PhD candidate
Arthur Crichton

My research interests are fairly broad, including the palaeoecology, taxonomy, and evolutionary history/relationships of first order vertebrates (e.g. mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians).

Through my Honours research at Flinders University, I’m involved in a longstanding project focusing on changing community composition through time in response to Pleistocene aridity, employing the faunal succession preserved in Leaena’s Breath Cave on the Nullarbor Plain. The project includes the whole fauna, my involvement being in the mammals, and others in the lab working on the birds, reptiles and amphibians.

In 2020 I started my PhD at Flinders focusing on the Pwerte Marnte Marnte Local Fauna, Northern Territory, Australia’s oldest post-Gondwana terrestrial vertebrate assemblage. The assemblage, thought to be greater than 26 million years old (Oligocene), preserves a diverse range of taxa, the majority of which are new species. These include the earliest representatives of modern marsupial families, dromornithids (giant flightless birds), crocodylomorphs, turtles and madtsoiid snakes. The assemblage preserves extremely dense fragmentary bone material in hard limestone, requiring a combination of acid digestion and mechanical preparation to extract the more intact bone elements and teeth. The primary aims of my PhD are to 1) better constrain the age of the Pwerte Marnte Marnte Local Fauna, 2) determine the taxonomic affiliations of the species represented, and 3) in doing so glean insight into their evolutionary history, with particular focus on dromornithids and interfamilial marsupial relationships.