Don’t ig­nore them be­cause they’re ugly

Cockburn Gazette - - BUSINESS -

THEY may be ugly but ro­dents and bats de­serve to be looked af­ter too, ac­cord­ing to Mur­doch Univer­sity as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Tr­ish Flem­ing.

In a new pa­per for the jour­nal Mam­mal Re­view, Pro­fes­sor Flem­ing and co-au­thor Bill Bate­man (Curtin Univer­sity) re­viewed the pub­lished lit­er­a­ture for each of the 331 Aus­tralian mam­mal species.

They found all species could be grouped into three cat­e­gories: the ‘ good’ (e.g. kan­ga­roos, echid­nas, koalas), the ‘ bad’ (e.g. in­tro­duced and in­va­sive species like rab­bits, cats and foxes) and the ‘ugly’ (mi­cro­bats and hop­ping mice).

De­spite mak­ing up 45 per cent of the species in­ves­ti­gated for the study, those cat­e­gorised as “ugly” had at­tracted lit­tle sci­en­tific at­ten­tion.

“Cur­rent global and na­tional con­ser­va­tion fund­ing largely over­looks th­ese species, and yet they may ar­guably be most in need of re­search ef­fort,” Pro­fes­sor Flem­ing said.

“For the ma­jor­ity of species, re­searchers have been able to do lit­tle more than cat­a­logue their ex­is­tence. We need to doc­u­ment ob­ser­va­tions of their di­ets, habi­tat se­lec­tion, space use and re­pro­duc­tion in or­der to iden­tify threats and man­age­ment op­tions.

“Within Aus­tralia, Fed­eral Govern­ment fund­ing is largely di­rected to­wards in­ves­ti­gat­ing in­va­sive species, and with no global fund­ing to sup­port bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion re­search, Aus­tralian mam­mals face a sig­nif­i­cant plight.”

Pro­fes­sor Flem­ing also said that re­searchers were dis­cour­aged from in­ves­ti­gat­ing some of the more ob­scure species be­cause re­sult­ing pa­per sub­mis­sions were likely to be turned away by the edi­to­rial boards of the high­est im­pact in­ter­na­tional jour­nals for be­ing “parochial and of lim­ited in­ter­est.”

A na­tive Aus­tralian ash-grey mouse - a species that de­serves to be stud­ied too.

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