Thursday, June 12, 2008

Indecisive Wildlife

Australian native animals sure take their time fleeing from possible danger. On a nature walk this afternoon through Flat Rock Gully, I spotted a brush turkey on a ledge near the path. It wasted a good five seconds looking at both edges of the rock, before retreating up the path it must have taken to get there in the first place. My parents have observed similar behaviour in wombats: they turn to examine both sides of the road before ambling off in one direction to avoid oncoming traffic.

The Australian environment has a lower and less reliable energy supply than most ecosystems: the soils are poor and the rainfall is highly variable from year to year. The animals have evolved to move slowly and conserve energy, as they can't be assured of eating well in the future. I wonder if they'll develop faster reflexes after a few centuries of interaction with faster, more responsive introduced animals (cats, foxes, humans). Perhaps I should chase the next brush turkey I see and give natural selection a nudge.

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