- Written by Nadia O’Carroll
Tamborine Mountain is home to several creatures, which although not large by human standards, are giant species.
The Giant Earthworm Digaster longmani grows to over 1 metre and can be the same circumference as a garden hose. Apart from their size they are similar to other more common earthworms. They do not have skeletons and rely on muscles to maintain their structure. Earthworms move by contracting and relaxing the muscles of successive segments in a wave like motion while gripping the soil with their bristles. Their diet of organic matter and debris is consumed by everting a pharynx through its mouth, grabbing the food, which then passes to a gizzard which contains grit (much like a bird) where it is ground. The habitat of earthworms must be moist because they do not have lungs, and must breathe through their skin. Earthworms have five hearts to pump fluid around their bodies.
The Gippsland Giant Earthworm, a similar species, is believed to be long lived and to take 5 years to reach sexual maturity. This species was once widespread, but now is classified as vulnerable and lives in fragmented colonies. The status of our local Giant Earthworm is not known since they live in deep, permanent, complex, burrows and are not seen, unless they come to the surface when their burrows are flooded by heavy rain, or when disturbed by excavations or landslips.
Although the worm’s underground life means they are seldom seen, they may sometimes be heard. If they are disturbed by footsteps, they may slide along their waterlogged tunnels producing a strange gurgling sound from under the ground.
The Giant Panda Snail Hedleyella falconen is Australia’s largest land snail, an adult’s shell may be 90 to 100cm wide. The shell is spiral shaped and is brown to fawn in colour with black radial stripes. The snail’s body is grey with an orange edging. It has two pairs of black tentacles and a thick black stripe along its neck. The snail inhabits the rainforest floor where it shelters and forages for fungi and algae among the leaf litter, rotted logs and tree roots. It is mainly nocturnal and is most active after rain. The giant snail is a favourite food of the Noisy Pitta who cracks the snail’s shell open on a flat rock.
The Giant King Cricket Anostostoma australasiae is Australia’s largest cricket and may have a body 7cm long and weigh up to 26gms. They have large mandibles, long antennae and massive heads. Although they are flightless their powerful hind legs can propel them several metres. The giant crickets live in the rainforest where they shelter under logs or in burrows, emerging on wet nights to forage for fruit and fungi and to hunt for insects on the forest floor. If disturbed they may hiss, raise and swing their body in a threatening display. They are related to the wetas of New Zealand.