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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 34(1)

The status of non-volant mammals along a rainfall gradient in the south-west Kimberley, Western Australia

A. N. Start A D, A. A. Burbidge A B, M. C. McDowell C and N. L. McKenzie A

A Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australian Wildlife Research Centre, PO Box 51, Wanneroo, WA 6946, Australia.
B Current address: 87 Rosedale Street, Floreat, WA 6014, Australia.
C School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, PO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: tonys@wn.com.au

Australian Mammalogy 34(1) 36-48 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AM10026
Submitted: 5 August 2010  Accepted: 8 May 2011   Published: 7 October 2011

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To assess the current status of mammals in relation to mean annual rainfall and to improve knowledge of the original mammalian assemblages in tropical Western Australia, extant terrestrial mammals and subfossil mammalian remains were sought along a rainfall gradient in two parallel ranges in the Kimberley, Western Australia. As expected, extant mammal species richness decreased with decreasing rainfall. Data from other studies in higher-rainfall areas complemented this conclusion and a parallel decline in trap success implied an overall decline in abundance, although numbers of two rodents (Rattus tunneyi and Zyzomys argurus) were highly variable. Small rodents were rare. Subfossil deposits were biased by accumulation processes, with most attributable to tytonid owls. They largely consisted of rodent and, to a lesser extent, small dasyurid bones and there was a high level of consistency in the proportional composition of many common species across the rainfall gradient. Most deposits appear to predate the introduction of stock in the 1880s and some may be much older. All species persist in the study area except two Notomys spp. and three Pseudomys spp. Both the Notomys and one Pseudomys are apparently undescribed, extinct species. However, there were marked ratio differences between subfossil and modern assemblages. Although specimens of species larger than those taken by tytonid owls were scarce, their occurrences were broadly consistent with the modern understanding of distributions.

Additional keywords: barn owl, extant, subfossil, survey.


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