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Relicts, reproduction and reintroductions—a century of marsupial research in Western Australia

Warburton, N.M.ORCID: 0000-0002-8498-3053 (2014) Relicts, reproduction and reintroductions—a century of marsupial research in Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 97 . pp. 65-85.

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Marsupials, the quintessential Australian animals, have attracted considerable interest from the scientific community, both at home and abroad. Nowhere is this more evident than in Western Australia. The following review provides an overview of the history of marsupial research in Western Australia, outlining major contributors and findings along the way. Most research can be grouped within one or more of three major study streams; taxonomy and natural history (‘relicts’); reproductive biology and physiology (‘reproduction’) and conservation ecology (‘reintroductions’). Four Australidelphian marsupial orders are represented among the Western Australian fauna: Dasyuromorphia, Peramelemorphia, Diprotodontia and Notoryctemorphia. Many of these species are endemic to Western Australia, some of which represent isolated relicts of ancient phylogenetic lines. Contemporary threatening processes, including habitat change or loss, changes in fire regime and introduced predators, have led to ‘modern’ relicts, many of which exist in very small, disjointed remnants of their former geographical range. The experimental study of Australian marsupials was pioneered by H ‘Harry’ Waring, who saw the potential for the application of classical physiological techniques to the unstudied marsupial fauna. The establishment of the field research station at Rottnest Island led to an array of studies of the ecology and physiology of the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) from the 1950s to the early 1970s. These became a platform for our understanding of marsupial reproductive biology. More recently, research on the ecophysiology, genetics and immunology of Western Australian marsupials has been strongly tied to conservation. A major management tool has been to use these studies to guide threatened species translocations and similar conservation attempts.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Royal Society of Western Australia
Copyright: © Royal Society of Western Australia 2014
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