Cuddly cold-cures counter critics
Opponents of biblical creation have often used the koala as an example of an animal whose diet, they say, is too specialized for it to have been able to migrate from Ararat to south-eastern Australia.
They point out that koalas would have had to migrate across vast tracts of land that contain no eucalyptus (gum) trees. Koalas live exclusively on a diet of such leaves, so they could not survive the journey.
The response to such criticisms has centred around two factors, but now there is additional important information strengthening the creationist answer.
First, the two existing points:
- Vegetation in an area can change very rapidly as weather conditions do. After the Flood and the associated glacial/pluvial age, there would have been massive shifts in rainfall patterns for hundreds of years.1,2 There is no way of knowing for sure which trees grew where in the early post-Flood centuries, but there have been great changes. For instance, there is evidence that huge forests once covered areas which are now dry and barren. Thus there may have been eucalyptus trees growing all along the route of migration.
- The koala’s ancestor was probably far less specialized than the more ‘devolved’ modern-day variety. An analogy would be the way in which modern-day breeds of pet animals often require far more finicky conditions than their hardier ‘wild type’ ancestors. Specialization under selection pressure involves daughter populations which carry only a portion of the information of the parent populations. Just because today’s koalas only live on gum leaves doesn’t mean that their ancestors didn’t enjoy a much broader range of food.
- It now looks as if the koala’s well-known exclusive diet of gum leaves is really a behavioral addiction, rather than a genetic inability to eat or digest other types of food.
It certainly seems true that koalas reared in the wild feed exclusively on eucalyptus leaves and die without them. Their bodies become literally saturated with the pungent eucalyptus oils until they smell like furry cough sweets.3
But according to Roland Siegel, a psychopharmacologist at UCLA, this dependence on these intoxicating substances is learnt in early infancy; the baby koala literally becomes ‘hooked’ through its mother’s eucalyptus-flavoured milk. Yet orphan koalas reared away from any contact with these substances ‘can thrive on a diet of cow’s milk, bread and honey.’4
Koalas may have only become addicted to an exclusive gum-leaf diet in this way well after arriving in Australia.
- Oard, M., An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood, Technical Monograph, Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, California, 1990.
- Austin, S. A., Baumgardner, J. R., Humphreys, D. R., Snelling, A. A., Vardiman, L. and Wise, K. P., Catastrophic plate tectonics: a global Flood model of earth history. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1994.
- Spinney, L., Animals seeking oblivion, New Scientist 143(1945):29, 1994.
- Spinney, Ref 3.