Green Ants and Mangroves of the Daintree Rainforest

Green Ant walking along mangrove branch in Far Northern Queensland
Here are some images, and one movie, of Green Ants and their leaf nest.  There are also images of trees, rattan vines, rocks and patterns in the sand made by some small, industrious and artistically gifted creatures.

Tina and I visited Thornton Bay in July 2006.  These images are from just south of Noah Creek, which is north of Thornton Bay and south of Cape Tribulation.  This area is north of the Daintree River, and is widely regarded as a site where rainforests have been growing continually for 100 million years or more.  I guess this exact location, on the coast, would not have had such continual afforestation, but the nearby mountains probably would have.  The Daintree rainforest is regarded as the oldest, or one of the oldest, rainforests.  Googling indicates that similar claims are made for Malaysia's Taman Negara too.

A fabulous guide to the flora and fauna of this area is Lloyd Nielsen's Daintree - Jewel of North Queensland

Some sites of interest:

To the main First Principles site: ../../ .  To the other Show and Tell pages: ../

These images were taken with a 5 Megapixel  Sony DSC-F707.  There are some large images below, so this page is probably only practical to view with a broadband connection.

There are some extra images available via clickable links.  I suggest you use the right mouse/trackball button to open them in a new browser window (which you may want to maximise, if you are using Internet Explorer) and then you can get back to the browser window for the main page by holding down Alt and pressing and releasing Tab one or more times (at least on a Windows and some Linux machines).

All images are copyright 2006 Robin Whittle.  If you want to use one, please write:

100 metres from the beach, looking west along Noah Creek.

Just around the corner is . . .

Tina called out to me saying I shouldn't be standing in this water.

She was right.  I am not used to worrying about crocodiles.  This is a very dangerous thing to be doing!

Lloyd Nielsen writes that there are about 69 species of true mangrove in the world, with 34 being found in the Daintree area.  I assumed that all mangroves were related, but in fact there are different families of them, mainly descended from rainforest plants in quite separate families.

We are on the south bank of Noah Creek.  Just at the edge of the creek bank and the beach we found these green ants in a nest on a branch of a mangrove.

Lloyd Nielsen writes that worker ants use silk-exuding larvae to sew the leaves together after other worker ants have pulled the edges together.  He also writes of a "Moth Butterfly", the larvae of which feeds on the ants and grows to maturity in the nest!  The moth has loose scales which fall off when the ants attack it as it escapes after it matures.

I wonder how long these nests last.

Does the queen decamp to a new nest if the leaves start to die?

Here is a movie of the ants at the entrance of their nest:

Apparently the ants bite and spray a nasty liquid, but do not actually sting.

According to the Wikipedia page these ants make a nice lemon/lime drink when squashed up and mixed with water.

Now for some photos of going north towards Noah Creek.

Somewhere around here the rocks supposedly bounce when thrown onto other rocks.

We didn't observe this, but the rocks had a distinctly metallic sound.
They must be not only hard, but highly elastic, like a piece of iron.
I guess ordinary rocks do not return as much of the energy put into them by bending
as metal does, or as these rocks do.

Since I was little, I have wondered where basket-weaving cane comes from.

It is ''rattan", and normally comes from countries such as Indonesia and the Phillipines.
It is normally collected wild from the forest, but can be introduced into forests where it did not live initially,
without causing much trouble to the trees.

It grows in Queensland rainforests too. We saw lots of it here and at Barron Gorge National Park, near Kuranda.  I now recognise we have seen it at Lamington National Park too.  It is more commonly known as "Lawyer Vine" or "Wait-a-While" because of its nasty spines.

Rattan is widely used for furniture, where it can be up to 20mm thick or so. 

Rattan is a palm - a climbing palm - not a grass like bamboo.

The stalk is porous, and there are no joints, while bamboo is hollow, has joints and is made of extremely hard material.

Each plant has a long stalk, which runs between the roots and the "top" of the plant, which has lots of spines and leaves.

It seems that the stalks can branch, but we didn't see much of this.

The "top" and the "stalk" could be just about anywhere, such as the stalk going up 8 to 10 metres, dangling over a branch, coming back down to the ground and then having its spines and leaves.

Lloyd Nielsen writes that they can reach 250 metres in length!

There's lot more at the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan:

(This is actually at Barron Gorge.)





I read somewhere that coconut palms are not native to the mainland of Australia,
so these ones must in some way have resulted from European activity.

I guess they normally only grow on the coast, with the coconuts only mode of transport being floating on the ocean.

We found a germinating coconut near the beach at Cape Tribulation, but I neglected to take a photo.

The leaves were sprouting up and the roots finding their way into the ground, both through the thick,
low-density husk (which is used to make coir, for doormats!).  It was my impression that the roots and leaf-stalks
were coming out where the three little "holes" are in the hard coconut shell, although this was
totally surrounded by the husk.

Computer monitors are vertically challenged. 
Please right-click these links to see two more images of this beautiful couple.



If this isn't trippy enough, you might like to click here, here or here.

Here are some images of sand balls, which are between about 2 and 5mm in diameter.
The last two images will be larger than life on an average computer screen.
I think I saw one or two of the crabs which make them,
they are not much bigger than the balls.

Googling images for "sand balls" makes me think that this part of the Queensland coast is
particularly well-known for these patterns.

The Department of Environment and Heritage site has detailed information on the crabs which make these balls - the
Sand Bubbler Crab: Scopimera inflata (Family Ocypodidae). 
They are distributed from Northern NSW right across the north coast of Australia
to the western-most tip of Western Australia.

Melvyn Yeo has some great pictures, from Thailand, of the crabs at work.

Some balls are the result of foraging for food with the sand on the surface,
and other balls are thrown up from the burrow.

Here is a research article concerning their feeding behaviour - the filter food from the sand and roll balls of sand behind them: 
Substrate Selection and Use by a Deposit-Feeding Richard K. Zimmer (via SciHub)

Here is the mouth of the Daintree River, looking south-east towards Port Douglas.

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