Less cute, less iconic animals get studied less, Australian study shows

Koalas at the Singapore Zoo on July 16, 2016.
Koalas at the Singapore Zoo on July 16, 2016.PHOTO: ST FILE

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Pushed out of the limelight by cuddly koalas and kangaroos, Australia's less glamorous native bats and rodents have failed to catch the eyes of scientific researchers, a new study shows.

Just 11 per cent of scientific studies on Australian wildlife since 1901 have looked at native bats and rodents, although they make up 45 per cent of all species, says the study published in the Mammal Review Journal.

Australia has already had some unique bat species become extinct and there is a risk more could follow without anyone noticing, said Trish Fleming, a wildlife biologist from Murdoch University.

"Research funding goes on big animals which are iconic and attract people's attention because they are cute and charismatic," Fleming told Reuters. "It's very hard to make a tourist attraction of a rodent."

Fleming's study focused on trends in Australia research, analysing 1,400 university and government funded research papers since 1901.

Australia's unique and obscure marsupials and monotremes, such as the spiky echidna and the duck-billed platypus, which are the only egg-laying mammals in the world, attracted 77 per cent of research over the period.

While native bats and rodents have distant relatives on the Asian continent, there is still an important need for studies and conservation efforts for unique Australian species, said Fleming.

"Microbats, for example, are really important in terms of managing insect populations, but we know almost nothing about them," she added.