Photo © Terry Reis
You may not have noticed, but the word 'primitive' is slipping quietly out of the language of science. More and more biologists are deciding it sends the wrong message. The awful idea of 'primitive people' died long ago and now it’s becoming gauche to mention 'primitive' or 'ancient' species or 'living fossils'.
See a preview of 'Deep Sisters' in FlipBook or PDF format.
Krill & Charisma
Elizabeth Leane and Steve Nicol
The recent film Happy Feet 2 provides the first – and probably the last – starring roles for krill. Near the start of the movie Will the krill, voiced by Brad Pitt, has an existential crisis, rejecting his meaningless role as one component of an amorphous mass of whale food: 'So this is all we are … lunch,' he laments. When he and his timid sidekick Bill (Matt Damon) become isolated from their 'swarm,' Will rebels against his lot in life, leading his friend on a quest to 'move up the food chain'.
Lacebark tree (Brachychiton discolor
Photo © Tim Low
Heralding the Wet
Plants tend to respond to seasonal cycles and weather events rather than portend impending changes as animals do. They are no less fascinating for this. Indeed, the sequential calendar of growth, flowering and fruiting across any natural landscape is of unending interest.
For some weeks now, the showy flowers of the cocky apple trees (Planchonia careya), which flower at night to attract bats, and the glorious watermelon-coloured flowers of the kurrajong (Brachychiton muellerianus) had been appearing like jewels across the tropical woodlands. They were sure signs that the 'build up' had started.
Feeling Blue? Nurture Nature
The evidence is strong that Australia could greatly reduce the $20 billion annual cost of mental illness by incorporating exposure to nature into therapies. Our high rates of depression, anxiety and other disorders of the mind are not surprising as humans have increasingly disengaged from the natural environment.
Advocates for nature should be campaigning for large-scale studies to prove what we already know – that relationships of care with nature are one of the most joyful and beneficial aspects of living on earth.
Lake Eyre Dragon
Photo © Steve Wilson
Life on the edge
Wherever lizards occur, they interact with birds and mammals. By evolving to live on the buckled salt crusts in the South Australian desert, Lake Eyre Dragons have by-passed much of this interconnected web, because they are the only vertebrates capable of existing there. For these lizards, life’s challenges arise less from stabbing beaks and snapping jaws, and more from the elements themselves. These ultimate survivors are living on the edge.
Recovering human ground on the new earth
Set against the feeble politics of climate change, fatalism about a future under human management comes easily. But to accept such fatalism is to mistake cause for effect. Instead of working to free ourselves from the quest for control, we conclude that the modern terms of the human condition are the only ones on offer. We retreat into the private freedoms that capitalism has made so accommodating, chasing our dreams in the marketplace and leaving our shared world to its fate. It is easy to forget who we could be in a world that reflects so convincingly what we have become.
Buzzing Tree Frog
Photo © Eric Vanderduys.
National parks have long been used for ecotourism, both genuine and dubious, and damaging activities such as skiing, fishing, and horse-riding have been permitted in some parks. But their intensification is an assault on the very idea that in national parks, conservation comes first (the cardinal principle). 'Respect for their role in conservation of biodiversity is at an all time low', observes Christine Goonrey, president of the National Parks Association Council. The changes reflect a broader trend of commercialism trumping public interest and uglifying political sentiments about conservation.
We review the latest wildlife books including one about frogs.