The Scientific Activist

Absolutely Terrifying

When I saw this earlier today, I knew I had to write a post on it. So, even though Afarensis beat me to it, I’m going to do it anyway.

I just love this article from the BBC. It sounds kind of like what an elementary school student would write if he or she was suddenly endowed with professional writing abilities: it doesn’t hold back any of its excitment, and it uses terms like “killer kangaroo” and “flesh-eating marsupial” in lieu of more formal scientific names:

‘Killer kangaroo’ evidence found

Palaeontologists digging in northern Australia have found fossil evidence of several new species – including a “killer kangaroo”.

The flesh-eating marsupial would have lived between 10 and 20 million years ago, scientists say.

The research team has also unearthed evidence of a large carnivorous bird dubbed the “demon duck of doom”.

The dig site in Queensland has yielded remains of at least 20 previously unknown creatures.

The team from the University of New South Wales made the discoveries in the Riversleigh fossil fields in the north-west of the state.

Fanged beasts

Professor Mike Archer said the dig had turned up “truly extraordinary material”.

He said the killer kangaroos would not have been like the creatures of today.

“There were meat-eating kangaroos with long fangs, and galloping kangaroos with long forearms, which could not hop,” he told The Australian newspaper.

Palaeontologist Sue Hand, who also participated in the dig, told Australian radio that other potentially frightening creatures were unearthed.

“Very big birds… More like ducks, earned the name demon ducks of doom, some at least may have been carnivorous,” she said.

The team now plans to study the fossils in detail, to see what more they can learn about the species and what effect changing climate had on their development.

Apparently not too much has changed in Australia since then, considering that the continent still hosts more deadly creatures than anywhere else. Of these, none are more terrifying than the box jellyfish, whose sting is fatal if not treated.



  1. #1 Josh
    July 13, 2006

    I commented on Afarensis, but it is worth restating. These scientists unfortunately have to jazz up their science, often with the help of spin doctors employed at universities in Australia, in order to recieve media attention and wider exposure of their work. This is only unfortunate because here in Australia because basic science funding is borderline trivial, and most researchers only have a 1 in 5 chance of getting a grant each year, so any media exposure and public awareness increases your chances.
    Of course, basic science funding is small in most countries, but as a percentage of GDP, Australia is almost at the bottom of developed nations.
    Hence ‘killer kangaroos’ and ‘Deamon Duck’s of Doom’ are required if you want to get some money to keep doing your work.
    If you’ve ever seen modern kangaroo’s such as the eastern grey fight each other, then it’s not hard to imagine the killer kangaroo in action, since they do a pretty good job at beating each other up.

    By the way, you pretty much have no chance of survival if stung by the box jellyfish, even if treated immediately your chances are slim. In fact, the great barrier reef has many dangers. If you stand on a cone shell for instance, you may as well put your head between your legs and kiss your arse goodbye.

  2. #2 Nicholas Spies
    July 13, 2006

    The ‘Deamon Duck’s [sic] of Doom” reminded me of a product of my fevered imagination as a teenager, countless decades ago, when I wrote several short short stories about the fabulous “Saber-Toothed Pindar Ducks” deep in the Amazon. These ferocious monstrosities were some 14ft high, and after they finished off hapless natives or luckless explorers, they would waddle happily into the fearful waters of the Amazon, with quackings so low as to be reminiscent of demented fog-horns. Jurassic Park was a pink tea by comparison.

    I’m glad, at long last, for some vindication, even if mocked as the jazz up some spun-up scientist… It’s logical that the DDoD should be found in Australia, so recently connected to South America, relatively.

    In a rare moment of clarity, I committed my teen-age literary productions to the flames in an emotional Rite of Passage, so don’t ask…

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