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The red kangaroo is at the heart of Australia's ecological identity. It is Australia's largest terrestrial land mammal, the largest extant marsupial, and the only kangaroo truly restricted to Australia's arid interior. Almost nothing was known about the ecology of the red kangaroo when a young Alan Newsome began to study it in 1957. He discovered how droughts affect reproduction, why red kangaroos favour different habitats during droughts from those after rains, and that unprecedented explosions in red kangaroo numbers were caused by changes to the landscape wrought by graziers. Most importantly, he realised the possibilities of enriching western science with Indigenous knowledge, a feat recognised today as one of the greatest achievements of his career.
First drafted in 1975 and now revised and prepared for publication by his son, The Red Kangaroo in Central Australia captures Alan's thoughts as a young ecologist working in Central Australia in the 1950s and 1960s. It will inspire a new generation of scientists to explore Australia's vast interior and study the extraordinary adaptations of its endemic mammals. It will also appeal to readers of other classics of Australian natural history, such as Francis Ratcliffe's Flying Fox and Drifting Sand and Harry Frith's The Mallee Fowl, The Bird that Builds an Incubator.
2: Landforms, climate and vegetation
3: Distribution and abundance
5: Food and water
Dr Alan Newsome (1935–2007) was a pioneering ecologist. He was the first to conduct extensive studies on the red kangaroo in Central Australia and he became internationally celebrated for his research on other mammals in Australia and abroad. This book captures Alan’s thoughts as a young ecologist tackling difficult questions in a harsh environment.
Dr Thomas Newsome is Alan’s son. A Fulbright Scholar in 2013, his research includes studies on the ecological role of top-order predators. His interests in the red kangaroo stem from living in Central Australia between 2005 and 2011, and the fact that the red kangaroo is a key prey item for Australia’s top-order predator, the dingo.
"[...] Newsome [...] worked on a manuscript on the natural history of the red kangaroo that was initially for publication in book form, but which was never finished. The manuscript was only discovered in his late father's papers by Newsome's son, who revised and edited it for publication in 2016. Sounds a bit unpromising, doesn't it? But it's a little gem of a book [...] All credit to Thomas Newsome for doing his Dad proud, and to CSIRO Publishing for having the imagination to support such work."
– Alan Crowden, BES Bulletin 48(1), April 2017