Marsupial misconceptions: weird mammals, placentas and pouches

I’ve now been living in Australia for almost 18 years, and I’m an unashamed convert to #TeamMarsupial. Marsupials are fascinating animals in both evolutionary and ecological terms, but at times I am surprised by how poorly-understood they are. I’ve been thinking of writing a post to address some recurring marsupial misconceptions for a while. When I saw…

Bandicoots, the little marsupial diggers

  Bandicoots are fascinating creatures, but I suspect few people outside Australia and New Guinea have ever heard of them, well, unless you count Crash Bandicoot… They are probably best known in suburban Australia for infuriating gardeners with the conical pits, or “snout-pokes”, they dig whilst foraging for their food, which varies a little among species but usually includes fungi,…

When Science meets Parliament

Last week I had the privilege of spending two days at the 16th “Science meets Parliament”. It was an eye opening experience and I’ve learnt a lot… but let me explain… Science meets Parliament is an annual event run by Science and Technology Australia (STA), the peak body representing Australian science and technology. It includes…

Behind the paper: using DNA to define conservation units for endangered dragons

This week, we have a new paper published online in the journal Conservation Genetics, with former Honours student Emma Carlson as lead author. The paper is titled “How many conservation units are there for the endangered grassland earless dragons?” Yes, that’s right, dragons! But not the fire-breathing sort. The grassland earless dragon (Tympanocyrptis pinguicolla) is a…

What We’re Reading: Jan 29, 2016

Improving morphological diet studies with molecular ecology I’m sure you all know by now that many wildlife species are threatened by invasive predators. Diet studies are often used to understand the specific impacts of predators, to guide management actions. Traditionally, this has meant sorting through scats and gut contents to identify as many prey remains as possible. Of…

Year in Review: What We Wrote 2015

Anna Two of my 2015 papers tackle aspects of the same question: how reliable are genetic tests to detect wildlife from trace DNA samples? It’s great to be able to use DNA to work out which species of mammal has been pooping in the woods, or to confirm the identification of a museum sample or roadkill of uncertain origin. But…

Rewilding: restoring lost species to save ecosystems

At first they were just shadows, dark impressions glimpsed through the mist. Is that really…? Could it be…? As we moved a little closer one of them turned to the east, to face the rising sun. His profile was unmistakable, the curved horns and humped shoulders proclaiming “bison”! And not just any bison, but free-ranging European bison, grazing…

What We’re Reading: Nov 20, 2015

When Do Dingos Stop Being Dingos? Oh the messy, messy history of the dog family. Adding a new layer of complexity into the overarching story of recent divergence and anthropogenic backcrossing comes a tale from Australia’s dingos (Canis lupus dingo). A new paper (sub) measured the proportion of domestic dog in dingos across the continent….

The numbat, Australia’s missing marsupial

So, I just made a discovery – November 7th 2015 is (or was) the first ever World Numbat Day! I had another post planned for this weekend, coincidentally about a different group of marsupials, but how could I go past this opportunity to write about numbats? I might be a little late to the festivities, but I…

What We’re Reading- Oct 9, 2015

Australian Bush Poetry Not so much to read, but watch this video of scientists reciting The Old Grey Box of Heathcote Town while showing figures of ecological research that supports the poem. Elephants and Cancer Peto’s Paradox is an observation that the incidence of cancer does not correlate with body size at the species level….

Let’s not forget the scaly, slimy and spineless on Threatened Species Day

September 7th marks the anniversary of a spectacular failure in Australian wildlife conservation. On this day in 1936, the last known thylacine, the largest marsupial carnivore and the only member of the family Thylacinidae, died in captivity in a Hobart zoo. Today, this day is recognised (I cannot bring myself to write “celebrated”) as Threatened…