Quokka Wokka

February 20, 2013

Jessie Burgess

Evolution is a tricky thing to understand at the best of times. I mean really, when you get right down to it, it’s a change of gene frequency in a population over time, through which those genetic traits are phenotypically expressed.  That's a lot of big words for a simple concept - 'survival of the fittest'.

That explanation doesn’t really explain exactly how and why a Quokka came to be. Setonix brachyurus or more commonly
known as the best animal name ever, is a member of the marsupial family of the Wallaby species and is found natively only in Australia or more specifically some small islands off Australia’ssouthwest coast. Australia is known for its wacky and somewhat odd animals and the Quokka is no different.


Quokka adorable

Quokkas are small, rodent like animals, are also vegetarians and live mostly in family groups and are very social animals, especially with humans. But why is it, or anything remotely like it, native only to Australia?  I will not make a prison ship joke here, I will not.

Back to evolution for that answer. When populations become separated from their parent populations, or others of their reproductive unit the genetic diversity that once existed is suddenly, dramatically reduced which can lead to some pretty interesting and unique adaptions and evolutionary changes to species. Australia once part of Gondwana, broke apart from Laurasiaabout 150 to 200 million years ago, separating the wallaby family and other marsupials on the island, leading to the beautiful creatures we have today.

Unfortunately, evolution is never really that simple. The Quokka, like everything alive today, is the best-suited creature for survival in its particular area at this particular change, such as marsupial pouches. Most marsupial pouches serve the function of housing their live underdeveloped offspring. If they didn’t have pouches, their young would not survive and live to carry on the marsupial name.


But, as my anthropology professor likes to exclaim from time to time, “Darwin don’t care if you’re big and strong, only if you can find a mate and pass on your genetic diversity,” so be genetically diverse and find a mate and you’re good to go.

Why did the Quokka inspire such a thought process on evolution? Because he’s fricken adorable, that’s why.





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