Oh what a glorious night. Nice soft bed after that wonderful deep tissue massage and then the dinner that was made to perfection. I even still smell like the Chocolate massage oil. Love it! I'll have to get another one before we leave. I'll have to fit it in somehow. Hehehe.
At least today will be nice and easy. The first thing we're going to do is a nice short easy stroll/walk. The Enchanted Stroll. What a cool name that is. I hope to see some fairy's or other cute wildlife.
The Enchanted Stroll has for company a cascading river, wombat burrows and magical old-growth rainforest.
The walk will take us through buttongrass moorland before entering cool temperate rainforest along the edges of Pencil Pine Creek. Along the track are three interpretive tunnels that kids and kids at heart will find fun to crawl through!
Buttongrass moorland is low vegetation dominated by sedges (grass-like plants) and heaths and usually growing in poorly drained sites. The most typical species is commonly known as ‘buttongrass’ (Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus). Buttongrass is a member of the sedge family – Cyperaceae. Buttongrass moorlands occupy some of the most nutrient poor situations to be found in the world and are one of the most fire-adapted ecosystems to have evolved.
Buttongrass is very common in western Tasmania. It also occurs in other areas of south eastern Australia (South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales) though it is less common there than in Tasmania. In Tasmania buttongrass moorlands occupy more than one million hectares, approximately one seventh of the island. It is the most common vegetation type in many parts of the west and south west of the State where annual rainfall exceeds 1000 mm. While it does occur in eastern Tasmania it is confined to creek lines and depressions.
Tasmania contains Australia's largest tracts of cool temperate rainforest, covering around 10% of the State. Cool temperate rainforest is very different from rainforest found in warmer climates. Unlike tropical and warm temperate rainforests, there are no root buttresses or palms, and climbing plants are rare.
Cool temperate rainforest is characterised by an open and verdant, cathedral-like quality; a silent, cool, dark and damp place where both the trunks of trees and the forest floor are festooned with a luxuriant carpet of mosses and lichens. In autumn and early winter in particular, the rainforest floor is dappled with an array of brightly coloured fungi.
Defining Tasmania's cool temperate rainforest is difficult, partly because it can grow in so many different habitats. However, there are generally three things to look out for:
Most rainforest grows in areas receiving over 1/200 mm of rain a year, but some isolated patches occur in much drier areas;
It is dominated by particular trees, such as myrtle, leatherwood, celery-top pine, sassafras, Huon pine, pencil pine, King Billy pine or deciduous beech maybe important in some areas;
and species living in rainforest don't require disturbance, such as fire, to reproduce, and are generally disadvantaged by disturbance, which allows in light-dependant, short-lived competitors.
Myrtle Beech Tree
The celery-top pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius) is so named due to the resemblance of its 'leaves' to those of celery. In fact, these are not true leaves, but rather cladodes (flattened stems); although very young seedlings have needle-like leaves. the development of cladodes is thought to be an adaptation to the low light levels often present in the habitat in which this species occurs. The tree grows to 30 m in height and may attain a maximum age of 800 years.
Today this slow-growing tree is exploited as a by-product of clearfelling in old-growth forests and is commonly used for external cladding and poles in the building industry.
Celery Top Pine "Leaves"
Tasmanian rainforest contains some of the most ancient species of Australia's flora. Many of their ancestors once grew in Antarctica, Africa, South America and New Zealand, when these continents were joined together as a landmass called Gondwana. So our rainforest dates back over 60 million years, well before what we now call "sclerophyll vegetation" evolved (like eucalypts and acacias). Particularly ancient genera with fossil and pollen evidence to support their presence and evolution within Tasmania include Agastachys, Athrotaxis, Anopterus, Archeria, Bellendena, Cenarrhenes, Dicksonia, Eucryphia, Phyllocladus, Microcachrys, Microstrobos, Nothofagus, Orites, Lomatia, Tasmannia, and Telopea.
