2010

Malleefowl are unquestiobly the aberrant megapode: all of the other 21 species live in subtropical and tropical regions, mainly in dense rainforests where the construction of incubation mounds is relatively straighforward. Malleefowl are of particular interest because they have somehow maged to adapt what would have been a life in the jungle to millennia of relentless drying. Coping with extreme climate change is possible but requires sophisticated adaptations. Comparisons with the two more northern megapodes that occur in Australia - the Australian Brush-turkey and the Orange-footed Scrubfowl - provides an assessment of the extent of this adaptation in Malleefowl as well as an opportunity to learn how the other species are faring. Although many megapodes remain seriously threatened, these two Australian species have learned how to live successfully among people, in some locations such as Brisbane, Darwin and Cairns, becoming nuisances in urban areas. Despite its abundance, however, the scrubfowl remains poorly studied. On the other hand, continuing work on the brush-turkey has greatly enhanced our understanding of the species and of many aspects that are common to the family as a whole. Of particular importance is the recent discovery of a specialised form of temperature sex determition in brush-turkeys in which different levels of mound heat result in highly skewed sex ratios. This presentation will review some of these recent findings, highlighting issues of particular relevance to Malleefowl conservation and ecology.

Presented at Conferences

  • Katanning National Malleefowl Forum 2007 (2008)

    Katannind, Western Australia