Study: Many of Australia's 'ugly' animals ignored

Mar 08, 2016, 4:42 PM EST
Bat cave. (Source: darkday/flickr)
Bat cave. (Source: darkday/flickr)
A study has found that “ugly” native bats and rodents in Australia have received far less scientific attention than “cute” animals such as koalas. Published in the Mammal Review Journal, the study says that just 11% of scientific work on Australian wildlife since 1901 has looked at native bats and rodents, despite them making up 45% of all species. Reuters reports:
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, analyzing 1,400 university and government funded research papers since 1901.
These research patterns mean we can miss risks to the overlooked creatures. "Some species have threats we don't really understand," Fleming said, pointing to the case of the Christmas Island pipistrelle, a type of bat, which went extinct in 2009 without anyone really knowing why. 
Overall, the term "ugly" reflects the lack of attention paid to native bats and rodents, rather than their aesthetic qualities, Fleming clarified. Nevertheless, the public do tend to kick up a fuss about animals it thinks are cuter than others. 
Co-author Bill Bateman from Curtin University said there needed to be long-term monitoring and basic research into aesthetically challenged species.
"For the ugly animals, the small bats and rodents, it's very difficult for people to understand how important they are," Dr Bateman said.
"But they are very important seed dispersers, pollinates and sources of food for multiple other species."