About Me

My photo

I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Thinking Pinkly #2 - other animals

This topic, another in my intermittent series on colours in nature, began here, with birds. After an interruption last week I'm continuing it now by looking at other pink animals - though I've spent more time looking for them than at them! It is an uncommon colour it among animals (though of course there are more examples than the few I can show you here); again it may be that if you're going to go to the trouble of synthesising carotenoids you might as well go for stand-out reds rather than a paler version. Moreover most mammals have notably limited colour vision relative to most other animals; only apes, old world monkeys (and a few new world ones) and some marsupials have trichromate vision, meaning for instance that they can distinguish red and green. Birds, reptiles, frogs, many fish and invertebrates can do much better than us. There's limited point in being colourful if you can't see the colours, so most mammals are relatively restrained in their hues. In coming postings, by contrast, we'll be seeing a wealth of pink flowers - their pollinators are colour-acute insects and birds.

Sea Horse, Territory Wildlife Park, Darwin.
I'm not an underwater photographer, so I can't offer you examples of the pinkness that adorn many other fish.
One thing that surprised me in going through my photo files was the general lack of pink in the butterflies I've photographed on three continents; in fact, this one from Uganda was the only example I could come up with.
Butterfly (any suggestions welcomed, as usual!) Buhoma, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park,
south-western Uganda.
My only other offerings are all reptiles. Perhaps the most discussed pink reptile of recent years is the Pink Land Iguana Conolophus marthae, a critically endangered species only recognised in 2009 as genetically distinct from the more widespread Galápagos Land Iguana C. subcristatus; it is limited to the upper slopes of Volcan Wolf at the north end of Isabela in the western Galápagos where only 100 individuals live. Understandably visitors are forbidden so I can't offer you a picture of my own.
Pink Land Iguana, courtesy Animals Wiki.
However a cousin of the Pink Land Iguana, from the island of Española in the far south-east of the archipelago, is also distinctly pink. The isolated population of Marine Iguanas here is probably the most spectacular in the Galápagos.
Male Española Marine Iguanas Amblyrhynchus cristatus venustissimus.
 My other examples, from a couple of other lizard families, are Australian.
Blotched Blue-tongue Lizard Tiliqua nigrolutea, Namadgi National Park, above Canberra.
A member of a small group of large aberrant skinks, this species is limited to higher altitudes here in
the more northern part of its range; further south it tends to lack the distinctive pink blotches and
is found down to sea level.
Wedge-snout Ctenotus Ctenotus brooksi, Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, central Australia
- a more typical skink (and lunch, a beetle).
The pink-brown coloration here is an obvious camouflage adaptation on desert sands.
Cooktown Ring-tailed Gecko Cyrtodactylus tuberculatus, Cooktown, North Queensland.
This one belies its name because it has previously shed its tail, probably escaping a predator. The replacement
is rarely as fancy. Recent work based at the University of Queensland has identified five species of

Cyrtodactylus in Australia where previously only one was recognised.
OK, if you're strongly into pink you may well be dissatisfied after this offering, but please bear with me - I promise a plethora of serious pink in coming postings!

Note that by the time you read this I'll be in Patagonia (this is 'one I prepared earlier');
this means that I won't be able to comment on any comments you care to make until I get back.


Flabmeister said...

As well as the external colouring many animals are pink on the inside. Presumably due to haemoglobin? In the example of a goanna in apost from Mallacoota
presumably it also acts as a warning to potential victims which seems an unusual adaptation!


Susan said...

The butterfly is Nymphalidae, which you've probably already noticed and doesn't help us much in narrowing it down :-)

Do you know Darren Naish's blog href="http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/">Tetrapod Zoology, published on the Scientific American website? He's recently done a series on skinks which I think might interest you.