Tag Archives: mammalia

Koala: Phascolarctos cinereus

Phascolarctos cinereus: Koala” or “Koala Bear:”

Taxonomy: Animalia; Chordata; Mammalia; Marsupialia; Diprotodontia; Phascolarctidae; Phascolarctos cinereus

Common Names: Koala, koala bear, monkey bear, native bear, and tree bear.

Localities: Koala are found in the coast regions of eastern and southern Australia in the Eucalypt woodlands.

Description:
A arboreal herbivorous marsupial found in Australia that attracts many tourists annually Down Under for a chance to see this bear in the wild. They were named after the Dharuk gula which was changed to “koala”. Its genus is derived from the Greek word “phaskolos” meaning “pouch” and “arktos” meaning “bear”. Although referenced as a “bear”, the koala is not related to the bear. It was given this description because of its bear-like resemblances. Its closest family is the wombat and actually physically resembles them. The earliest fossils of Koala date from 20 million years ago. It is estimated that from 20 million to 50,000 years ago, giant koalas inhabited the rainforests. The origin of these creatures are unknown, though believed to have descended from terrestrial wombat like creatures. The Victorian koala have long, thick, dark grey fur with chocolate-brown highlights on its back and forearms with a prominently light-colored ventral side with fluffy white ear tufts. They have been known to weigh upwards of 26 lbs for males and 19 lbs for females. The Queensland koala though are smaller averaging at 14 lbs for the male and 11 lbs for a female with a lighter scruffy color and shorter thinner fur. There is a golden tinged koala, known as the “golden koala” that has a slight golden tinge to its fur. Some others may have white fur due to recessive genes. They have a slow metabolism and sleep mostly through the day. Koala have a thicker coat than the wombat, much larger ears, longer limbs, and large sharp claws for tree climbing. Their five fingers include two opposable thumbs giving them excellent gripping ability, and is one of the few mammals outside of primates to have unique fingerprints representing strong similarities to human fingerprints under a microscope. They have two sharp incisors they use to clip leaves at the front of their mouths, separated from the grinding cheek teeth by a wide diastema, owning a dental pattern of 3-2-2-4 on the top, and 1-0-1-4. The male has a bifucated penis and the female has two lateral vaginas and two seperate uteri. They walk on four legs while on the ground with their infants clinging to the back. The koala has a much smaller brain size than its earlier ancestors, most scientists believe this is due to the change towards a low energy diet. It is one of the only animals to have a strangely reduced cranial cavity. The Koala is very silent except for the male during mating season. If stressed, the koala will issue a loud cry similar in tone and intensity to that of a human baby. They have been known to live upwards of 18 years in age. Males mater by age 3 or 4, and Females at age 2 or 3. When birthing, females produce one young a year for upwards of 12 years in a row with a 35 day gestation period. Infants are called a joey, sized at about a 1/4 of an inch long, sleeps downward facing in the pouch, and are blind, earless, and hairless. They remain in the pouch upwards of 6 months at a time, feeding on the mother’s milk, during which time they will grow ears, eyes, and fur. When it begins to explore outside the pouch, it starts to consume the mother’s “pap” innoculating its gut with microbes required to digest eucalyptus leaves. The koala populations are diminishing so are a protected species. Some estimate between 80 and 100,000 left. The Australian government does not deem them to be a threatened species, but the US Government does.

Predators:
Loss of Habitat, Humans, impacts from urbanization, dog attacks, traffic accidents, chlamydia, and feral animals.

Diet:
Koala bears are herbivores and rely almost entirely on eucalyptus leaves. Three to Five of their waking hours is spent eating leaves, upwards of 18 ounces a day. Jaws turn the leaves into a fine paste which gets filtered by the liver to deactivate the toxins in the Eucalypts. In addition to eucalyptus, some other species such as Acacia, Melaleuca, and Leptospermum get ingested and differences of preference varies from region to region. The southern koala like the Manna gum, blue gum, and swamp gum best while northern koala prefer tallowwood and grey gum.

Uses:
Once hunted for its fur, it is now a protected species as it was almost hunted to extinction in the early 20th century.

Culinary:
Unknown.

Medicinal:
Unknown.

Folklore and Magical Uses:
Unknown.

Written and researched by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Research Services. November 25, 2011.

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Platypus: Ornithorhynchus anatinus

a.k.a. “Platypus” or “Bewick’s Platypus”

Taxonomy: Animalia; Chordata; Mammalia; Monotremata; Ornithorhynchidae; Ornithorhynchus; Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Common Names: platypus, watermole, duckbill, and duckmole.

Localities: Native to Eastern Australia including Tasmania, with ancestors from South America. They live on the edges of rivers and freshwater lakes where they can burrow.

