Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Things I Learned From Tim Flannery

I'm reading Chasing Kangaroos by Tim Flannery right now.

The book has some interesting facts, so I've decided to record them here.

1. Rottnest Island in Western Australia was originally called Rats-Nest Island. It was named by one of the early dutch explorers who saw a Quokka and thought it was a large rat.

2. Some kangaroos have a power called embryonic quiescence. This means they can suspend growth of an embryo in the womb for up to a year. This sounds like a pretty nifty trick.

3. The genitals of a Dugong are very similar to those of a human female.

4. In male Kangaroos, the scrotum hangs in front of the penis. The penis is the one in the back.

5. Female Kangaroos have two vaginas.

6. Female Kangaroos have four nipples, but the joey becomes attached to just one. She can nurse both a pouch joey and a kicked-out-of-the-pouch joey--each nipple providing milk with different types of nutrients. This differs from tandem nursing, in humans, where the toddler shares the nipple with his/her infant sibling--delighted that he's suddenly getting the rich taste of newborn milk rather than the watery stuff he's been sipping previously.

7. Inside kangaroo stomachs are worms known as strongyles.  These worms help the kangaroos break down difficult to digest grass.  

8. Australia is NOT the only place to find wild animals from the kangaroo family.  There are wallabies in Papa New Guinea.   Also, kangaroos and wallabies were long ago released in the wild in Hawaii, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, and France.   I guess it's the same way that Australia ended up with wild camels.  

Now I'm learning about Flannery himself from Lord Wiki. He's a mammalogist, a paleontologist and a global warning activist. That sounds pretty impressive to me.

He wrote a controversial book called The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People. He believes Australia ideally should have six million people living on it. That means about 2/3 of the population would have to exit or come down with a really bad case of the flu. He also thinks Australians should stop eating European animals such as cow and instead eat the native Aussie animals such as kangaroo and crocodile.

His work in terms of climate change earned him an Australian of the Year award in 2007.

One of the things that makes him not so popular in some people's eyes is his support of whaling. I've read some of his views on the subject and so far they make sense to me. I agree with him.  If it's done in a way that does not threaten the whale population numbers, and if it's done in the least painful way as possible; what's the difference between eating a whale and a sheep?