A monjon and her baby. IMAGE CREDIT: Minden Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo.
by Becky Crew who is s a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals.
MEET THE MONJON (Petrogale burbidgei) – the smallest of all known species of rock-wallaby in in the world.
Stretching just 30 cm long and weighing around 1.3 kg, these diminutive little creatures weigh less than a Chihuahua.
Monjons are very rarely seen, with a very limited range in one of the most remote parts of Australia.
They’re only found in the coastal Kimberley region of Western Australia, and on the islands of the nearby Bonaparte Archipelago.
Scientists didn’t even know they existed until about 40 years ago, when one was found in the Kimberley’s King Leopold Ranges area.
Since then they’ve been teetering towards a ‘vulnerable’ status, and they’re so shy, it makes it very difficult for researchers to know much of anything about them.In fact, we’re not even sure what the remaining population is.
But what we do know is that, just like the other rock wallabies, these little guys are the acrobats of the marsupial world. Not only can they climb almost vertical rock faces in ways that appear to defy gravity, they’re also capable of scaling trees using their sharp claws and strong back legs.
Just imagine spotting one of these guys looking down on you from a tree branch. Their goat-like ability to bound up and around sheer cliff faces is thanks to the unusually thick and spongy pads on the bottom of their feet, which compress on the rock surfaces and maximise their grip.
And their long, flexible tails, (which in the Monjon end in a lovely little tuft), act as a counterbalance and a rudder, allowing them to change direction in mid-air.
Rock wallabies might look fragile, but they’re one of Australia’s greatest survivors.
For humans, touch is a sense most often associated with the fingers.
But man’s best friend, the dog, touches the world a different way — with his face.
Whiskers, or vibrissae, are long, coarse hairs protruding from a dog’s muzzle, jaw and above its eyes.
The follicles at the base of these hairs are packed with nerves that send sensory messages to a dog’s brain.
Highly sensitive to subtle changes in air currents, canine whiskers serve as receptors for important information about the size, shape and speed of nearby objects.
This helps dogs — for whom vision is not the most highly evolved trait — “see” objects more clearly, even in the dark. Being able to feel vibrations in the air also helps dogs sense approaching dangers.
Some dog breeds have also been known to use their whiskers in the same way that many smaller mammals do: to determine whether they can fit through small spaces.
And while few studies have been conducted to determine whether dogs also use their whiskers to locate food, it is likely that at one time in canine history, this was the case, as rats, seals, walruses and many other nocturnal or aquatic mammals still use vibrissae for this purpose.
A population of zebras undertakes the longest terrestrial migration in Africa, according to researchers who just identified the zebras’ 311-mile journey.
The discovery, published in the latest issue of the journal Oryx, provides compelling evidence that conservation efforts often require multinational coordinated support.
In this case, “The migration involves up to several thousand zebra making a return journey from the Chobe River floodplains in Namibia/Botswana to Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana,” lead author Robin Naidoo told Discovery News.
“This is a 500-km (311-mile) round trip journey along an almost direct north-south axis,” continued Naidoo, who is a senior conservation scientist at World Wildlife Fund.
The zebras spend the dry season along the Chobe River floodplains, and then when the rains begin, migrate over several weeks to the Nxai Pan National Park, where they spend several months before returning to the Chobe River floodplains.