Description:
When white settlers first encountered this mammal, it was defined a hoax. It took over a hundred years to be accepted by the scientific community as defined a semi-aquatic mammal, as one of five extant species of monotremes – mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. They are egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammals that represent creatures of faerie tales and legends. It became so popular to Australia’s iconography, it was placed as a national symbol, appears as a mascot to national events, and was featured on a reverse of the 20 cent coin. The oldest fossil of a platypus dates from 100,000 years ago in the Quaternary period.

Paraphrased from Australian National Museum displays and exhibits: Platypuses are found only in Australia, though their ancestors lived in South America. With waterproof fur and webbed feet, platypuses are uniquely adapted to life in fresh water throughout Australia and Tasmania; they breathe air, but can stay underwater for about five minutes at a time, storing the food they catch in special pouches in their cheeks. The platypus was first seen by Europeans in 1797. The first Drawings were based on a preserved specimen sent to Joseph Banks in England by New South Wales governor John Hunter. The earliest published drawing was done in 1800 from “A General History of Quadrapeds” by Thomas Bewick. “Hoax?: “Of all animals yet known it seems the most extroadinary in its conformation. ~ George Shaw, 1799. In 1797, when the first platypus reached Europe pickled in brandy, scientists in Europe were suspicious. They could not believe one animal could have both a beak and fur. They thought it was a hoax. Even now, the fact that the platypus makes a nest, lays eggs, and suckles its young, seems remarkable. From Hoax to Enigma: The Natives have exhibited their ignorance of the natural history of the platypus by asserting that the young are produced from eggs. ~ Arthur Nichols, 1883. “ Platypuses and Echidnas were no mystery to Aboriginal people, who were well acquainted with their habits and biology. They told the first Europeans who arrived in Australia that platypuses and echnidnas laid eggs, but scientists in Europe did not believe this. It took nearly 100 years before it was accepted that the platypus really did lay eggs. “O’ thou prehistoric link, kin to beaver, rooster, skink, duck, mole, adder, monkey, fox, Paleothoic paradox! Beak of shovellers, spur of fowl; cheek of monkey (pocket jowl); trowel of beaver, gait of skink; Dope of adder, foxy stink. ~ Harry Burrell, “The Mud-sucking Platypus: A Brief History; about 1925.” During the day, the platypus rests in burrows they dig along river and freshwater lake edges within banks that overhang the river, here they bask in the sun and groom their dense fur. They are most active at night, which is when they feed, for several hours after dusk and before dawn. They are excellent swimmers and divers. When diving, they keep their eyes and ears shut using its webbed forefeet to swim downwards fighting its natural buoyancy. Webbing on the front feet extend beyond the claws forming large paddles for swimming. They can stay under for over two minutes, though can rest upwards of 10 minutes underwater under a submerged object. It’s bill resembles that of a duck’s bill which is really a elongated snout covered with soft, moist, leathery skin and sensitive nerve endings. Their bodies can be upwards of 12-18 inches long, with a 4-6 inches long flattened tail, and webbed feet. They can weigh upwards of 5+ lbs. They have three layers of fur – an inner layer to trap air and keep the animal warm, a middle layer working like a wet suit, and an outer layer to sense distance from objects. They have been known to live for upwards of 12 years in the wild. The male platypus has a sharp, hollow, horny spur that is about 15 mm long on the inside of both of its hind leg ankles which is connected to a venom gland producing a very strong toxin they use in defense against predators. They are monotremes, a rare form of mammal that do lay eggs instead of live birth. As the males are larger than females, they mate once a year from late June and in October. Females lay two to four eggs, incubated against her abdomen, and milk is produced in large glands under her skin oozing out onto a patch of fur that the offspring suckle.

Predators:
Loss of Habitat, Humans, snakes, water rats, foxes, and goannas.

Diet:
The platypus eats aquatic insect larvae, shrimps and worms found in the bottom silt of rivers and freshwater lakes and can eat their own body weight in food in one night.

Uses:
Once hunted for its fur, it is now a protected species.

Culinary:
Unknown.

Medicinal:
Unknown.

Folklore and Magical Uses:
Unknown.

Written and researched by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Research Services. November 25, 2011.

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Kangaroo: Macropus sp.

Kangaroo

Taxonomy: Animalia; Chordata; Mammalia; Marsupialia; Diprotodontia; Macropodidae; Macropus; Macropus and Osphranter

Common Names: Kangaroo, gangurru, boomers, jacks, old men, bucks, does, flyers, jills, joeys, roos

Localities: Native to Australia. Some relatives in New Guinea.

