue lizard (Tiliqua sp.) performing her(?) deimatic display, Photo: Kate Umbers

Life-saving tongues: Do blue tongues tongues save their lives?

Collaborators: Martin Whiting, Macquarie University, Sergio Naretto, Macquarie University, William Bailes, Macquarie University, David Inglis, Macquarie University.

We are entering the wonderful world of the Tiliqua skinks with a project on the protective value of their colourful tongue displays. Naturally this project involves some robotics and some kookaburras. One thing's for sure, we will be working flat out, like a lizard drinking.

 


The adaptive significance of fighting in male grasshoppers

Collaborator: Marie Herberstein, Macquarie University

During her PhD Kate discovered male grasshoppers fighting over ovipositing females. This was exciting because before this grasshoppers were known for avoiding conflict. Kate conducted a series of experiments to try to get at what was driving these fights, female preference or male conflict. Now Nikolai Tatarnic, Peter Mahoney, Giselle Muschett and are continuing to look into male choice, female condition and paternity analyses to tie down why these grasshoppers fight.


Genetics


Male mountain katydid (Acripeza reticulata) calling from the top of an everlasting daisy near Thredbo, NSW

Male mountain katydid (Acripeza reticulata) calling from the top of an everlasting daisy near Thredbo, NSW

Conservation genomics and speciation in mountain katydids (Acripeza reticulata)

Collaborator: Rob Lanfear, Australian National University

Mountain katydids are a charismatic species of Australian orthopteran found across the high-country and from time-to-time in some lowlands across the entire east coast of Australia. This monotypic genus has a fragmented distribution from Cairns to Hobart and has never been taxonomically or genetically revised to determine whether it harbours several cryptic species. 


Male K. tristis from two different populations showing morphological divergence: A:  Mt Kosciuszko, NSW; B: Mt Baw Baw, Vic

Male K. tristis from two different populations showing morphological divergence: A:  Mt Kosciuszko, NSW; B: Mt Baw Baw, Vic

Speciation in the mountains: phylogenomics of the alpine grasshopper genus Kosciuscola

Collaborators: Rachel Slatyer University of Wisconsin, Nikolai Tatarnic Western Australian Museum and Hojun Song, Texas A&M

Funded by the Hermon Slade Foundation, we are collaborating with Rachel Slatyer and Hojun Song on a project led by Nikolai Tatarnic, on the population genomics of Kosciuscola across their montane range. For more information you can visit our project's Hermon Slade website here.

 


Thermal Biology & Physiology


The major components of energy flux in grasshopper thermoregulation (from Umbers et al 2013)

The major components of energy flux in grasshopper thermoregulation (from Umbers et al 2013)

Kosciuscola conservation genomics, thermal tollerance and behaviour: can these alpine endemics adapts to climate change in the Australian alps?

Collaborators: Rachael Dudaniec, Macquarie University and Rachel Slatyer, University of Wisconsin

The Kociuscola grasshoppers are endemic to the Australian alpine region and we are targeting them to assess their ability to adapt to climate change. We are taking a three-pronged approach, integrating landscape genomics, physiology and behaviour.