Along the western bank of the Pencil Pine Creek you will come across several wombat burrows just on the edge of the track. Wombats do occur in the area, although you are more likely to see them around dusk and dawn. The species occurring in Tasmania, the common wombat, is one of three species found in Australia.
The wombat is the largest burrowing mammal. Wombats often dig their burrows in the areas above creeks and gullies. Burrows can be up to 20 m long and more than 2 m below the ground.
Showing the teeth
Wombats dig extensive burrow systems with rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws. One distinctive adaptation of wombats is their backwards pouch. The advantage of a backwards-facing pouch is that when digging, the wombat does not gather soil in its pouch over its young. Although mainly crepuscular and nocturnal, wombats also venture out to feed on cool or overcast days. They are not commonly seen, but leave ample evidence of their passage, treating fences as minor inconveniences to be gone through or under, and leaving distinctive cubic feces.
Wombats are herbivores; their diets consist mostly of grasses, sedges, herbs, bark, and roots. Their incisor teeth somewhat resemble those of the placental rodents (rats, mice, etc.), being adapted for gnawing tough vegetation. Like many other herbivorous mammals, they have a large diastema between their incisors and the cheek teeth, which are relatively simple.
Wombats' fur can vary from a sandy colour to brown, or from grey to black. All three known extant species average around a meter in length and weigh between 44 and 77 lb.
Female wombats give birth to a single young in the spring, after a gestation period, which like all marsupials can vary, in the case of the wombat: 20–21 days. They have well-developed pouches, which the young leave after about six to seven months. Wombats are weaned after 15 months, and are sexually mature at 18 months.
After our stroll we all ended up going to the Devils@Cradle Sanctuary where we learned all about Tasmanian Devils.
Tasmanian devils are the largest living marsupial carnivore the approximate size of a solid squat dog. Males are generally larger at 8-10 kg but have been recorded as large as 14kg! Powerfully built, the males are characterised by a massive head and chest. The head and neck alone can account for as much as 40% of their weight. The jaw line of the males is also much squarer than the smaller females. Females average 6-7kg and are more proportionate in their build. A large head and powerful jaws give them a fierce appearance but they are ideal adaptations. Devils are Australia's only specialised mammalian scavenger, fulfill a similar niche and share similar morphology to brown hyenas or wolverines. They consume all parts of a carcass except the largest bones. Fur, bone shards and grey coloration make devil feces easily distinguished from other Tasmanian species.
A Tasmanian devil has 42 teeth in total, which is the same dentition as the canids.
Four incisors top, 3 bottom, 1 canine top and bottom, 2 premolars top and bottom and 4 molars top and bottom on each left and right half of their jaw. The single set of teeth continue to grow throughout their life and are fully erupted from their jaw at 2 years. A devil can be accurately aged by the degree of eruption and then wear of each tooth. By the age of 5 years (the life expectancy of a wild devil) the teeth are badly worn or damaged and in some cases they have fallen out. A devil with damaged or missing teeth is less capable of competing and will therefore slowly starve.
Devils are equipped with a pentadactyl (five digits) front limb but they do not have an opposable thumb. Each front digit has a short sharp claw which allows the species to dig effectively for denning and foraging. They are also capable of firmly grasping prey and food items and facilitating grooming. They also have partial webbing between the first and second knuckle which may also facilitate the use of the front limbs for digging and swimming. Devils are quite powerful swimmers, paddling 'dog' style with their front limbs and trailing their rear limbs behind. Devils will generally swim across a water source rather than walking a distance around it.
The rear limbs are shorter than the front limbs which gives the species a Hyena like stance. The rear limbs are equipped with four digits and are not used for grasping. The structure of the rear limb is radically different from the front and facilitates climbing.
