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To Curb Exploding Kangaroo Populations, Ecologists Urge Australians to Eat Kangaroo Meat

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Australians eat everything from Vegemite, a spread made from leftover brewer's yeast extract, to a snack called fairy bread, otherwise known as white bread smothered in butter and rainbow sprinkles. Now, they may need to add another unique national food to their diets. BBC News reports that ecologists and landholders Down Under are encouraging people to embrace kangaroo meat to curb the nation’s surging marsupial numbers.

In 2010, Australia was home to just 27 million kangaroos. But by 2016, this figure had skyrocketed to nearly 45 million—nearly double the nation’s human population— thanks to rainy weather conditions that supplied the grazing animals with an abundance of vegetation. That's not necessarily a good thing for the species in the long run. If a drought occurs, there’s a good chance that millions of kangaroos could starve to death.

Some experts in Australia think that hunting kangaroos would be the most humane and efficient way to keep their numbers in check. But it’s not so easy to convince people to eat them.

Kangaroo meat is lean and sustainable, with a taste that’s been likened to sweet filet mignon. It can be transformed into steaks, roasts, meatballs, sausages, and kebabs. Even so, many Australians tend to dismiss the meat's culinary potential, since kangaroos are the country’s national animal. The stigma against eating them means that when hunters do nab kangaroos, the meat often goes to waste.

Plus, kangaroo meat currently fetches such a low price that hunters have little incentive to pursue the animals for commercial reasons. That means they’re not obtaining the special licenses required to hunt the nationally protected species.

Professor David Paton of the University of Adelaide supports the notion that Australia should cull the nation’s kangaroo population with humane hunting methods, he told Australian news outlets. "It's not the kangaroos' fault they're overabundant," he said. "It's probably we've just been too reluctant to take a stick to them, remove them out of the system sooner, to actually prevent the damage being caused [by the animals]," Paton said. That damage includes losses to biodiversity as the marsupials overgraze vegetation and outcompete other animals [PDF].

But no matter where Australians stand on the controversial killing and eating of kangaroos, some admit that their overpopulation leads to broken fences, trampled crops, damaged local ecosystems, and plenty of car accidents. Animal lovers are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place—and unlike kangaroos, they can’t simply leap out of the crevice.

"Two or three weeks ago we had thousands [of kangaroos] on here, just moving through,” a farmer named Garry Hannigan, who lives in New South Wales, recently told the ABC. "They were here in droves, and the amount that are being hit by cars is amazing. They're just devouring anything we've got grass-wise, they're starting to cause erosion along fences. Any of the grass country is just being pulled up by the roots." In turn, we may have to devour them.

[h/t BBC News]

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science
2017 Ig Nobel Prizes Celebrate Research on How Crocodiles Affect Gambling and Other Odd Studies
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The Ig Nobel Prizes are back, and this year's winning selection of odd scientific research topics is as weird as ever. As The Guardian reports, the 27th annual awards of highly improbable studies "that first make people laugh, then make them think" were handed out on September 14 at a theater at Harvard University. The awards, sponsored by the Annals of Improbable Research, honor research you never would have thought someone would take the time (or the funding) to study, much less would be published.

The 2017 highlights include a study on whether cats can be both a liquid and a solid at the same time and one on whether the presence of a live crocodile can impact the behavior of gamblers. Below, we present the winners from each of the 10 categories, each weirder and more delightful than the last.

PHYSICS

"For using fluid dynamics to probe the question 'Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?'"

Winner: Marc-Antoine Fardin

Study: "On the Rheology of Cats," published in Rheology Bulletin [PDF]

ECONOMICS

"For their experiments to see how contact with a live crocodile affects a person's willingness to gamble."

Winners: Matthew J. Rockloff and Nancy Greer

Study: "Never Smile at a Crocodile: Betting on Electronic Gaming Machines is Intensified by Reptile-Induced Arousal," published in the Journal of Gambling Studies

ANATOMY

"For his medical research study 'Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?'"

