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Posts Tagged "australia"

Compound Eye

An Australian Insect Sampler

brentidae2f

The wayward continent of Australia is famous for the strange and relictual creatures that have evolved in near-complete isolation. The insects are no exception. I spent December travelling the great southern continent, and of the 3,000 exposures I took during the month here are a few of my favorites:

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Extinction Countdown

Butt-Breathing Turtle Now Critically Endangered

butt-breathing turtle

Few reptiles can breathe underwater. Australia is home to one of the exceptions, the white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula), which can extract oxygen from water through its backside via a process called cloacal respiration. This unusual technique, shared by a handful of other turtle and fish species, gave the turtles an evolutionary advantage for millennia, [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Halloween Horrors: The Ghost Bat (aka the False Vampire Bat)

ghost bat

Something ghostly and hungry flies the skies of northern Australia. Its massive white wings stand out against the darkness as it circles, searching for prey. When it finds something tasty this unusual creature darts out of the sky, grabs its dinner in its claws, presses it to the ground and bites into the neck with [...]

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Extinction Countdown

A Wild Idea: Save Tasmanian Devils While Controlling Killer Cats

tasmanian devils

Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) disappeared from mainland Australia centuries ago, probably not long after humans first brought dingoes to the continent. A new plan could bring the infamous, snarling predators back from the island of Tasmania to Oz. That would not only benefit the devils, which are dying out due to a communicable cancer, but [...]

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Extinction Countdown

This Rare White Possum Could Soon Be a Ghostly Memory

white lemuroid ringtail possum

A ghost lives in the Daintree Rainforest in northeastern Queensland, Australia. There, on a single mountain range located 1,100 meters above sea level, scientists have recently found what may be the last few white lemuroid ringtail possums (Hemibelideus lemuroides), a species that was all but wiped out by a heat wave in 2005. They may [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Island Sanctuary Could Save Sex-Crazed Northern Quoll

northern quoll

Life is tough if you’re a northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus). These rare, cat-sized Australian marsupials don’t have very long life spans—especially males, which tend to die after their first mating experience when less than a year old. You see, all female quolls go into heat at the same time, and it drives the males a [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Climate Change Could Wipe Out the World’s Smallest Kangaroo [Video]

musky rat kangaroo

Scientists in Australia have warned that we’d better get hopping and slow down climate change if we want to prevent the world’s smallest kangaroo from going extinct. The musky rat-kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus), which reaches just 35 centimeters in length, lives in a tiny stretch of tropical rainforest on Australia’s northeastern coast. According to researchers from [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Poisoning Dingoes Has Domino Effect on Australia’s Biodiversity

dingo

Australia has a long history of poisoning its dingoes (Canis lupus dingo), which have an unfair reputation of preying on sheep and other livestock. But according to a new study, killing the country’s native canines may have had unintended consequences, dramatically impacting the biodiversity in regions where dingo populations have been reduced or removed. The [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Sea Lion Whisker Patterns Could Be Key to Conservation

sea lion whiskers

This month marks the beginning of the breeding season for endangered Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) as well as a great opportunity for citizen scientists to help conserve this rare species. A new project called the Whisker Patrol is asking for help with a possible new method for tracking and identifying individual sea lions. As [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Parasites that Cause Chagas Disease in Humans May Also Be Killing Tiny Australian Marsupials

woylies

Why are the woylies all dying? Since 2001 the populations of these tiny Australian marsupials have mysteriously crashed by as much as 90 percent. The species, which had already been driven to near-extinction in the early 20th century, had been on the path to recovery after successful conservation efforts protected them from foxes and other [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Dig This: Decline of Australian Digging Mammals Impacts Entire Ecosystems

bandicoot

How much soil would a bandicoot dig if a bandicoot could dig soil? Quite a lot, it turns out. The southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus) weighs just 1.4 kilograms, but over the course of a year this tiny digging marsupial can excavate more than 3.9 metric tons of soil as it builds its nests and [...]

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Observations

A Proposal to Introduce Elephants to Australia: Really?

elephants

Why not bring elephants to Australia? That’s the proposal made by biologist David Bowman of the University of Tasmania in a comment published February 2 in Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) The pachyderms could help to polish off gamba grass, introduced from Africa to Australia in the 1930s as fodder for [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Mimic Octopus Makes Home on Great Barrier Reef

mimic octopus australia great barrier reef

Of all the amazing octopus species out there, the mimic octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, is perhaps the most bewildering. While most known octopuses are able to change color and shape for camouflage, mimic octopuses can also impersonate other animals to deter would-be predators. They can contort their bodies and long, striped arms to look—and swim—like other [...]

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Running Ponies

The Great Emu War: In which some large, flightless birds unwittingly foiled the Australian Army

emu-wars

I have to admit it – that’s some real Australian behaviour going on up there. Why are the emus so attracted to his upside-down bicycling? Beats me, but maybe his upturned shoes look like comely emu heads. Which sounds kinda dumb, but don’t let those 80-pound lugs fool you – they once brought the Australian [...]

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Running Ponies

Congratulations on your new fluffy record, Tufted Ground Squirrel. Please don’t eat our livers.

tufted-ground-squirrel-running-ponies-featured

It’s a record that none of us even knew existed, but the tufted ground squirrel from Borneo is the official owner of the Fluffiest Tail in the World. Good job, tufted ground squirrel. We’ll never know the sacrifices you made to achieve such fluff, the lost time with your family and friends that you’ll never get [...]

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Running Ponies

King of the Killer Whales: The Legend of Old Tom and the Gruesome ‘Law of the Tongue’

old-tom-killer-whale-featured

This is the story of an orca named Old Tom, who during the early 20th century spent almost four decades helping fishermen catch baleen whales off the coast of Australia. In return, Old Tom and his pod feasted on the lips and tongues of the whalers’ haul. The coastal town of Eden sits just over [...]

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Running Ponies

New Species of Peacock Spider has Leopard Spots and Cat-like Moves

peacock-spider-jurgen-otto

This is my second post in a week featuring spiders doing undeniably adorable things – dancing and cartwheels. It’s as if spiders know they have a reputation problem and have launched some kind of secret PR campaign to highlight their cuter, less-likely-to-give-you-skin-rot members. But then a bunch of ‘yellow sac spiders’ (cuteness diminishing) invaded a [...]

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Running Ponies

Meet Australia’s Easter Bunny: the Long-Eared Greater Bilby

greater-bilby-featured

Easter in Australia is pretty much the same as Easter elsewhere in the world. We do Easter egg hunts and put sad-looking yellow chickens with loose eyespots on display in straw nests and eat nothing but chocolate for three days straight. But there’s a war going on, and the Easter Bunny is at the centre [...]

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Running Ponies

Move Over, Snotty: Australian Jellyfish Crambione Cookii Filmed for the First Time

crambione-cookii-featured

It’s jellyfish mania in Australia right now, thanks to our snotastic new friend, whose discovery on a Tasmanian beach was announced just last week. While Captain Vom waits patiently for his new official name, we’ve got time to welcome another Australian jellyfish species into the spotlight, and this one’s been waiting more than a century [...]

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