Happy Easter — Aussie style

I’m back, with lots to say, but lots of catching up to do on the day job. Let me first thank Matthew Cobb for a terrific job of filling in. His students get the benefit of his omnivorous readings in the form of a Z (zoology)-letter he sends out weekly, detailing all sorts of interesting animal stuff.

For today, until I shovel myself out from under, I post something for a belated Happy Easter. In WEIT I describe the convergences between marsupial and placental mammals, resemblances that imply that some niches antedate the animals who have evolved to fill them. Although the Australian bilby looks like a rabbit, it isn’t really herbivorous but omnivorous, although it does burrow. There used to be two species, the greater and the lesser bilby (the word “bilby” is aboriginal), but the lesser appears to be extinct. The greater bilby, Macrotis lagotis, is highly endangered due to habitat loss and predation by, among other species, feral cats; you can read about its precarious status here. Only a few hundred remain in the wild. To save the animal, extensive efforts are underway; these include widespread annual sale of chocolate Easter bilbies, which provide revenues for conservation. (In WEIT I mistakenly say “Each spring, chocolate bilbies fill the shelves of Australian supermakets. . .”, and was roundly taken to task by Aussies who pointed out, rightly, that the Australian Easter occurs in the fall.)

So, belatedly, here are some baby bilbies from down under, and the chocolate replicas that are helping save them:

Chocolate bilbies (buy them here):

easter_bilby_dl_3

NB: Goofed again. I am informed that in Australia the penultimate season is called “autumn,” not fall.

13 Comments

  1. Andrew Sinnott
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I just read this part of your book a couple of days ago.

  2. Francesco Nicoletti
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    In Australia easter occurs in Autumn, we use the English name for the season not the American.

  3. Posted April 15, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    In Australia, Autumn is not the penultimate season of the (calendar) year; it is the second.

  4. Robert Byers
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    I am a biblical creationist and must insist that marsupials are indeed just placentals that adapted to Australia or South America etc with a minor reproductive change.
    Marsupial dogs, cats, moles, tapirs, bears are just the same creatures as elsewhere with those names.
    This is a common theme in the fossil record and many orders of same shaped creatures are said to be unrelated and yet this is wrong classification.

    I wrote an essay called “Post Flood marsupial migration Explained” by Robert Byers. Just google.

    This whole convergent idea can be seen by creationism as a excellent example of the error of evolutionary teachings.
    All the best.

    • Notagod
      Posted September 13, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      Robert Byers, I wrote an essay “The Christian God is Nothing but an Idea”, so I must insist that you lose. Ha!

    • Kauru
      Posted June 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I just stumbled upon this site while I was looking at chocolate bilbies. Haha

      There is very interesting information here, I think I shall be returning to this site often.

      Robert: From this excerpt of your essay, it seems that you have no idea what the definition of the word “evolution” is. I read the essay, you keep defining evolution and using different forms of it as examples as to why changes happened and evolution doesn’t exist. Does that really make sense? Why would you point out how evolution is happening and use THAT as evidence that animals don’t really evolve?

      Fossil records show that there used to be dinosaurs. According to the Bible stories, Adam and Eve were created with mammals and such (cows, snakes, fish, lions, etc.) If you go by fossil records that you speak of, you can notice changes in specific species of animals until they become new species. Study Darwin’s theories, they’re very educational and interesting, especially the ones about the Galapagos finches and how one species slowly turned into many as the individual families needed to find other forms of food or face shortages and death or migration. That, my friend, is called evolution. Unless of course dinosaurs exited the Ark along with lions and tigers and bears and crapped out mice and bunnies and marsupials along the way, dying out and leaving humans and modern animals to live on their own……

  5. Adam
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    I found your site just today. I wanted to express how happy I am to find a blog on evolutionary biology that focuses on the science and doesn’t get caught up in bashing Intelligent Design. Even when you deal with the issue, from what I’ve read you have a friendly, helpful tone. That’s what it’ll take if you want to win them over. I am one of the fortunate few IDers who has found his way out of the darkness to wholeheartedly embrace evolution, and did so without having my faith diminished in the least. I expect to turn many times to your blog to expand my knowledge of biology and evolution.

    PS- My name’s ironic, isn’t it? I was named after the Second Adam anyway.

  6. charlesincharge
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    That was an excellent essay, Bobby. When will you be graduating elementary school?

    Oh, Canada. How the ne’er-mighty have fallen.

  7. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Robert Byers: The remarkable similarity of creatures in the fossil record (yet said to be unrelated orders) is better explained by saying that they are designed as the same creatures after all. There has been no “convergent evolution” on such a major and repeating scale but rather these animals with similar morphology are the same kind from the same pair off the Ark. After the migration from the Ark minor or micro-evolution by environmental influences brought relatively minor changes to the geographically separated descendents. These changes would of affected all the creatures in that area in the same way.

    I guess it changed their DNA in the same way as well, so that the marsupials cluster together on sequence-based phylogenetic trees. Amazing.

  8. Daniel Carabellese
    Posted April 18, 2009 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Adelaide Zoo! Hot damn, I saw those very bilbies not long ago on a zoo trip with my girlfriend. Nice to see a reference close to home.

    When I was quite young, there was also a campaign which sold stuffed toy bilbies for similar reasons. I had one of these and loved it dearly, despite forever failing to see the link between bilbies and easter.

  9. Posted April 18, 2009 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    Obviously you need to visit Australia so we can straighten you out re the local seasons, etc.

  10. Robert Byers
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Reginald
    Since the change would be across the board that the new dna would likewise.
    So sameness in dna amongst marsupials and segregation from dna scores with their placental cousins is logical. The scores do not hint at common origins of these creatures as different orders etc.
    A wolf is a wolf after all pouch or no pouch.

    • Kauru
      Posted June 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Incorrect information. The change would not be “across the board.” Evolution and natural selection are simply regional effects as animals adapt to their habitats. It also may not affect animals in the entire area, just some of them that face adaptation or death. Evolution is a form of adaptation, more extreme than most as it results in DNA changes in the animals. If your theory happened to be correct, then when one group of moths had a DNA change that affected their “camo” pattern on their wings, then ALL moths would have that same change, therefor all moths would look the same. Same for wolves, bears, fish, etc. leaving us with one color and shape based appearance for every type of animal there is, including humans. There would only be one race of humans, one breed of wolves, one breed of big cats, etc. You can tell evolution affects groups of animals in specific regions differently due to the fact that there are so many recorded and ever changing creatures all over the planet.


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  1. […] BilbyFest, which comes annually on the second Sunday of September. Last April I posted on this highly endangered marsupial, which by virtue of its burrowing habit and appearance has replaced the rabbit as Australia’s […]

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