Water-holding frogs, down under

For water they just had to find a water frog to squeeze but for the Europeans the most obvious was hidden...

As mankind strives to discover the world and understand life, in many instances history reveals that although the search is, more often than not, successful we can sometimes overlook the most obvious despite the conscious and unconscious knowledge we have collected during our long journey on this planet.

In Victoria Square in Adelaide, Australia stands a monument to John McDouall Stuart bearing the inscription, "With map, saddle, gun and water-bag he stands there in stone today, still facing north‚ where the transcontinental highway now bears his name". Stuart was one of Australias greatest and most successful explorers. During his 6th expedition, which left Adelaide in October 1861, he became the first European to cross the Australian continent from the South to the Indian Ocean in the North.

Many other trans-continental expeditions were taking place at this time particularly to explore the vast, arid interior of Australia, known as the outback. Most of these expeditions suffered numerous casualties principally due to the scarcity of water. To counter this, the European settlers started importing camels: the first ship of the desert arrived in 1840 in the port of Adelaide, South Australia and by 1860 they were arriving by the hundreds, mainly from Afghanistan.

If however the settlers had spent some time analysing how the native population had adapted to the harsh conditions, they might have saved themselves a lot of trouble, time and money. For more than 50,000 years the aboriginal people had succeeded in living off the land and creating trade routes all over the Australian continent, including the central desert region. For those who lived in the most inhospitable conditions, finding a sustainable water supply had developed into something of an art form.

The most remarkable specimen in this context is the water-holding frog, Cyclorana platycephalus. The frog buries itself with an abdomen full of water for the duration of the dry season as it waits for the next rains to arrive. Knowing where to find these animals became crucial to survival in the outback. The aborigines searched for these frogs, imitating the sound of rain to encourage them to the surface. Once the frogs had been lured from their hiding places, they were squeezed for their water.

While the settlers were struggling for survival in their attempts to find water the aboriginal tribes, probably with a smile and after some initial surprise, carried on living in their environment as they had done for tens of thousands of years. For water they just had to find a water frog to squeeze. Thus it was that the most obvious was hidden from the settlers who had superimposed their worldview and knowledge onto a completely new culture and different set of circumstances.

Om författaren

Lasse Larsson

Om artikeln

Publicerad: 11 sep 2003 10:10


Ingen faktatext angiven föreslå


Artikeln är inte placerad. föreslå

Dela artikeln

Länk till artikeln: