Soft coral colonies of the family Nephtheidae are among the most beautiful corals on the reef. Lacking a rigid external skeleton like the hard corals, nephtheid corals maintain their rigidity by the matrix of calcite spicules, called sclerites, in their tissues.

    These spicules are obvious in the Dendronephthya sp. coral above at Basilisk Harbour, Papua New Guinea. Soft corals can radically alter their size and shape depending on the prevailing conditions. When not feeding the polyps may retract and the fleshy stems contract, giving the coral ‘trees’ a wilted appearance. Also unlike the hard corals, soft corals also lack the symbiotic algae
    (zooxanthellae) in their tissues and consequently they are dependant on planktonic food taken directly from the surrounding water.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    Patch reefs, small versions of platform reefs, form in lagoons around Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands. It is only from an aerial perspective that the beauty of the vibrant colours of coral reefs can be truly appreciated.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    The southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) occurs throughout most of the lowland rainforests of southern New Guinea and north-east Australia and is an important agent of rainforest seed dispersal.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    The white fig (Ficus virens) is one of the parasitic strangler figs. After germinating in the crown of a host tree, the descending aerial roots of the seedling fig reach the ground where they thicken, eventually enveloping the host tree which, over decades, dies, leaving the fig supported by its latticed curtain of roots. This particular tree near Lake Tinaroo is thought to be as much as 500 years old and is locally known as the Cathedral Fig.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    The frillnecked lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) is an iconic reptile of northern Australia. Less well known is that it also occurs in the savannas of southern New Guinea. Insectivorous and arboreal, they commonly perch on branches and termite mounds a couple of metres above the ground, scanning their immediate vicinity for food prey and potential predators.

    “They do bask on the ground in the early morning, not uncommonly on roads, as this lizard was doing at the time,” says photography, Michael McCoy. “When I approached to within a few metres, it decided that refuge up the nearest tree was necessary; in this case, and somewhat ineffectively, the higher end of a large fallen branch beside the road, where it immediately spread its frill defensively.”

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    This view of Barron Falls at Kuranda is one of the more photographed waterfall vistas in Australia. However, it is only when the Barron River floods after cyclonic rains that the falls are truly impressive with their enshrouding mists and thundering torrents.

    This photograph was taken a couple of days after Cyclone Larry had crossed the coast south of Cairns in 2006. Cyclone Larry caused extensive and severe damage in the region’s rainforests. But such cyclical destruction makes for a natural regenerative process, essential for the long-term health of the rainforest.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    This spectacular rainforest spider, known from only a very few specimens, has been given the common name of a tiger huntsman. At the time of writing it remains scientifically undescribed, though it is known to belong to the genus Typostola. Photographer Michael McCoy found it at night in a Kuranda rainforest.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    The Australian lace-lid frog (nyctimystes dayi) takes its common name from the patterning on its lower eyelid, which serves to camouflage the frog’s large and distinctive eye (a target for potential predators) when it is at rest, as in the top photograph taken in Cairns.

    “The frog opened its eyes immediately after I took the first photograph,” photographer Michael McCoy says. The genus is represented by this single species in Australia, but more than 20 species range from the Moluccas and through New Guinea. The Australian lace-lid f rog is endemic to the rainforests of north Queensland and is an endangered species. Populations from higher altitudes have all but disappeared in recent decades, almost
    certainly victims of the deadly chytrid fungus.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    A spine-cheeked anemone fish (Premnas biaculeatus) poses for a portrait on a Guadalcanal Reef, Solomon Islands. The mucus on the skin of anemone fish contains chemicals that anemones ‘recognise’ as its own and consequently the nematocysts – the stinging cells – don’t discharge. For this reason the fish can live among the anemone tentacles with impunity.

    It is thought that the fish obtains its chemical camouflage directly from the anemone by gradual contact with its tentacles over several hours or days. This behaviour has been observed in studies of wild and captive anemone fishes who have been removed from their host anemone for several days. However, it is also considered likely that the fish has a certain amount of these chemicals naturally occurring in its skin mucous as a result of evolution, though regular contact with anemone tentacles is necessary to maintain these chemicals at an adequate level to provide the necessary protection.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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    Tree kangaroos, of which around 10 species occur in New Guinea and two in Australia, are slow-moving, arboreal macropods. Over-hunting in Papua New Guinea for skins and meat, together with extensive habitat loss, has severely impacted on population numbers – particularly in highland regions.

    Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellowi) is a montane species, living at altitudes of 1200-2800 m throughout Papua New Guinea’s central cordillera. The elusive animal was photographed at Wau Ecology Institute, Papua New Guinea.

    Extract from Reef and Rainforest by Michael McCoy, CSIRO Publishing.

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Gallery: Reef and rainforest photography

By AG STAFF | November 8, 2013

The lush rainforest and weird and wonderful creatures are showcased in this gallery.