High in the mists that shroud Mount Kaputar, near Narrabri in north-western NSW, scientists have discovered a secret world.
By day it is an isolated pocket of snow gums, wrapped in straggling native vines.
People tend to focus on the cute and cuddly bird and mammal species like koalas. But these little invertebrates drive whole ecosystems.
But on rainy nights, it is the domain of giant, fluorescent pink slugs - up to 20 centimetres long - and carnivorous, cannibal land snails that roam the mountaintop in search of their vegetarian victims.
’’It’s just one of those magical places, especially when you are up there on a cool, misty morning,’’ said Michael Murphy, a national parks ranger for 20 years, whose beat covers the mountain top.
’’It’s a tiny island of alpine forest, hundreds of kilometres away from anything else like it. The slugs, for example, are buried in the leaf mould during the day, but sometimes at night they come out in their hundreds and feed off the mould and moss on the trees. They are amazing, unreal-looking creatures.’’
Locals had long reported seeing bizarre pink slugs after rainfall in the area, but it was only very recently that taxonomists confirmed the slugs, Triboniophorus aff. graeffei, as well as several of the snail species - which prey on other vegetarian land snails - were unique to the mountaintop.
They are a relic of the era when much of eastern Australia was damp rainforest, and probably would have long since vanished, if a volcano had not erupted at Mount Kaputar about 17 million years ago.
The result of that eruption is a high-altitude haven for invertebrates and plant species that have been isolated for millions of years, after Australia dried out and the rainforests receded.
Their heritage can be traced back to Gondwana - when Australia’s landmass was connected to others in one vast continent - via relatives that survive in pockets of New Zealand, New Caledonia and South Africa.
But the Mount Kaputar creatures are genetically distinct, restricted to an area of about 10 kilometres by 10 kilometres on their own mountaintop.
EU on high alert as Germany accepts Ebola patients 2014 07 30
A German hospital has agreed to treat Ebola patients amid widespread fears of a possible outbreak of the deadly disease in Europe. Over 670 people have already been killed by the disease in West Africa with doctors struggling to control the epidemic.
A German hospital in Hamburg agreed to accept patients following a request from the World Health Organization (WHO), Deutsche ...
Bolivia declares Israel terrorist regime 2014 07 30
Bolivia has declared Israel a “terrorist state” and revoked a visa exemption agreement with Tel Aviv in protest at the ongoing Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip.
The move "means, in other words, we are declaring (Israel) a terrorist state," President Evo Morales said during talks with a group of educators in the city of Cochabamba ...
Pagan Traditions: Mysteries of medieval graffiti in England’s churches 2014 07 30
Medieval graffiti of straw kings, pentagrams, crosses, ships and "demon traps" have been offering a tantalising glimpse into England’s past. What do the pictures reveal about life in the Middle Ages?
A project to record the graffiti, which began in Norfolk, has now been rolled out to other areas and is gradually spreading across England.
Armed with just a torch and a ...
More Gigantic Holes Appear in Siberia’s ’End of the World’ 2014 07 30 Is it the end of the world in Siberia’s ’End of the World’?
Scientists suspect not, but they’re still investigating the strange and alarming holes that are swallowing up the Siberian north.
This week two new holes have been discovered, and with similar characteristics as the first reported hole: a very deep shaft with smooth sides, debris surrounding the rim, and water ...
BLACKLISTED: The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist 2014 07 30 The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.
The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, ...