Historical Records of Australian Science Historical Records of Australian Science Society
The history of science, pure and applied, in Australia, New Zealand and the southwest Pacific
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Makings of Icons: Alan Newsome, the Red Kangaroo and the Dingo

Thomas M. Newsome

Historical Records of Australian Science 25(2) 153 - 171
Published: 11 November 2014

Abstract

The red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) and the dingo (Canis dingo) are two of Australia's iconic mammals. Both are ingrained in the national psyche and well known internationally. For the red kangaroo, recognition has come despite the fact that the highest densities of the species occur well away from most of the human population. The dingo has achieved its status despite being present on the continent for perhaps as little as 3,000 years. This article considers the question of how, and why, these two animals became so elevated in the popular imagination and the scientific literature. It is a story of both the integers and consequences of scientific research, a story best told with a particular focus on the contribution made by one individual. Alan Newsome changed our understanding of the interactions between agriculture, introduced species and native wildlife, and was one of the first to understand the possibilities of enriching western science with Indigenous knowledge. He was a pioneer in explaining—particularly by reference to the red kangaroo in central Australia—the remarkable story of how Australian wildlife has adapted to survive some of the harshest conditions on the planet. His work across the landscape of the arid zone has had profound implications for management and conservation in Australia. This, then, is the story of three icons: the red kangaroo, the dingo and Alan Newsome.

https://doi.org/10.1071/HR14013

© Australian Academy of Science 2014


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