Video of kangaroo eating penguin: herbivores are not all strict vegetarians

WHILE KANGAROOS ARE known to munch grass, with the addition of fruit, flowers, sap and bark for tree kangaroos, who knew they favour an occasional bite of meat?

Sam Murray, who captured this curious footage, happened upon this western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) tucking into a penguin on the beach at Cape Le Grande national park, located east of Esperance, WA in March 2013.

“We were walking down to the beach in the late evening before sunset, and we noticed a group of five or six kangaroos gathered on the beach. We started towards them and all the others were quick to hop away, but not this smaller one,” Sam says.

“He was really quite focussed on what he was doing. Even when we got to within a metre and a half of him, he wouldn’t stop eating.”

Kangaroos sometime eat meat
Professor Graeme Coulson, a zoologist at the University of Melbourne, explains that “All living macropods appear to be gentle herbivores. They [generally] lack the equipment to capture and kill other animals, or the digestive system to handle a meaty diet.”

While penguins aren’t a typical kangaroo snack, Graeme says that “Australia once had carnivorous macropods. The largest of these was Propleopus oscillans, which stood up to 2 m tall and had teeth that were well adapted to eating meat. This ‘killer kangaroo’ went extinct tens of thousands of years ago.”

While this footage may strike many as peculiar, Professor Tim Flannery, an expert mammalogist, says “This is unusual, I admit, but most herbivores will eat some protein if it’s available. Tree kangaroos will eat birds and even cows will chew on a bone.”

Graeme also recognizes that known herbivores are not all strict vegetarians. “White-tailed deer in the USA have been reported stealing trout from a fishing camp and removing nestlings from nests hidden in prairie grassland. Captive macropods are known to eat a wide range of foods, including chicken and lamb chops. This western grey kangaroo was simply taking advantage of an easy meal,” Graeme says.

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2014/02/video-kangaroo-eats-a-penguin

‘Depraved’ sex acts by penguins censored 100 years ago are now being published

Accounts of unusual sexual activities among penguins, observed a century ago by a member of Captain Scott’s polar team, are finally being made public.

Details, including “sexual coercion”, recorded by Dr George Murray Levick were considered so shocking that they were removed from official accounts.

However, scientists now understand the biological reasons behind the acts that Dr Levick considered “depraved”.

The Natural History Museum has published his unedited papers.

Dr Levick, an avid biologist, was the medical officer on Captain Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1910. He was a pioneer in the study of penguins and was the first person to stay for an entire breeding season with a colony on Cape Adare.

He recorded many details of the lives of adelie penguins, but some of their activities were just too much for the Edwardian sensibilities of the good doctor.

He was shocked by what he described as the “depraved” sexual acts of “hooligan” males who were mating with dead females. So distressed was he that he recorded the “perverted” activities in Greek in his notebook.

On his return to Britain, Dr Levick attempted to publish a paper entitled “the natural history of the adelie penguin”, but according to Douglas Russell, curator of eggs and nests at the Natural History Museum, it was too much for the times.

“He submitted this extraordinary and graphic account of sexual behaviour of the adelie penguins, which the academic world of the post-Edwardian era found a little too difficult to publish,” Mr Russell said.

The sexual behaviour section was not included in the official paper, but the then keeper of zoology at the museum, Sidney Harmer, decided that 100 copies of the graphic account should be circulated to a select group of scientists.

Mr Russell said they simply did not have the scientific knowledge at that time to explain Dr Levick’s accounts of what he termed necrophilia.

“What is happening there is not in any way analogous to necrophilia in the human context,” Mr Russell said. “It is the males seeing the positioning that is causing them to have a sexual reaction.

“They are not distinguishing between live females who are awaiting congress in the colony, and dead penguins from the previous year which just happen to be in the same position.”

Sexual coercion

Only two of the original 100 copies of Dr Levick’s account survive. Mr Russell and colleagues have now published a re-interpretation of Dr Levick’s findings in the journal Polar Record.

Mr Russell described how he had discovered one of the copies by accident.

“I just happened to be going through the file on George Murray Levick when I shifted some papers and found underneath them this extraordinary paper which was headed ‘the sexual habits of the adelie penguin, not for publication’ in large black type.

“It’s just full of accounts of sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex, and finishes with an account of what he considers homosexual behaviour, and it was fascinating.”

The report and Dr Levick’s handwritten notes are now on display at the Natural History Museum for the first time. Mr Russell believes they show a man who struggled to understand penguins as they really are.

“He’s just completely shocked. He, to a certain extent, falls into the same trap as an awful lot of people in seeing penguins as bipedal birds and seeing them as little people. They’re not. They are birds and should be interpreted as such.”

https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#inbox/137d4ea2cdc8413a

Thanks to Kedmobee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.