Hidden Diversity: Old bones - new species
Brace yourselves for the last Palaeo in the Pub for 2019, it's a big one!
Our November speakers are a paraphyletic assortment of palaeontologists’, who are adding new twigs to the tree of life. Here is your chance to meet new species of bandicoots, birds and blue-tongues - Australia’s hidden diversity, as revealed by fossils and museum collections.
Dr Kenny Travouillon: Discovering the extinct diversity of bandicoots in Australia: return of the zombie bandicoots
Dr Kenny Travouillon is Curator of Mammalogy at the Western Australian Museum. Kenny specialises in the evolution of marsupials, including taxonomy (modern and fossil), functional morphology, palaeontology and palaeoecology. Australia has the worst extinction record in the world. Since Europeans colonisation, more than 30 species of mammals have gone extinct due to land clearing, introduced species and changes in fire regimes. Bandicoots are one of the most affected group of marsupials, because they want to live where people want to farm, and foxes find them delicious. Until recently, people assumed that all bandicoot species had been named, but using museum collections, new species have been named from specimens collected in the 1800s and early 1900s. This talk will tell the story of their discovery, and how extinct species can teach us a lesson for the conservation of the remaining mammals.
Dr Elen Shute: Cheeper by the dozen – hidden bird extinctions in the Australian Pleistocene
Elen Shute went bird-watching on the Nullarbor Plain 300,000 years ago and saw some species she didn’t recognise. Her field guide wasn’t much help, so she had to start writing her own entries. So far there are descriptions of two extinct megapode birds and the world’s biggest cuckoos. That much got her a PhD, but she isn’t done writing yet. There’s also an extinct raptor, a crane, some rails, some pigeons (and some things that aren’t so easy to pigeon-hole), yet to come. Add them all together, and it looks like it wasn’t just the marsupial megafauna that took a beating during the Pleistocene. Bring your binoculars to share the excitement of discovery – or share the extinction grief by crying quietly into your pint.
Proto-Dr Kailah Thorn: Boofhead Bluetongues bigger than Bandicoots: Size does matter when you’re a skink
Kailah spends a lot of time on both sides of the Nullarbor, beginning her exceedingly long education at UWA in Perth in 2009. She came to Flinders in 2014, hung around like a bad smell for a bit and then start looking into lizards in 2016. Kailah has just recently submitted her PhD thesis on the origin of Blue-tongued lizards and their relatives, the 'social skinks' of the Egerniinae. She uses old school taxonomy, and new methods in systematics, to explain when and how big skinks came about in Australia. In a lab that focuses mainly on mammals and birds, and most of them megafauna, Kailah said in her first year that she would find a megafauna skink.
Challenge met! Come and be introduced to the boofhead bluetongue!