Clarifying the Taxonomic Status of Australia's Small Terrestrial Vertebrates

What is the Small Terrestrial Vertebrates Project?

Welcome to the Small Terrestrial Vertebrates

This project will significantly improve our knowledge of small mammals and reptiles across the Australian continent. These groups are often inherently difficult to identify in the field because related species look almost identical. With improved methods of genetic analysis we now realise that this difficulty is not restricted to the field- many species considered by taxonomists working solely with morphological features to be a single taxon are now recognised to represent many cryptic species. However, by re-examining morphological traits in combination with new genetic knowledge it is often possible to identify diagnostic morphological features that were previously unrecognised, and these may allow field workers to accurately identify the species they encounter. The accurate delineation of species boundaries and methods to identify them in the field is vital if the breadth of the Australian biota is to be preserved. Genetic and morphological assessment of key species groups, including blind snakes, several groups of skinks and native mice draws on expertise from the Evolutionary Biology Unit at the South Australian Museum and the Australian National Wildlife Collection, Canberra. Many partner researchers around the country and overseas are working with us on other small mammals, frogs and lizards. In addition to work on living populations, the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at Adelaide University and the Australian National Wildlife Collection are targeting recently extinct populations of small mammal from eastern Australia to better understand the natural distributions and taxonomy of species driven to local and global extinction by European colonisation of Australia. This includes research on museum specimens and collections of bones formed by owls regurgitating skeletons of their prey in caves.


People involved in the Vertebrates project:


The project overview page provides the links to the different sub-projects being undertaken by this Project. It also provides links to administrative information.

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