Issue 47 (October 2011) of the Newsletter contained a list of questions under the heading “Are you interested?” Here are my answers.
1. Why is Outback soil so red?
Because it is rich in iron compounds.
2. Emu chicks are striped but fully grown emus aren’t. Why?
Emu chicks are only about 12 to 15 cms tall when hatched, much smaller than fully
grown emus (which are up to two metres tall). The stripes make the chicks harder
for predators (such as eagles and dingoes) to detect in grassland.
3. Is Lake Eyre the “Inland Sea” which the early explorers were looking for?
Yes and no. It was not the sea into which they thought inland-flowing rivers such as
the Lachlan, Macquarie, Murrumbidgee, Darling and Murray might empty. And of
course, it’s rarely full (and when it is, it’s strongly saline), so in the sense that they
hoped to find a sea surrounded by rich agricultural land, it fails the test. But some
inland rivers such as the Diamantina and the Cooper flow into it, in particular after
very heavy rain. When it’s full, it is large enough to be called a sea, and it’s certainly
“inland”, so in that sense it is an inland sea.
4. Wouldn’t it be better if all Outback roads were sealed?
That’s a matter of opinion. My opinion is that it would radically change the character
of the Outback, and destroy much of the appeal which it now has by virtue of its
isolation and inaccessibility.
5. Can female kangaroos really put a pregnancy on hold?
Yes, the female can freeze the development of an embryo until the previous joey is
able to leave the pouch. This occurs in times of drought or poor food resources.
6. How do you spell that Outback track named after a Polish explorer?
7. Where do flies go in the winter?
Some kinds of flies hibernate. Others lay some eggs and then die.
8. Is Mt Augustus in Western Australia really bigger than Uluru?
Yes, it’s much bigger, but it’s not a monolith (a single rock), it’s a monocline (!)
9. Is the echidna related to the porcupine?
No, although both have spines, they are completely unrelated. It’s interesting that
the echidna usually lives for about 45 years.
10. Is it true that Australia exports live camels?
The number of feral camels in Australia is currently estimated to be at least a million.
They do millions of dollars’ worth of damage every year. There was some exporting of
live camels for about 20 years up to 2007, but most of it has now stopped.