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Paper just published

The private life of echidnas: Using accelerometry and GPS to examine field biomechanics and assess the ecological impact of a widespread, semi-fossorial monotreme.

Clemente, C.J., Cooper, C.E., Witehrs, P.C, Freakley, C., Singh, S. and Terrill, P.

Journal of Experimental Biology 219 3271-3283

Abstract: The short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is a monotreme and therefore provides a unique combination of phylogenetic history, morphological differentiation and ecological specialisation for a mammal. The echidna has a unique appendicular skeleton, a highly specialised myrmecophagous lifestyle and a mode of locomotion that is neither typically mammalian nor reptilian, but has aspects of both lineages. We therefore were interested in the interactions of locomotor biomechanics, ecology and movements for wild, free-living short-beaked echidnas. To assess locomotion in its complex natural environment, we attached both GPS and accelerometer loggers to the back of echidnas in both spring and summer. We found that the locomotor biomechanics of echidnas is unique, with lower stride length and stride frequency than reported for similar-sized mammals. Speed modulation is primarily accomplished through changes in stride frequency, with a mean of 1.39 Hz and a maximum of 2.31 Hz. Daily activity period was linked to ambient air temperature, which restricted daytime activity during the hotter summer months. Echidnas had longer activity periods and longer digging bouts in spring compared with summer. In summer, echidnas had higher walking speeds than in spring, perhaps because of the shorter time suitable for activity. Echidnas spent, on average, 12% of their time digging, which indicates their potential to excavate up to 204 m3 of soil a year. This information highlights the important contribution towards ecosystem health, via bioturbation, of this widespread Australian monotreme.


Fowlers Gap

Its been 50 years since UNSW established the Fowler’s Gap research station

See ABC News article about the Gap, a very important site for many ANZSCPB members, and the location for several memorable annual Society conferences.



New Book

Ecological and Environmental Physiology of Mammals

P.C. Withers, C.E. Cooper, S.K. Maloney, F. Bozinovic and A.P. Cruz-Neto

Oxford University Press

Mammals are the so-called “pinnacle” group of vertebrates, successfully colonising virtually all terrestrial environments as well as the air (bats) and sea (especially pinnipeds and cetaceans). How mammals function and survive in these diverse environments has long fascinated mammologists, comparative physiologists and ecologists.

Ecological and Environmental Physiology of Mammals explores the physiological mechanisms and evolutionary necessities that have made the spectacular adaptation of mammals possible. It summarises our current knowledge of the complex and sophisticated physiological approaches that mammals have for survival in a wide variety of ecological and environmental contexts: terrestrial, aerial, and aquatic. The authors have a strong comparative and quantitative focus in their broad approach to exploring mammal ecophysiology. As with other books in the Ecological and Environmental Physiology Series, the emphasis is on the unique physiological characteristics of mammals, their adaptations to extreme environments, and current experimental techniques and future research directions are also considered.

This accessible text is suitable for graduate level students and researchers in the fields of mammalian comparative physiology and physiological ecology, including specialist courses in mammal ecology. It will also be of value and use to the many professional mammologists requiring a concise overview of the topic.


Cover Temperature

Special Issue of the journal “Temperature” by Taylor and Francis

How Hot is Down Under? Temperature-related Sciences in Australia and New Zealand

Guest Editors: Eugene Nalivaiko, Stephen Kent, Shane Maloney, Toby Mündel and Irina Vetter

First issue published. See





Paper just published

Sleep Ecophysiology: Integrating Neuroscience and Ecology

Aulsebrook, A.E., Jones, T.M., Rattenborg, N.C., Roth II, T.C, Lesku, J.A.

Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31, pg 590-599

Abstract: Here, we propose an original approach to explain one of the great unresolved questions in animal biology: what is the function of sleep? Existing ecological and neurological approaches to this question have become roadblocks to an answer. Ecologists typically treat sleep as a simple behavior, instead of a heterogeneous neurophysiological state, while neuroscientists generally fail to appreciate the critical insights offered by the consideration of ecology and evolutionary history. Redressing these shortfalls requires cross-disciplinary integration. By bringing together aspects of behavioral ecology, evolution, and conservation with neurophysiology, we can achieve a more comprehensive understanding of sleep, including its implications for adaptive waking behavior and fitness.



Paper just published

Cool Echidnas Survive the Fire

Nowack, J., Cooper, C.E. and Geiser, F.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0382

Abstract: Fires have occurred throughout history, including those associated with the meteoroid impact at the Cretaceous–Palaeogene (K–Pg) boundary that eliminated many vertebrate species. To evaluate the recent hypothesis that the survival of the K–Pg fires by ancestral mammals was dependent on their ability to use energy-conserving torpor, we studied body temperature fluctuations and activity of an egg-laying mammal, the echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), often considered to be a ‘living fossil’, before, during and after a prescribed burn. All but one study animal survived the fire in the prescribed burn area and echidnas remained inactive during the day(s) following the fire and substantially reduced body temperature during bouts of torpor. For weeks after the fire, all individuals remained in their original territories and compensated for changes in their habitat with a decrease in mean body temperature and activity. Our data suggest that heterothermy enables mammals to outlast the conditions during and after a fire by reducing energy expenditure, permitting periods of extended inactivity. Therefore, torpor facilitates survival in a fire-scorched landscape and consequently may have been of functional significance for mammalian survival at the K–Pg boundary.



New Book

Biology and Evolution of Crocodylians

Gordon Grigg and David Kirshner

CSIRO Publishing

Biology and Evolution of Crocodylians is a comprehensive review of current knowledge about the world’s largest and most famous living reptiles.

Gordon Grigg’s authoritative and accessible text and David Kirshner’s stunning interpretive artwork and colour photographs combine expertly in this contemporary celebration of crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials. This book showcases the skills and capabilities that allow crocodylians to live how and where they do. It covers the biology and ecology of the extant species, conservation issues, crocodylian–human interaction and the evolutionary history of the group, and includes a vast amount of new information; 25 per cent of 1100 cited publications have appeared since 2007.

Richly illustrated with more than 500 colour photographs and black and white illustrations, this book will be a benchmark reference work for crocodylian biologists, herpetologists and vertebrate biologists for years to come.