The fascinatingly woo-woo phenomenon of crop circles–which actually aren’t just circular, but form intricate geometric patterns in farm fields–has inspired scores of possible explanations over the years. Paranormal-minded crop-circle buffs, known as cerealogoists (after Ceres, the Roman goddes of agriculture) or more simply as croppies, have speculated they’re messages left behind by extraterrestrial visitors, while the more conventionally scientific-minded sorts have theorized that they might be caused by natural physical forces such as wind or heat. Hardcore skeptics dismiss them as the work of pranksters. But now, there’s another, even more outlandish possible explanation: Stoned wallabies.
As BBC News and scores of other news outlets are reporting, Lara Giddings, attorney general for the Australian state of Tasmania, told a Parliamentary hearing that the kangaroo-like marsupials have been foraging in poppy fields that provide legal opium for morphine and other painkillers. (Australia, as it turns out, cultivates 50 percent of the world’s supply of legal opium.)
Apparently, according to Giddings, the wallabies are eating the poppies and then becoming so disoriented that they run around in the fields erratically, creating paths that resemble crop circles.
As it turns out, this is not an entirely new theory. Australia’s ABC News reported back in 2009 that a Tasmanian farmer had observed the furry hoppers showing the effects of some, ah, hard partying. “They seem to know when they’ve had enough,” he noted.
An official with an Australian poppy-cultivation company told ABC News that the wallabies actually are attracted to the poppy seed capsules, which are a rich source of protein, rather than the flowers. But in the process of consuming them, they often also ingest a bit of the alkaloids that cause opium’s hallucinogenic effect in humans.
The revelation that intoxicated animals’ wanderings may be behind Australian crop circles, however, doesn’t totally explain the all the troubling aspects of the crop circle phenomenon. Are the feral, furry junkies capable of creating the sort of intricate geometric pattern depicted in this photograph from the Unexplained Australia website? And stoned wallabies would have had to travel thousands of miles to create the multitude of crop circles found elsewhere in the world, such as the one that supposedly appeared in late July in Wiltshire, UK, according to this article from Examimer.com? And how about the crop circle that reportedly appeared in Indonesia in January?
The wallaby’s explanation also doesn’t account for the alternative model offered by paranormal debunkers, i.e., that crop circles are nothing more than elaborate pranks, created by determined jokesters. As this recent article in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper details, a University of Oregon physicist Richard Taylor, speculates that crop-circle hoaxers are now utilizing increasingly sophisticated tools–such as GPS devices, laser pointers and magnetrons, the heat-creating gadgets employed by microwave ovens–to burn intricate patterns into fields with what seems like unearthly quickness.
But maybe there’s another possibility. If we expand our minds sufficiently to accommodate a convergence–a paranormal mashup, if you will–that incorporates these explanations into one all-encompassing meta-pattern. It could well be that extraterrestrials are acting in league with stoned wallabies, transporting them long distances in flying saucers to spread symbolic representations of alien DNA or whatever other message that the visitors are trying to convey.
“Surely, you jest,” you’re probably thinking. But consider that the idea of extraterrestrials communicating with animals isn’t as outlandish as one might think. This February 2011 Wired article describes human researchers’ efforts to develop methods of talking to dolphins that someday also could be used for human-extraterrestrial communication. Given that extraterrestrials probably are far more intellectually and scientifically advanced than humanity, it’s easily conceivable that they might already possess such communications technology, and be using it to reach out to wallabies.
Why would aliens pick wallabies instead of humans–who have opposable thumbs for manipulating laser pointers and other advantages–as collaborators is a bit more difficult question to answer. We’re still working on that part of the theory.