Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Why is Australia so weird?

June 3, 2015

John Hopton for – @Johnfinitum

The mythology of Australian Aborigines, known as the Dreamtime, is filled with imagery of Australia’s wondrous fauna. Later, European naturalists stood open-mouthed at the unique animal life before them. All of these people had to be careful when going for a walk, a swim, or even to the toilet.

We come across animal stories from Australia almost weekly (raining spiders, anyone?) that leave us in the same boat as those European naturalists: open-mouthed and in awe that such a thing actually exists. This, in turn, causes us to wonder, “Why is Australia so weird?” And it’s a good question. There has to be some evolutionary reason why everything on that island/country/continent can kill you, or just confuse the hell out of you (we’re looking at you, platypus).

So, needing absolution, we turned to some experts who could help us–even if many of them later wrote back, “That’s a good question. I have no idea.”

Some, though, had answers, and this is what they had to say:

A very large life-raft

Here’s Professor Rick Shine, from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney:

“Australia has a unique fauna because it was isolated from the rest of the world for very long periods. The Australian continent was surrounded by ocean for many millions of years, and so the plants and animals on that very large life-raft were able to evolve in distinctive ways.

“Many types of animals that are common in other continents, such as dogs, cats and monkeys, never found their way to Australia (until people brought them over).”

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