Image from Wikimedia Commons
There are tons of animals in our biosphere, but there is one animal that stands out the most to me that seems to be quite unfamiliar to some to recognize. It has the cutest face with an adorable smile.The most HAPPIEST animal in our world, the Australian Quokka.
The Quokka, aka Setonix brachyurus is from the class Mammalia and the family Macropodidae that includes marsupial mammals such as kangaroos, wallabies, and tree-kangaroos. Quokkas are are relatively short-tailed and have short hind legs compared to wallabies and the rest of its family. They have bushy brown fur, short arms, a lighter underbelly with a pouch for its young ones. Female quokkas can support up to 3 liters of young. In their reproductive cycle, they go through a stage of embryonic diapause where their implantation and development is suspended by blastocysts. If the joey (youngin) is well alive and doesn’t die, the embryo disintegrates. Once the joey is born, it is protected and supported with nutrition by its mother, as it is held in her pouch for six months. The adaptation of the other traits of their body helps them to hop and jump quickly through grass and tall bush as well as climb trees. With their tails, they can store fat in it as a method to coping with availability of seasonal food.
Quokkas are herbivores, their main part of their diet include the consumption of grasses they carve tracks, but at other times consume leaves, fruits, berries, sedges, shrubs, succulents and even bark from trees. Water contained in their diet such as in leaves helps them build up for less water intake throughout the year. In other words, they do not need much water to function, so just the water consumption from its diet won’t affect them negatively, as sometimes they can even survive months without water because of their intake and habitat. Quokkas also do not chew their food, but swallow it instead as they regurgitate to chew it as cud.
Quokkas are found living in Australia, although have a very limited distribution. Most Quokkas make themselves at swamps for its dense vegetation, and at other times are found in open woodlands, scrublands, thick forests, and when they are gathering food at night create tunnels in bushes to provide themselves shelter to stay overnight. The Quokka population can be seen on Rottnest and Bald islands of Australia. Rottnest Island can be seen as the only place where quokkas appear and show up in large numbers and hang out in clans.
The Quokka population, the only kind of the genus Setonix, have declined in their population and are at risk and vulnerable to extinction over the years. This comes back to my conclusion on how it may seem unfamiliar to some people to recognize this animal, as it can be seen without a widespread growing population all over Australia. The decline in quokkas is largely due to land clearing, habitat destruction, and human persecution. Also, predation is another factor, such as red foxes and feral or domesticated cats and dogs that prey on quokka help shrinking their number. These predators are free and widespread on the island populations of Australia. What is most important is what our humankind can do to prevent it such as stop hunting, human colonization into their habitat, avoid coming in contact with them to not spread human diseases, and help survive the living quokkas existing by help taking care of their habitat. Without human intervention, we may never be all to see these beautiful creatures ever again.
An analogy can be made by this conflict of the decline of quokkas. In class we learned about apoptosis, in other words programmed cell death. This is can be compared to a quokka as the cell, and humans as apoptosis that quokkas are destined to eventually decline of their kind due to the failure of humans to help them out. The good thing is we aren’t cells and we can fix this. Help a quokka!