Million miles from home

High in the Fiery Range of the mighty Snowy Mountains a river is born.  Nestled at the foot of Peppercorn Hill a majestic river commences its long meandering journey. A major tributary of the Murray River, the Murrumbidgee River is our second longest river, providing sustenance and nurturing ecological communities downstream.

In the local Wiradjuri dialect, Murrumbidgee means ‘big water’, an ancient river in an ancient landscape.  Offering a stunning backdrop as it traverses our bush capital, this big water offers us many opportunities to connect with nature on the banks of a grand old river; a cool oasis on a hot summer’s day.

Recreational nodes dotted along its journey through the nation’s capital have become perennial favourites with generations of Canberrans. Think Angle Crossing, Kambah Pool, Red Rocks Gorge and, in the heart of the Tuggeranong Valley, Pine Island.

With its sandy riverside beaches, Pine Island speaks of a natural sanctuary in a modernised urban environment.

A recent discovery of a previously unknown species has underscored the scientific significance of this ecological hot spot.

A prehistoric creature has been quietly going about its business as a docile decomposer foraging amongst the leaf litter on the forest floor. A spectacular black millipede with an impressive red stripe has been sighted at Pine Island via the wonderful citizen scientists’ resource, Canberra Nature Map.

The name millipede is derived from the Latin word mil, meaning thousand and peds meaning feet. However we are yet to discover a millipede with a thousand legs, in fact most millipedes have less than 100. Incredibly, this discovery has been identified as a species from a family usually found in the warm tropics, a far cry from the frost hollow of Pine Island.

This unknown species found on the banks of the Murrumbidgee has never been recorded in the bush capital, posing the inevitable question: what is it doing here?

Perhaps this is a new subspecies.  Or it hitched a ride from the tropics. In appearance it resembles a species collected in Queensland, preserved as a pickled specimen. If it is the same species, how did it get from Toowoomba to Pine Island? Or is there something exceptional about the Pine Island environment that has preserved a remnant fossil population that reflects a wetter, warmer time? Or is it an indicator of a travelling native species adapting to climate change?

Either way, Canberra Nature Map is an online resource providing a powerful social media platform to share natural encounters with fellow citizen scientists, in doing so providing a valuable means to simply marvel at the natural diversity of our beautiful bush capital. To discover more visit Canberra Nature Map

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful Platypus.

Article also appeared in The Chronicle