Ecology is often criticised as a soft science that suffers from a lack of theoretical underpinning, predictive ability and empirical validation, where the synthesis of these components is a key imperative for the science. Several New Zealand and Australian ecologists have championed the role that research on exotic mammals in their countries (which are often more abundant and of lower conservation value than native mammals) could play in this process, and highlighted their potential as model systems within which to evaluate and advance contemporary ecological theory. We searched the Web of Science database to examine the focus of scientific articles on exotic mammal ecology in New Zealand and Australia between 1990 and 2000, and investigated the degree to which Australasian ecologists have met this challenge. For comparison, we selected six ‘taxa’ of exotic mammals (Capra, Cervidae, Felis, Lagomorpha, Muridae and Sus), and excluded agricultural (Animal Production) and laboratory-based studies. The majority of published studies surveyed focussed on the conservation impacts of exotic mammals and their management, while very few articles used exotic mammals to address broader ecological questions. Studies that did address ecological questions tended to focus on more ‘traditional’ areas of ecology, such as population regulation and niche theory. Fields such as behavioural ecology, ecological biogeography, chemical and molecular ecology, and ecological endocrinology and immunology were under represented. We discuss reasons for this publishing trend, and identify, with examples, eleven research fields in contemporary ecology in which the study of exotic Australasian mammals could prove insightful. We illustrate how this exotic fauna could be used to make advances in our understanding.
Unique and Valuable but Untouched Research Opportunities Using Exotic Mammals in Australasia
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G. L. Blackwell, W. L. Linklater; Unique and Valuable but Untouched Research Opportunities Using Exotic Mammals in Australasia. Australian Zoologist 1 October 2003; 32 (3): 420–430. doi: https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2002.020
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