Bush Blitz visited Cape Range National Park at the end of June 2019, with a large team of taxonomists, to survey the variety of plants and animals which call Cape Range home. Follow their story here to find out what curious creatures were discovered.

Apply for your class to speak with scientists over a video conference at the next Bush Blitz.

Pre-expedition Video

The two scientists in the video are:

Dr Nikolai Tartarnic 

Nik is the curator of Entomology at the WA Museum. His research focuses on the evolution and systematics of Australasian and Indo-Pacific insects. He uses a multidisciplinary approach, combining morphological, molecular and behavioural studies, to explore various aspects of the evolution and diversity of True Bugs (Heteroptera), and more recently grasshoppers (Orthoptera). He is particularly interested in the role of reproduction in evolution and how selection drives morphology and behaviour at both micro- and macro-evolutionary scales, ultimately leading to speciation.

Dr Glenn Moore

For work, Glen oversees the management, development, facilitation of research, and profiling of the Fish collection, consisting of around 180,000 specimens of some 5000 species. He also conducts research on the systematics and biogeography of Western Australian fishes, especially marine species; as well as the evolutionary processes (genetics) influencing the speciation and distribution of fishes.

In the Field Video

Background Information

Cape Range national park is located near Exmouth, about 1,200 km north of Perth, on the north-west coast of Western Australia. It sits on the western side of the North West Cape peninsula and is an important gateway to Ningaloo Marine Park. These two parks form the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Coast. Together the terrestrial and marine parks contain exceptional biodiversity, which UNESCO recognises and works towards promotion and protection of the important biodiversity.

Landscape and Geology

The Cape Range consists of marine limestone sediments deposited from the Paleocene to Pliocene (about 65-5 million years ago) (Allen, 1993). These layers have been uplifted over time to form a long range front which is incised by deep gorges, and surrounded by flat alluvial plains. Marine fossils are often found, including shelled organisms and corals. Because limestone dissolves more readily than many other rock types, an extensive network of underground caves and water courses has formed over many years (karstification). These caves contain subterranean waterbodies and are home to an extremely diverse array of fauna species found nowhere else in the world.

Geography and Ecology

The vegetation in the national park consists of flat hummocky grasslands dominated by Triodia wiseanna and T. pungens, with limestone ranges dominated by plant communities consisting of various Acacia species, as well as Grevillea, Melaleuca, Hakea and Banksia species. Mangrove species also occur at a few coastal flanks on the east side of the peninsula.

Because of the geographical location of the North West Cape peninsula it receives rainfall in summer and winter months; it is unique in that it is able to support a variety of temperate, tropical and arid species.

Various vertebrate fauna inhabit the area that are typical of much of arid or semi-arid Australia. This includes dingoes, emus, kangaroos and many reptile species including snakes and goannas.

Tourism

The Ningaloo coral reef is one of the longest near-shore reefs in the world and is valued for its outstanding display of marine life, including spectacular coral reefs, fish, whale sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. It is therefore a very popular place for tourists to visit for recreational activities such as snorkelling and scuba diving.

Exmouth is the closest town, located on the eastern side of the North West Cape peninsula, and Learmonth airport is the closest airport located ~ 35km south of Exmouth.

Cultural Values

Cape Range national park contains numerous sites and landscapes of indigenous cultural heritage. The Junigudira and Baiyungu people historically inhabited the Ningaloo Coast, and are understood to have left the area shortly before or after European settlement. Currently, the Gnulli Native Title Claim exists over the larger region, on behalf of three language groups with interests in the claim area (Thalanyji, Baijungu and Ingadda).

Climate

The climate is generally warm and dry year-round, with summer bringing in higher rainfall with the cyclone season (January to March). Daytime temperatures in the summer months generally reaches the high 30Cs, while in winter the daytime temperature averages about 25C.

History

  • In 1942, the United States Navy established a submarine base – code named ‘Operation Potshot’.
  • In 1953, Australia’s first flowing oil was discovered at Rough Range on the North West Cape.
  • In 1964, the town of Exmouth was established to help support the United States Naval Communications Station.