by Paul Alessi
Jackie Dragons, more than a mouthfull
Also known as Jackie Lashtail these great little lizards are common in some Windellama gardens, they are not easily scared by humans and enjoy basking in the sun with their heads up in the air, maybe that's where the expression came from "sitting up like Jackie" when in a hurry they run on their hind legs and most have very attractive but subtle triangular patterns on their backs. If you are quick you might be able to catch one and get a closer look but beware as they will bite but it's not that painful, a bit like getting your finger caught in a paper clip.
The long raspy tail is a key feature of these lizards and I now know one of it's benefits to the lizard. Upon finding a Brown Falcon dead on the road I picked it up to have a closer look, it's neck was torn open and a Jackie Dragon's tail was sticking out of the oesophogus, the bird had swallowed the lizard headfirst and the tail had become caught in the Falcon's throat. A quick roadside autopsy confirmed that the rest of the lizard had been totally digested so the tail had been stuck in it's throat for days at least, this bird had suffered an agonising death either through starvation from it's blocked throat or had in fact torn it's own throat open in a vain attempt to get at the lizard tail stuck there, Nature at work for sure as that Falcon will never eat another Jackie Dragon.
The scientific name for these lizards in case you were wondering is Amphibolurus muricatus
A new species of Eucalypt revisited Around 10 years ago Australia's foremost Eucalypt Taxonomist Dr Ian Brooker from the CSIRO was interested enough in a patch of unusual gum trees that I had stumbled across in Nerriga to meet me in the field and have a look at them in-situ, these trees are Mallees with urn shaped fruits, up to 10m tall and have ribbony bark, all features which didn't match up with any known Eucalypt, samples were taken, " possibly a hybrid" was the determination and we all went home, since then Dr Brooker has retired and I thought that was the end of the story. With all that in mind I was very surprised by the phone call in June this year from Dr Brooker that he was working part time in his retirement, had taken another look at the samples we collected in 1996 and that it was worth once again heading out to Nerriga to check out these trees. This time he was accompanied by Entomoloigist Max Day and also from the CSIRO Luke Bulkeley who would be taking bark samples.
Luke and I lopped some high branches for Dr Brooker which he then trimmed down, placing each specimen into it's own specially numbered bag for further study at the Herbarium in Canberra, Luke then set to work with a wooden mallet taking neat squares of bark for microscopic study back in the lab. Max spent a lot of time with me and I can now add looking for tree scribbles and termite mounds to my list of favourite pastimes. It may take another year or two (or three) for the research to be finalised on the Nerriga Mallee and a scientific paper has to be written and accepted by a committee of scientists before it can be classified as a new species but the signs are good.
Copyright Paul Alessi 2006