I’m back, with lots to say, but lots of catching up to do on the day job. Let me first thank Matthew Cobb for a terrific job of filling in. His students get the benefit of his omnivorous readings in the form of a Z (zoology)-letter he sends out weekly, detailing all sorts of interesting animal stuff.
For today, until I shovel myself out from under, I post something for a belated Happy Easter. In WEIT I describe the convergences between marsupial and placental mammals, resemblances that imply that some niches antedate the animals who have evolved to fill them. Although the Australian bilby looks like a rabbit, it isn’t really herbivorous but omnivorous, although it does burrow. There used to be two species, the greater and the lesser bilby (the word “bilby” is aboriginal), but the lesser appears to be extinct. The greater bilby, Macrotis lagotis, is highly endangered due to habitat loss and predation by, among other species, feral cats; you can read about its precarious status here. Only a few hundred remain in the wild. To save the animal, extensive efforts are underway; these include widespread annual sale of chocolate Easter bilbies, which provide revenues for conservation. (In WEIT I mistakenly say “Each spring, chocolate bilbies fill the shelves of Australian supermakets. . .”, and was roundly taken to task by Aussies who pointed out, rightly, that the Australian Easter occurs in the fall.)
So, belatedly, here are some baby bilbies from down under, and the chocolate replicas that are helping save them:
Chocolate bilbies (buy them here):
NB: Goofed again. I am informed that in Australia the penultimate season is called “autumn,” not fall.