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Browsing success - swamp wallabies (series)
Sweet smell of success

Associate Professor Clare Macarthur, from the University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences, makes sense of how swamp wallabies use their sense of smell to find their preferred food. She was working with PhD student Rebecca Stutz, on how to protect eucalypt seedlings from being eaten during revegetation projects, like the one at Booderee National Park. Here a native species of swamp wallaby was eating the eucalyptus seedlings.
Subtle plant defences against herbivores

This story and soundfile have been included in a series on plant defences. Click here to open.
Making sense of smell

Associate Professor Clare Macarthur, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, reports on research that shows how wallabies exploit eucalypt plant behaviour intended to discourage foraging. Plants have ways to reduce the amount they are eaten by their herbivore enemies, both insects and mammals. In Australian forests, eucalypts release odours when they are being munched, essentially a cry for help. However, herbivores, such as wallabies exploit the odours emitted, using them to find the plants rather than foraging randomly. Wallabies use an incredible sense of smell (wallaby noses are actually more sensitive than gas chromatography) to find plants even in the dynamics of forests with wind swirling and smells wafting around. Eucalypts, it seems, can be smelt at greater distances than they can be seen. Most of the mathematical models used to look at foraging completely ignored the fact that animals even have perceptual senses....let alone that sight may not be the most important or refined sense. In addition, because humans are so sight-oriented it is hard to even imagine a landscape from the dimension of smell but for wallabies odour seems to be the key.
 

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