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Strahan’s Mammals of Australia @ 40

New book highlights conservation plight of Aussie mammals, Queensland University of Technology, 5 June 2023

New book highlights the conservation plight of Aussie mammals.

The QUT ecologist who has co-edited a new 40th-anniversary edition of Australia’s definitive mammal reference text says it highlights the conservation plight of our iconic mammals – and the urgent need to better protect and cherish them.

Dr Andrew Baker from the QUT School of Biology and Environmental Science and Dr Ian Gynther from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science (DES) are the editors of the new book, Strahan’s Mammals of Australia (Fourth Edition). Both authors are also Honorary Research Fellows (Vertebrate Section, Biodiversity & Geosciences Program) at the Queensland Museum.

The book draws on the expertise of over 300 authors from across Australia and around the globe.

It surveys the rich and varied world of Australia’s mammals – from the well-known platypus, koala and kangaroos, to lesser-known pygmy possums, carnivorous marsupials, rodents and bats. It is also a guide to marine mammals including dugong, seals, whales and dolphins.

Dr Andrew Baker.

Dr Baker is one of Australia’s leading experts on mammals and says the book is timely considering the continued threat the country’s mammals are facing.

“The negative effects of development, introduced predators and climate change are at an all-time high, creating life-threatening conditions for native mammals across Australia,” Dr Baker, a QUT alumnus, said.

“Sadly, Australia has the world’s worst record for mammal species extinctions.

“We’ve lost 33 species of mammals since 1788 – that’s more than any other country on Earth.

“We hope this book contributes to public understanding of our wildlife and helps people better appreciate and want to protect our precious mammals.”

Dr Ian Gynther is a Principal Conservation Officer in DES’s Threatened Species Operations unit who has more than 30 years experience in surveying and monitoring Australian mammals.

He said the new publication represented an important record of this country’s wildlife heritage.

Dr Ian Gynther.

By presenting information about our diverse mammal fauna in an appealing and accessible style, it should be valued by all – from the most dedicated specialist to the layperson with only a passing interest,” Dr Gynther said.

“A characteristic of Australia’s mammalian inhabitants is that a great many species are shy, concealed from view, active at night or a combination of these things.

“Consequently, even when relatively abundant, they are seldom encountered and so are poorly known by the public. The book reveals this hidden diversity.”

The new book features accounts of an additional 21 species, including 19 species new to science, recognised since the third edition of the work was published in 2008. Among these are eight bandicoots, five antechinuses and three gliding possums.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the book’s first publication in 1983 (as The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals). The fourth edition also has a name change – Strahan’s Mammals of Australia – in memory of the late Ron Strahan, who originally conceptualised the book and edited the first two editions himself, and edited the third edition with Steve Van Dyck.

The fourth edition includes more than 300 new colour photos and detailed descriptions of Australia’s 404 mammal species, including information about their ecology, distribution and conservation.

Cute, carnivorous and endangered: The Dasycercus cristicauda (Crest-tailed Mulgara ) is a small marsupial from the same family as the thylacine and is listed as extinct in NSW and vulnerable in Queensland. Photo: Gerhard Koertner, Strahan’s Mammals of Australia (Fourth Edition).

Compiling the book has been a massive undertaking for Drs Baker and Gynther, with so many authors contributing chapters.

“It’s been a logistical challenge to pull it all together – but that’s also the strength of the book,” Dr Gynther said.

Strahan’s Mammals of Australia represents a distillation of the specialist knowledge of scientists from all around this country and the world. Each of the 324 authors is an expert in their field; some of them have studied these species for three or four decades.

“Their collective contribution is what sets the book apart and makes it so valuable.”

Some of the book’s authors are students who have studied various mammal species intensively during years of postgraduate research.

The editors recognised the importance of such depth in the book’s team of authors.

“It breathes life into every edition of the work, extending across generations of scientists from the past to the present, and hopefully far into the future,” they said.

“The publication aims to inspire greater effort to research and document Australia’s mammal fauna, uncover the existence of yet more species, and implement effective conservation action to prevent future extinctions.”

Strahan’s Mammals of Australia (Fourth Edition) is now available through Reed New Holland Publishers and selected bookstores.

QUT Media contacts:
– Mechelle McMahon, media@qut.edu.au
– After hours, 0407 585 901 or media@qut.edu.au

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