Description:

One of the unique critters of Australia, A marsupial that is native to the Down Under and an infamous animal/symbol of Australia. Kangaroos belong to the Macropodidae family and consists of numerous species. The name comes from the Guugu Yimithirr word “gangurru” that is used by the Aboriginee for “Grey Kangaroos”. The term “kangaroo” was first used by Captain James Cook on the banks of the Endeavor River near “Cooktown” where the HM Bark Endeavor was beached on the Great Barrier Reef for seven weeks early August 1770. Some claim that Cook asked a aboriginee the name of this intriguing animals and the individual said “Kangaroo” which was interpreted through time to mean “I don’t understand you” but has since been proven to be a false myth according to linguist John Haviland in the 70’s. The males are called “boomers”, “jacks”, “old men”, and “bucks” while the females are called “does”, “flyers”, or “jills” and the infants are called “joeys”. When grouped together they are called a “mob”, “court”, or “troop” of kangaroo. They are often nicknamed “roos”. A mammal that is found throughout Australia it has a few related species that can be found in New Guinea as well, some of which are endangered. This amazing animal is important and endemic to Australia and its culture. They have been described by many Europeans as strange creatures that stand upright like humans, have a deer head without antlers, but hop around like frogs. They originally were seen as a myth until Australia became inhabited by Westerners who verified their existence. The first Kangaroo to be shot by a Westerner and exhibited to European culture was by one of Captain Cook’s officer’s by the name of John Gore in 1770. The Kangaroo’s iconography can be found on the currency, coat of Arms, emblems, and airlines. There are four main species: The Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) which is the largest existing marsupial in the world); The Eastern Gray Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus); The Western Gray Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus); and the Antilopine Kangaroo (Macropus antilopinus). The animla has large powerful hind legs adapted for leaping with a long tail for balance (only mammal known to use hopping for locomotion and clocked upwards of 20-25 to a max of 70 km/hour). The females of the species have a marsupial “marsupium” which is a pouch where the infants finish their post-natal development. Their average life span is 6 years in the wild and 20 years under captivity. They are an herbivore feasting primarily on grasses or shrubs yet unlike other herbivores do not release methane gas. Some smaller species feast on hypogeal fungi. A good percentage of them are nocturnal. They are known to have complex social structures and interactions with one another such as touching and sniffing one another. They usually mate in pairs. Female kangaroos are usually pregnant in permanence except the day of birth but can “freeze” the development of an embroyo until the current infant is ready to leave the pouch. The egg descends from the ovary to the uterus where it is fertilized and developes into a neonate that emerges within 33 days, with one young born at a time where it gestates in the pouch for upwards of 190-235 days until it can leave the pouch. Before copulation the male monitors the female, sniffs her urine, follows her every move, approaches her slowly and if not scaring the female will paw, lick, and scratch at her before engaging copulation. After a long intercourse and consort pairing that can take several days, the male moves on to another female. Male aggression between one another occurs frequently and usually results in “boxing” matches. These fights can be brief or long and ritualized usually involving fighting over a woman or a feeding/drinking spot. Sometimes punching, grabbing of the opponent’s neck, locking of forearms, and wrestling will take place until one of them breaks off and retreats from the fight. Their sharp hindlegs can dis-embowel an opponent. Oddly, after the fight, the males often scratch and groom one another. They are often shy and curious about humans. During a disease in 2004 that was similar to “rabies”, there were a few unprovoked attacks on humans by kangaroos. In 2003, an Eastern Grey kangaroo alerted a farmer’s family to his location after he was injured by a fallen tree branch. This Kangaroo received a National Animal Valor award in 2004 for this feat. Outside of humans and dingos, Kangaroos have few predators still alive. Sometimes foxes, dogs, and feral cats can threaten kangaroos. They were once hunted by the (now extinct) thylacine, marsupial lion, Megalania, and the Wonambi. Kangaroos are a menace to vehicles especially at night similiar to incidents in North America with “Deer” or “antelope”. They become dazzled by the headlights and car noises often causing them to leap out in front of the travelling vehicle causing a severe impact that can destroy small vehicles and damage sufficiently larger ones. Kangaroos that are hit along the roadside as “road kill” have their pouches checked for “joeys” and often a large spray-painted red “X” is put on the kangaroo to denote that the pouch has been checked.

Uses:
Kangaroo is used for hide, leather, fur, cooking, and meat. Kangaroos are not farmed for meat, but are hunted for meat, hides, sport, and to regulate grazing lands. The meat of the kangaroo has numerous health and environmental benefits over traditional meats and described as having a stronger wild meat flavor.

Culinary:
See our culinary and article about Kangaroo Meat here: http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=2218.

Medicinal:
The tender meat is very high in protein and low in fat (less than 2%), has a very high concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is well known to be anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetes, reduces obesity, and atherosclerosis.

Folklore and Magical Uses:
Traditionally it was used by the Aboriginees for meat, bone, and tendons. The scrotum was sometimes stuffed as a ball for the football game of “marngrook”.

Article/research by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie.com – August 2011.

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