PhD candidate
Arthur Crichton

I’m particularly interested in marsupial systematics, evolution and palaeoecology.

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. At ≥25 million years old (late Oligocene), it is thought to be Australia’s oldest post-Gondwana terrestrial mammal bearing assemblage. The site preserves a diverse range of taxa, the majority of which are new species. Recovering the more intact bone elements and teeth from the hard limestone is very labor intensive, requiring a combination of acid digestion and mechanical preparation. My project is focused primarily on the marsupials, in particular: the koalas; ilariids (wombat-koala cross); a mukupirnid (powerful wombat relative); and an ektopodontid (bizarre possum). The fauna also includes dromornithids (giant flightless birds), crocodiles, turtles and madtsoiid snakes. The project’s overarching aims are to 1) determine the taxonomic affiliations of the species represented, 2) better understand their evolutionary histories, and 3) better constrain the age, and biochronological significance, of the Pwerte Marnte Marnte Local Fauna.