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Austrogammarus Australis A Miniature Marvel

Austrogammarus Australis

Protecting the Austrogammarus Australis: Why These Crustaceans Matter

Welcome to the fascinating world of Amphipod crustaceans, specifically the Dandenong freshwater amphipod or Sherbrooke amphipod that was first described by Sayce (1901). These small, yet mighty creatures are a crucial part of the ecosystem in Australia, where they until recently were thought to be extinct, but surveys conducted in the Dandenong Ranges have revealed small populations.

The scientific name Austrogammarus australis is composed of two parts: the genus name Austrogammarus and the species name australis. The genus name Austrogammarus is derived from the Latin words “auster,” meaning “south,” and “gammarus,” meaning “a type of crustacean.” This name likely refers to the species’ distribution in the southern region of Australia.

The species name australis is derived from the Latin word “auster,” meaning “south,” and refers to the species’ distribution in the southern region of Australia. Together, the scientific name Austrogammarus australis literally means “southern crustacean from the south,” referring to the species’ location in the southern part of Australia.

Physical characteristics of Austrogammarus australis include a body length of up to 2 cm and a pale, translucent appearance. They have elongated, segmented bodies and numerous pairs of legs, which give them their “amphipod” name, meaning “both feet.” These legs allow them to move quickly through their aquatic habitats, including streams, rivers, and swamps.

Habitat

The only known living animals occur at a Sherbrooke Creek, Hardy Creek, Clematis Creek and Sassafras Creek in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Austrogammarus australis live within cool inland freshwater environments, specifically headwater creeks, where they can be seen scurrying along the bottom of the water or hiding among vegetation.  Specifically they can be found in leaf litter at the beginning of small creeks, with at least 75% shade canopy over the water,

Diet

Austrogammarus australis feeds on a variety of native detritus, helping to keep waterway habitats clean and healthy. Pollution from silt contained in road runoff or nutrient contamination from sullage – domestic and urban waste water is belived to have contributed to their decline.

Reproduction

Not much is known about the reproductive lifecycle of these animals. In 2017 a total of 287 individuals were identified using methods described in Papas and Crowther (2007). There are no information available on current population estimates.

Behavior

But it’s not just about reproducing for Austrogammarus australis.  They have a distinctive “sideways” swimming style and somewhat “hairy” appearance.

Conservation Status

This crustacean is critically endangered. Despite their small size, Austrogammarus australis plays a vital role in their ecosystem as both a decomposer and a food source for larger animals. However, they are not immune to the threats facing many species today, including habitat destruction and pollution. You can do your bit but not putting pollutants of any kind down drains and sewers – these should always be recycled according to manufactures instructions. Recent work has been undertaken to improve habitat quality and to extend the range of this invertebrate. It is important to continue conservation efforts to protect these valuable crustaceans and the ecosystems they call home.

There is so much more still to learn about the incredible Amphipod crustacean Austrogammarus australis. From their physical characteristics, population size and habitat to their diet and behavior, these fascinating creatures deserve our attention and protection. So next time you’re out exploring the waterways of Australia, keep an eye out for these miniature marvels and appreciate the important role they play in the natural world.

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