Why Australia’s Ugliest Animals May Go Extinct

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The less attractive members of the animal kingdom attract far less study

Cute and cuddly animals like koalas and kangaroos attract more funding and investigation than unsightly animals like bats and rats, according to new research.

The study, conducted by two university researchers from Western Australia, categorised 331 Australian mammals species into ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’.

They found that the majority of studies into the ‘good’ group focused on physiology and anatomy and the ones into the ‘bad’ group looked at ecology and population control. Meanwhile, the ‘ugly’ group was largely ignored.

Meet the Aussie rat with extra-long pubic hair

Since 1901, only 11 per cent of scientific studies on Australian wildlife have looked at native bats and rodents, even though they make up 45 percent of all species.

This could mean the less attractive members of the animal world are the subject to fewer conservation efforts and, therefore, more likely to go extinct.

'We know so little about the biology of many of these species,' said Dr. Patricia Fleming, a wildlife biologist at Murdoch University and lead author of the article published in Mammal Review.

Black flying-foxes hanging in a tree, Kakadu National Park

'For many, we have catalogued their existence through genetics or taxonomic studies, but when it comes to understanding what they eat, their habitat needs, or how we could improve their chances of survival, we are very much still in the dark.'

'These smaller animals make up an important part of functioning ecosystems, a role that needs greater recognition through funding and research effort.'

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