Mountain Pygmy Possum
November 20, 2019 Latest News No Comments

updated 25 November 2019

 

Mike Archer at Riversleigh

Mike Archer at Riversleigh © Mike Archer

This year, Wildlife Queensland’s celebration of another year in conservation will be held on 7 December at the beautiful Indooroopilly Golf Club where friends and supporters of the Society will enjoy drinks and a 2-course dinner and hear how a ‘radical’ new approach may help save threatened species from climate change.

Special guest speaker, renowned palaeontologist Professor Mike Archer who has led research into the Riversleigh fossil deposits since 1976, will provide a fascinating presentation to dinner-goers on how the fossil record has vital information about saving critically endangered species, and his current project to save the Critically Endangered mountain pygmy possum.

One of the key conclusions of the Federal Government’s Conservation Strategy 2010-2030 was that ‘Business as usual is no longer an option’ with plants and animals being lost at a rate not seen since the demise of the dinosaurs.

Professor Archer contends that we have a moral responsibility to explore all non-traditional strategies that might help to slow this cascade of extinctions.

Learning from the past, to understand the present, to better conserve the future

Because 99% of the life span of species exists in their past, one of these strategies should be to seek information from the fossil record about potential resilience to adapt to a wider range of habitats than those in which species are now struggling to survive, says Archer.

“In some cases, such as the Critically Endangered mountain pygmy possum, this search for wisdom about resilience has extended back millions of years to discover that they are now just hanging on in a climate-change-threatened environment that is far from optimum for their lineage.”

The mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus) – Australia’s only hibernating marsupial – needs temperatures to hover just above freezing to hibernate successfully. The tiny mammal lives in alpine regions but less than 2,500 remain in the wild, according to estimates, with winter snowfall declines and warmer weather threatening extinction.

Fossil clues may save endangered marsupial

Mountain pygmy possum. Image © Hayley Bates

Based on an analysis of fossils dating back 25 million years, Archer believes that the mountain pygmy possum’s ancestors lived in a more temperate and less extreme environment than it endures today.

To that end, his team at the University of New South Wales have started a breeding program in a lowland area of New South Wales in an attempt to acclimatise the possums to a new home, with hopes of establishing an initial colony of 25 animals.

“Ecophysiology and captive breeding provide additional evidence that establishing a colony of these possums in a lowland, wet forest environment should give them the greatest chance for survival into the future,” says Archer.

Professor Archer will also discuss how other species in Australia and around the world could benefit from this ‘four-dimensional’ perspective and other ‘non-traditional’ strategies currently of interest globally as ways to optimise biodiversity into the future.

Wildlife Queensland urges everyone to come along to this important talk about how we can save endangered species and manage the unfolding extinction crisis.

Tickets to the Wildlife Queensland Annual Dinner with Prof Mike Archer are on sale until 10.00am on Wednesday, 4 December with student and group concessions available. Don’t miss out!

Written by Wildlifeqld