Fantastic Fan Palms
A lofty spire emerges from the head of a Fan Palm – Licuala ramsayi (F.Muell.) and radiates flamboyantly into a flawless circle of inspiring proportions. Zig-zagged channelling extends from the stem’s pleasing eccentricity to the enormous leaf’s periphery, giving the impression that the tremendous number of such fronds were each individually pinked to optimise their aesthetic appeal. When these majestic parasols are illuminated by the vibrant energy of the sun, their verdant roundels transform into a mezzanine of transcendent orbs. Multiplied across vast populations of contiguous cohorts, a mezzanine of emanating discs high-lights the over-arching grandeur of rainforest giants, releasing a cascade of emotions to the deepest recesses of humanity.
On many occasions over the years, I have observed both pythons and Giant White-lipped Tree Frogs – Litoria infrafrenata (Günther, 1867), positioned on Fan Palm fronds next to flowering bracts, grabbing insectivorous micro-bats on the wing. Neither of these nocturnal predators are renowned for their speed, but micro-bats are considered so fast and maneuverable that using echolocation they can skillfully navigate through complex rainforest in pitch darkness, differentiating between different species of insect from their wing-beat in flight. Nevertheless, the indisputable bat-capturing capabilities of both pythons and Giant Tree Frogs demonstrate highly developed coincidence-anticipation.
The speed and mobility of microbats precludes the possibility that their attraction to flowering fan palms influences ambush predators in terms of site selection. The original source of such influence must come from the flowering palm or the aggregating insects that the flowers attract. Nocturnal darkness eliminates the likelihood of visual cues and auditory stimuli are irrelevant to pythons from afar, so again, chemical signaling is the most likely modality for predatory site selection.
Being in the right place at the right time can ultimately make the difference between life and death, with great benefits deriving from the temporal sequencing of memory. Chemical signals from a flowering fan palm might drive an opportunistic predator towards its ambush advantage, but as the sequence of sensory input from an incoming micro-bat conforms to the predator’s consolidated memory of previously successful strikes, so does the process short-circuit the predator’s reaction towards reward. Recovering predatory advantage from a previously successful ambush site is undoubtedly driven by the reinforcing rewards of memory.
A particular section of lowland tropical rainforest, representing the ultimate expression of ecosystem health and vitality, led my bride and I, unwaveringly to the ideal wedding setting. Distinguished at its centrepiece with two stately Yellow Pendas – Ristantia pachsperma (F.M. Bailey) Wilson, P. G. & Waterhouse, J.T. (1982), having fused together in representative accord with the inviolability of matrimony, we came to revere the Grand Fan Palm Gallery with its awesome grandeur and resonating spirituality. The wedding itself was strategically scheduled for early September, weather-wise a lovely time of the year with minimal chance of rain, but an hour-or-so before the ceremony began, a light drizzle left the forest sparkling with water droplets and at the time of the wedding, sunlight broke through the canopy producing the effect of a green and gold stained-glass ceiling, bathing the cathedral-like interior with exalting light.
Revelling in such a spirited amphitheatre of life, the biological drives and refinements that forge the propriety of mate selection, rendered the ceremony and its attached emotions into corresponding splendour within memory. For the sanctity of this union, the Grand Fan Palm Gallery became the repository of our marriage memory and with subsequent daily returns to this sacred site, my wife and I add progressive depths of human capital to the site’s hallowed treasury of memories. Our children, in due course, were inculcated to the ceremonial sanctity of the site and the memories of their growth and development also occupy pride of position in this magnificent repository of familial history. This celebrated day will forever be etched into our memories, attached to the emotion of the event and reposited within the sanctified landscape that remains a daily feature of our presentation privileges. Each day we re-visit our wedding setting, adding further capital to its human dimension of value and marvelling at the evolutionary hand of genius, inscribed onto the ceiling of our pristine chapel.