The front limbs move independently of each other in a left right pattern but the back legs move together. It is a very unusual gait that is thought to have evolved from tree climbing ancestors rather than ground dwelling. The gait is also very efficient burning little energy as the animals covers large distances each night. Devils are also reasonable sprinters and can run at 25-35km/hr for many hundreds of meters. They have excellent stamina and can run at around 10-12km/hr for several kilometers. Much of their hunting is believed to revolve around their stamina and stealth rather than out right speed. One paper suggests that devils snap at their prey chasing it down over a reasonable distance. Despite this devils are opportunistic predators so they would be killing weak and injured animals long before fit and healthy specimens that require long and dangerous pursuits.
The species is also very fond of water and are powerful swimmers. A biologist witnessed a devil powerfully swimming across the 50m expanse of the Arthur River on the west coast of the state. Devils also utilize the evaporative and cooling effects of water on hot days and will also paddle and dangle their front limbs in water.
Devils are also characterised by their unusual carbon black coloured fur in contrast to the asymmetrical and individual white markings on the chest, flank and base of tail. Not all devils have these markings as around 5% of the population are all black. Of those that have white markings no two are the same. There are several theories but the white probably aids in the break up of an otherwise characteristic silhouette making devil's camouflage far more effective. It is also believed that the markings may aid in recognition between individuals.
Devils are solitary by nature, hunting alone. They are a gregarious species and a number of animals will congregate on a carcass. Around the carcass a very dynamic order develops between individuals rather than the rigid hierarchy that social animals like dogs develop. Most of the vocalising and squabbling that devils are famous for is ritualised threat display or bluff. Devils have been shown to have 11 vocalizations and 20 postures. Posturing is therefore just as important in devil communication as vocalizations. The vocalizations range from soft barking snorts and monotone growling to full blown screams. Devils also use visual and chemical signals in communication. They have an ano-genital scent gland at the base of the tail. They scent mark by dragging this scent gland across the ground. Devils are thought by people to have poor eyesight. All evidence suggests that they have black and white vision that is movement dependent. The white markings across the chest and abdomen would exaggerate the posturing and the contrast would be distinctly visible at night.
The most dominant animal in a feeding aggregation is not usually dislodged from the carcass until it has eaten its fill. A devil is a gorge feeder like most carnivores and can easily gorge approximately 40% of its weight in 20-30 minutes. Digestion can not occur this rapidly so the abdomen swells impressively which usual results in the animal waddling off from the carcass.
The diet of Tasmanian devil is very opportunistic. Devils will scavenge carrion, invertebrates, fish, birds, fruit and vegetation as well as predate on smaller, weak and injured or naive mammalian prey. Of a carcass a devil is capable of digesting the flesh, bones and fur. Young devils are much more agile climbers than adults so their diet includes arboreal mammal and invertebrate species, birds and eggs. Juvenile devils learn quickly through vocalizations and appears to learn through repetition to congregate in a feeding aggregation around a carcass. Young devils can also be very diurnal in their behaviour and therefore avoid a lot of competition with the larger more experienced adult devils. Diurnal and arboreal behaviour puts devils in competition with Spotted-tail quolls which at 3-7 kg can also be threatening to a juvenile.
After learning all about the Devils we took our sack lunches and went in the Park Explorer bus ride. It was nice to let someone else drive for a while. Some of the places we went to was Dove Lake. Our Guide was truly experienced as he pointed out all the alpine flora and fauna. The Button grass plains, Rainforest trees, King Billy Pines that were thousands of years old and more animals than I knew what to do with.
When we got back to the hotel we just stayed on the bus so we could join the A Night with the Animals tour. It was getting a bit dark so I got my sweater just incase I needed it.
We were all chatting up a storm on the bus. I have to say that for me it was kind of anticlimactic because I learned so much earlier on in the day. After our very kind guide finished our tour he drove us back to our hotel. There we finally had dinner!
I ended up having dinner in my room because I really needed to lay down after being up for so long. Everyone was so nice about it but I really felt bad. The dinner was just incredible like last night. I can't wait for tomorrow's adventure! I just love learning and boy am I learning a ton!
Time for sleep!