The good, the bad, and the ugly: which Australian terrestrial mammal species attract most research?
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The Australian mammalian fauna is marked by high endemism and evolutionary distinctiveness and comprises monotreme, marsupial, and eutherian (‘placental’) native species. It has suffered the highest extinction rate of any mammalian fauna in any global region; surviving species are threatened by competition and predation from a range of introduced mammal species, and receive low levels of conservation-oriented funding compared with species in many other countries. We investigated research foci on this unique fauna by using species h-indices (SHI), and identified both taxonomic bias and subject bias in research effort and research impact for 331 Australian terrestrial mammal species. Species broadly fell into categories we labelled as the ‘good’, the ‘bad’, and the ‘ugly’. The majority of studies on monotremes and marsupials (the ‘good’) are directed towards their physiology and anatomy, with a smaller ecological focus. By contrast, introduced eutherians (the ‘bad’) have attracted greater attention in terms of ecological research, with greater emphasis on methods and technique studies for population control. Despite making up 45% of the 331 species studied, native rodents and bats (the ‘ugly’) have attracted disproportionately little study. While research on invasive species is directed towards problem solving, many Australian native species of conservation significance have attracted little research effort, little recognition, and little funding. Current global and national conservation funding largely overlooks non-charismatic species, and yet these species may arguably be most in need of scientific and management research effort.
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