I don’t usually write posts about things I haven’t seen, and especially things I will probably never see. That being said, I was reading a bit about Australian wildlife, and I found it quite entertaining! I know the standard rule about Australian wildlife is that everything wants to kill you. However, there’s a second rule that isn’t discussed as often. One of the more fascinating parts of Australian wildlife is that extinction is temporary. That isn’t true, of course, but some Australian animals have a way of reappearing after decades not matched by anything else on the planet.
For instance, the Night Parrot, which was recently in the news, was first found in 1861. Seen very rarely between 1861 and 1912, the Night Parrot was not seen after 1912 and presumed extinct. However, in 1979, a man spotted a flock of the birds. Until 2013, however, no one had gotten a photo of a live Night Parrot!
You wouldn’t think that people would misplace the most venomous snake species on the planet for almost a century, but for ninety years (1882-1972), the Inland Taipan, the most venomous snake in the world, hid out in remote deserts in Australia. It was only rediscovered when a severed head was taken to a scientists collecting snake samples.
A third interesting example is the Parma Wallaby. This species appeared to have died out by the early 1900s. Fast forwards to New Zealand’s Kawau Island, next to the capital city of Auckland, in 1965. Wallabies had been introduced to this island for hunting, and they had become invasive. Biologists studying this population discovered that there were two species of introduced wallabies, and that this second species was the Parma Wallaby! However, this story gets even better. In 1967, scientists found the first of several more populations of Parma Wallabies in the mountains of New South Wales, near the most populated regions of Australia. They’d been living there, unnoticed, for decades.
Another tale is that of the Nothomyrmecia ant, a species of ant that is considered one of the most scientifically primitive in the world- akin to a dinosaur in the entomological world. Found first in fossils, an Australian amateur entomologist stumbled across this species in Western Australia in 1931. This population was never rediscovered. A group of entomologists in 1977, on their way to go looking for it, stopped briefly at a spot 810 miles away from the original sighting, to stretch their legs. One of the entomologists, looking down, found a single Northomyrmecia ant! “Living fossils” seem quite ocmmon on this continet, too!.
The Wollemi Pine is one of the more recent discoveries in this group. A sort of “prehistoric” tree thought to have died off a long time ago, Wollemi Pines were discovered by a hiker in one spot in the rainforests of New South Wales, Australia, in 1994. The spot where Wollemi Pines were discovered is less than 150 kilometers from the largest city in Australia- Sydney. To put this into perspective. that’s about the same distance that St. Louis, Missouri is from Springfield, Illinois!
Perhaps the best example of a “living fossil” is the stromatolite. Stromatolites are the hardened remains, built up over time, of mats of photosynthetic bacteria, often occurring in unusually salty water. According to evolutionary theory, stromatolites are the oldest living organisms in the world. They were first discovered as fossils in Western Australia. Living Stromatolites were then first discovered in Shark Bay, off Australia’s western coast, in 1956. Since then, stromatolites have been found all over the world.
There are dozens of stories like this about Australian wildlife. If everything wasn’t trying to kill me, I’d be interested in visiting. Even now, the supposedly extinct Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger, keeps getting spotted. Sooner or later, I expect it to be discovered yet again. I can’t wait to hear about yet another extinct animal coming back to life when it does.