Winner: James A. Heathcote

Study: "Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?" published in the BMJ

BIOLOGY

"For their discovery of a female penis, and a male vagina, in a cave insect."

Winners: Kazunori Yoshizawa, Rodrigo L. Ferreira, Yoshitaka Kamimura, and Charles Lienhard (who delivered their acceptance speech via video from inside a cave)

Study: "Female Penis, Male Vagina and Their Correlated Evolution in a Cave Insect," published in Current Biology

FLUID DYNAMICS

"For studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks backwards while carrying a cup of coffee."

Winner: Jiwon Han

Study: "A Study on the Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime," published in Achievements in the Life Sciences

NUTRITION

"For the first scientific report of human blood in the diet of the hairy-legged vampire bat."

Winners: Fernanda Ito, Enrico Bernard, and Rodrigo A. Torres

Study: "What is for Dinner? First Report of Human Blood in the Diet of the Hairy-Legged Vampire Bat Diphylla ecaudata," published in Acta Chiropterologica

MEDICINE

"For using advanced brain-scanning technology to measure the extent to which some people are disgusted by cheese."

Winners: Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly, and Tao Jiang

Study: "The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study," published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

COGNITION

"For demonstrating that many identical twins cannot tell themselves apart visually."

Winners: Matteo Martini, Ilaria Bufalari, Maria Antonietta Stazi, and Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Study: "Is That Me or My Twin? Lack of Self-Face Recognition Advantage in Identical Twins," published in PLOS One

OBSTETRICS

"For showing that a developing human fetus responds more strongly to music that is played electromechanically inside the mother's vagina than to music that is played electromechanically on the mother's belly."

Winners: Marisa López-Teijón, Álex García-Faura, Alberto Prats-Galino, and Luis Pallarés Aniorte

Study: "Fetal Facial Expression in Response to Intravaginal Music Emission,” published in Ultrasound

PEACE PRIZE

"For demonstrating that regular playing of a didgeridoo is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring."

Winners: Milo A. Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz, and Otto Braendli

Study: "Didgeridoo Playing as Alternative Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome: Randomised Controlled Trial," published by the BMJ

Congratulations, all.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Courtesy of Julia Donovan
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Art
Meet the 12-Year-Old Boy Who Makes Surreal-Looking Dolls Using Found Materials
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Courtesy of Julia Donovan

Some dolls are cutesy, but not Callum Donovan-Grujicich's fantastical creations. As Bored Panda reports, the 12-year-old artist from Whitby, Ontario crafts tiny, surreal-looking figures, some of which have won art show prizes and been featured in national magazines and on TV.

Donovan-Grujicich first began making art dolls around two years ago, when he was 10. The bodies and faces of the dolls are made from clay, and the limbs from stuffed cloth, but the young artist often uses found objects—like bits of old metal—to create facial features or accessories like hats and jewelry.

"Found objects are a big part of his process and often, he says, the inspiration for the whole sculpture comes from some rusted piece of metal," Donovan-Grujicich's mother, Julia Donovan, tells Mental Floss. "He loves to collect old-looking scrap metal and anything else that he finds interesting."

Aside from art classes at a local gallery, Donovan-Grujicich is entirely self-trained. Someday, he hopes to earn a master of fine arts degree to teach and make art, but for now, the preteen continues to hone his unique aesthetic by making dolls and creating stop-motion animation and live-action films with his brother.

Some people might view Donovan-Grujicich's figures as grim—especially for a kid—but his mother thinks they simply provide a different perspective on beauty.

"A lot has been made of the darkness in Callum's work, which I think has been completely overblown and misunderstood," Donovan says. "Callum is sometimes serious, but not a dark person at all."

You can check out some of Donovan-Grujicich's work below, or visit his website for more information.

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

 A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

 A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

 A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

 A sculpture made from found materials and other objects by 12-year-old Callum Donovan Grujicich.
Courtesy of Julia Donovan

[h/t Bored Panda]

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