Edit Blog Post
Published: February 28th 2020
After Cairns, it was back to Sydney. The flight from Cairns left us with half a day, so we decided to explore The Rocks.
The Rocks is the area of Sydney that was originally inhabited by aboriginals then by convicts, and for many decades it was a favorite haunt of criminals, prostitutes, and sailors. It is named for the sandstone on which the buildings are built. More recently, it has undergone partial gentrification, and has tourist shops and eating places, as well as two pubs that each claim to be the oldest in Sydney. We chose the Lord Nelson for a wee pint, and then for dinner upstairs, which was surprisingly significantly more upscale. The Sydney Observatory is located here, but we did not have time to visit. This area was once being primed to be a very upscale area, but fell into the cheap tourist shop trap, and now is being somewhat resurrected.
The next day looked rainy, so we went to Wildlife Sydney, part of the same complex with the Aquarium. Although it touts itself as a rival to Taronga Zoo, it is not. It is completely indoors, and this largely means that there are mostly smaller
animals exhibited. Although there were some interesting things, by and large it was a disappointment.
The Taronga Zoo the next day certainly was not a disappointment. It is unique in that you arrive by ferry at a dock specifically for the zoo, then take a gondola car up to the top to start your visit. It is built on a large hillside, so your journey through the exhibits is largely a downhill course. It has, of course, the usual gorillas and giraffes and elephants etc, but also has the unique Australian fauna. Perhaps the most familiar Australian animals immediately identifiable with the country are the various marsupials. Although there are several species of marsupials in South America, some in Central America, and one in North America (the opossum), 70% of all marsupials are endemic to Australia and New Guinea. They share the traits that are common in all mammals; mammary glands, three middle ear bones, and true hair. They differ in having a pouch in which their young usually mature. The pouch is properly called the marsupium, hence their class name. They also have epipubic bones that project above the pelvis. In modern marsupials, these support the pouch, but
their original function is unknown. Many (but not all) scholars think the epipubic bones are the origin of the baculum, or penis bone, found in many mammals such as dogs, gorillas, and bears, and aids in maintaining erections for prolonged copulation. (Perhaps its absence in rabbits is the origin of the expression "quick like a bunny".) Alas, it is absent in humans, manatees, and whales, who must make do without that extra assistance, for which Pfizer stockholders are very grateful. The epipubic bones prevent expansion of the abdomen such as is required in a prolonged gestation, and therefore are absent in placental mammals. Rather than having prolonged development in a uterus, marsupials fetuses develop for only a short while before emerging into the mother's pouch, where they can live while developing, using her mammary glands for nourishment. Present day marsupials that loom large in the public imagination include kangaroos and wallabies, wombats, koalas, Tasmanian devils, and others.
Besides marsupials and placental mammals, the third group of living mammals are the monotremes, including the platypus and the echidnas, all existing only in Australia and New Guinea. These differ from marsupials and placental mammals in they they lay eggs, but the
mothers still nurse their young. Monotremes are perhaps the most interesting mammals from a standpoint of evolution. Although they have there three middle ear bones of mammals, see evidence suggests that these developed independently. Monotremes share some genes with birds, such as the genes necessary for egg formation and egg laying, but also some with reptiles, such as the genes for the venom of the platypus. They have 5 sex chromosomes, including a second X chromosome which resembles the Z chromosome of birds. Pretty cool animals.
Tot: 0.684s; Tpl: 0.016s; cc: 24; qc: 64; dbt: 0.0127s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb