Over the years I have reported on some interesting creatures that I have found, or that have found me, but the latest is remarkable.
I was walking on Urquhart Bluff beach one afternoon during the February–March heatwave and found a brown lump at the high tide mark. It could have been a lump of rolled up seaweed, of which there was a lot just 50 m back, but I picked it up. It was dense, coarsely hairy on the back, waving spines around the perimeter and had a ribbed ‘foot’. I took some photos and returned it to the water, though I don’t think it would have survived long.
What was it? I checked my ID book without luck. Instead of asking the museum as I usually do, I thought Mark Rodrigue at Parks Victoria might know, but he referred me to the museum and at the same time passed on my photos to them. Almost immediately I had a reply—It surely is one of the several families of scale worm (Aphroditidae). It is a species of Aphrodita (‘sea mouse’). There are three species commonly recorded in Victorian waters, I would need to put the specimen under the microscope to be sure of an identification but Aphrodita australis is the one most commonly found beach washed (usually after some onshore weather).
Following up on this, I checked the Atlas of Living Australia and found that there is only one other record of any Aphrodita species in western Victoria, being at Portland on an unspecified date. The genus was named in 1758 by Linnaeus, the inventor of the whole naming system for plants and animals, indicating sea mice were known before Captain Cook came here!
Perhaps not as peculiar as the above, at (dry) Lake Dubban at Modewarre, a few days earlier I found what looked like a wasp on a flowering Sweet Bursaria. I Googled flower wasp and found a likely candidate. I checked with the museum and they confirmed it as a Flower Wasp, Austroscolia soror. It is also a new recording for western Victoria.
These two finds are now on Atlas of Living Australia at https://www.ala.org.au/