Size matters: Does morphological variation translate to ecological differences in a marsupial glider? (#112)
Defining the ecological niche of a species is vital for effective conservation management. Understanding variations in the habitat use, social structure and morphology of a species illustrate how the species is adapted to its environment and in turn, can predict the species' susceptibility to novel threats and disturbance. The small mammals of northern Australia have undergone rapid and catastrophic declines, highlighting the importance of understanding the ecological adaptations of species at risk. Recently, the marsupial glider occurring in the tropical savannas of the Northern Territory, was found to be an undescribed species. Our study forms the first investigation into the distribution and ecology of the savanna glider in the Northern Territory, specifically detailing its ecological niche. We will compare the habitat use, social structure and morphology of savanna glider populations at either end of their distribution through live-trapping, spotlighting and radio-tracking. Our results will establish the drivers of abundance and distribution of the savanna glider, and demonstrate the species’ morphological and behavioural adaptations to environmental gradients unique to the tropical savannas of the Northern Territory. We will also discuss how the broad distribution patterns and socio-ecology of the savanna glider compares to other Petaurus gliders in Australia. Findings from this work will address whether the northern savanna glider is vulnerable to decline and inform the future conservation management of the species.