Of Cane Toads, Rabbits, Ants and Wolfpigeons

Peter I like juxtaposition. Recently, Britain’s The Guardian had an article on the past and present fun of environmental intervention in Australia, including the cane toad.

cane toad
Photo by Jiggs Images’, under the Creative Commons

The toads were intentionally introduced to Oz in 1935 to fight a beetle that had been accidentally introduced, and have since become the poster child for man’s meddling in the environment. While it isn’t especially interested in the beetles, it will eat anything smaller than it, kill anything bigger that messes with it, and try to mate with anything around its size. Even if it’s a sneaker. (For more on this whole muck-up, check out the fun documentary Cane Toads: An Unnatural History right here on the net.

Apparently Australia keeps trying to eradicate invaders biologically, only to have it screw up. Rabbits are a big problem as well: in the past they’ve introduced foxes (didn’t work) and myxomatosis (worked until the rabbits developed genetic immunity!)

Photo by Brian Robert Marshall under this Creative Commons License.

The Guardian article quotes Professor Ian Lowe:

“The delusion that you can have effective biological control still seems very strong in Australia. People talk about managing environmental systems as if it’s no more complex than managing a jam factory. We should have learned from the cane toad that the cure is often worse than the disease,” he said.

So into this mix I throw my favourite web April Fools joke from this year:
Apparently Qualcomm reports it has developed a new form of mobile WiFi network system—in flocks of pigeons! But to protect the pigeons from attack, they genetically combined them with wolves. Which they admit, could become a problem…but they’ve got a solution. And it’s very Australia-like.

wolfpigeon april fools joke

Link: Qualcomm’s Wireless Convergence web page
Sadly, offline, but I’ve found old elements and references to the corporate joke:
Qualcomm’s Wireless Convergence Project Images
Qualcomm’s Wireless Convergence Movie

Love the incorporated movie too. Those engineering drawings weren’t quite what I expected…


  1. bryanf says:

    Interesting things your post reminds me of…

    How Stuff Works recently did an article and podcast (April 17th) with lots of info about cane toads, though the high-level topic of the article was ‘Do toads cause warts?’.

    These are the classic Internet standards documents (RFCs) for pigeon-based Internet traffic:

    http://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc1149.txt – A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers, 1 April 1990

    http://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc2549.txt – IP over Avian Carriers with Quality of Service
    , 1 April 1999

    http://www.livinginternet.com/i/ia_rfc_fun.htm – A larger list of all the April 1st RFCs, though I see none are recent.

  2. bryanf says:

    Silly me, of course Wikipedia has a more complete list.


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