A new invasive tropical grass species, blood-sucking leeches, dog vomit slime mould, peanut-butter-loving vermin and huge centipedes are among the big finds so far at BioBlitz in Auckland Domain.
“BioBlitz – finding nature in the city” is a 24-hour quest that started at 3pm yesterday and continues until 3pm today. About 50 of the country’s top biologists have been recording all forms of life (except humans), from plants to fungi to fish to animals, diurnal and nocturnal. Base camp is a marquee outside Auckland Museum, and at least a thousand members of the public have so far come for a look.
At this stage the biologists have found nearly 1100 species – already exceeding the 900+ at last year’s inaugural BioBlitz at Dingle Dell across town at St Heliers.
Landcare Research scientist Dr Peter Buchanan, one of the main organisers, has been awake around the clock wading through streams and combing the undergrowth. Dr Buchanan says the blood-sucking leeches were a surprise find.
“The leeches live in the duck pond in the Domain, and presumably feed mainly on duck blood. It’s unusual to find them in New Zealand.
“We also found dog vomit slime mould – and yes, that is its common name. This disgusting looking mould grows on damp wood.
“Also, we found a 15-centimetre long centipede, that is now attracting admiring onlookers in the marquee.”
Dr Buchanan says an invasive tropical grass not found in Auckland before was discovered directly outside the marquee by Auckland Museum’s Head Botanist, Dr Ewen Cameron.
“This grass has only been recorded once before in New Zealand, and the find indicates that it has become well established.
“It was a surprise for Ewen to find it right on his doorstep.”
Peanut butter lures attracted possums and one species each of rat, mouse and hedgehog, “We could spot them by their inky footprints through our ‘tracker’ tunnels.”
Among the more welcome finds at BioBlitz are four species of native weta, and adult banded kokopu (native whitebait) in a streams.
The mayor of Auckland, Dick Hubbard, has already come for a visit to BioBlitz.
The event was officially closed at 3pm by the Communications Minister, New Lynn MP David Cunliffe.