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What’s your favourite Australian mammal? Wombat? Kangaroo? Possum? Or something less famous, like a dunnart or a dibbler?
Of course we all love voting in the annual Australian Bird of the Year poll (run by Guardian Australia and BirdLife Australia). For the more botanically inclined, there’s Eucalypt Australia’s Eucalyptus of the Year as well. But we at Cosmos feel that our feathered and leafy friends may have had the spotlight to themselves for a little too long.
Australia is home to incredible mammals. There are over 300 officially described native mammal species in Australia, with the vast majority being endemic: found nowhere else in the world.
Australia is also one of very few places to host all three main branches of the mammalian evolutionary tree: monotremes (think echidnas and platypuses), marsupials (kangaroos and koalas), and placental mammals. They fulfil a dizzying diversity of ecological niches and roles – from ecosystem-engineering bandicoots to native-plant-pollinating gliders to scavenging Tasmanian devils and many more delightful and charismatic characters.
Sadly, many of these wonderful mammals are threatened by climate change, habitat loss, invasive species like feral cats and foxes, and more. Australia has one of the highest rates of overall biodiversity loss among wealthy countries, and we know that at least 39 mammal species have become extinct since European arrival.
We think Australian mammals deserve a bit of love and attention, so this year we’re launching our Australian Mammal of the Year poll. Over the next few months we’ll be publishing stories from mammal enthusiasts spruiking their favourite species, sharing amazing facts and endearing characteristics to try to to win your vote.
There are some familiar (often furry) faces among the candidates, but also opportunities to learn about lesser-known and underappreciated species – and let’s not forget the marine mammals, like dugongs and dolphins. Who knows, you might even find a new favourite mammal to call your own!
You can nominate your own favourite Australian mammal species using the form below.
And for bonus fun, check out the Australasian Mammal Taxonomy Consortium’s Australian Mammals Species List as a great place to discover more species to celebrate and possibly nominate.
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