The Atlas of Living Australia
September 22, 2016 12:48 AM   Subscribe

The Atlas of Living Australia contains information on all the known species (animals, plants and more) in Australia, aggregated from a wide range of data providers: museums, herbaria, community groups, government departments, individuals and universities. It contains more than 50 million occurrence records, based on specimens, field observations and surveys. These records are enriched by additional information including molecular data, photographs, maps, sound recordings and literature. Explore your area! posted by paleyellowwithorange (28 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Search for "drop bear" returned 106 results.

Looking forward to reading about the habitat and behavior of these elusive animals. (And other species as well...nice find!)
posted by Umami Dearest at 1:08 AM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is a wonderful resource! The 'Search by Location' feature has specific sighting data. There are so many species within a couple of kilometres of the burrow that I had no idea about.

Off to browse the relatives,

posted by Combat Wombat at 1:48 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

With a trip to Oz coming up next year, this will serve as a good introduction to the flora and fauna that will inevitably find a way to kill me while I'm there.
posted by jklaiho at 1:59 AM on September 22, 2016

Since you mention it fairmettle, let's remember John Mulvaney, who died yesterday. He's the Australian archaeologist who first discovered evidence that the Aboriginals were here up to fifty thousand years ago.

Professor Colin Groves, who worked with Professor Mulvaney, said one of his greatest legacies was the respect he gave to Indigenous people in Australia.

"He was of course a person who treated Indigenous people as people, not as just study subjects," he said.

"His demonstration that their occupation of the continent had not been a few hundred years or perhaps a couple of thousand years, but eventually we now think 40 perhaps 50,000 years."


Since he figured out the rough time frame in which dingos came to Australia, I'm going to go check where the nearest sighting is! (not too close I hope)
posted by adept256 at 2:12 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh god, yes, yes! First of all, I have never yet been killed by any of our flora or fauna, though I did have to get a tick removed with a punch biopsy, because I discovered a week after it became my new best friend, a couple of weeks ago. This is an amazing resource. I live on the Gold Coast and 290 species of bird have been identified in the area. I have taken pictures of maybe 30 different species? This is going to make it a lot easy to identify them as well. Brilliant, wonderful, amazing resource. Thank you.
posted by b33j at 2:31 AM on September 22, 2016

Well, here's me: spinifex.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:44 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Heh. And here's me.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:52 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, there's a Victorian funnel web near me...

Without checking, I expect much of the Victorian data is from the biodiversity atlas - which anyone is welcome and encouraged to contribute to.
posted by wilful at 3:38 AM on September 22, 2016

There have been sightings of kangaroos within a 5 minute walk of my home. This is a complete surprise to me! Great stuff.
posted by bystander at 3:48 AM on September 22, 2016

Before getting TOO excited about sightings near your house, check the dates in them (says she went off to look for the wombat reported a mere 50m from the office, only to find it was sighted in 1980).

That said, I love the atlas. It's like Pokemon go with real animals.
posted by girlgenius at 3:54 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I got to use their dataset for GovHack 2016, so much cool stuff in there. And we just had to make a Pokemon Go with real animals out of it, girlgenius.
posted by threeze at 4:05 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Before getting TOO excited about sightings near your house, check the dates in them

Yeah, the ALA's main purpose is to be a central repository for data about the collections held in the various state and national museums, herbaria and other collecting institutions around the country. So you'll be seeing data starting from when the first museums in the country were founded - this is why you can see collection locations for thylacines

Amazing things have been built using the ALA - as an example here's Edgar - put in a favourite bird and see how it's going to be affected by climate change (spoiler: it's not good)
posted by coleboptera at 4:58 AM on September 22, 2016

This is cool! Apparently there was a black snake near my house only a couple of years ago. Also, a cat. (Big surprise).
posted by lollusc at 5:14 AM on September 22, 2016

Why is there a category called "ferns and allies", though? Who is allied with a fern?
posted by lollusc at 5:16 AM on September 22, 2016

When I see something like that I suspect there was someone standing on a chair going HORSETAILS AREN'T FERNS, GUYS. GUYS?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:38 AM on September 22, 2016

Why is there a category called "ferns and allies", though? Who is allied with a fern?

fern ally
posted by zamboni at 7:03 AM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Trying to browse but it's organized in a very weird way, can't find the normal primary Australian categories -- the venomous, the poisonous and the accidentally introduced. Maybe it's just this predictable and lazy joke I'm making, but it does make it harder for this American to find things.
posted by bigbigdog at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2016

In related news: Indigenous Australians most ancient civilisation on Earth, DNA study confirms.

That Guardian article kind of dropped a bomb on me, fairmettle -- well, two bombs, actually:
Willerslev’s findings, based on a new population analysis of 83 Indigenous Australians and 25 Papuans, shows that these groups can trace their origins back to the very first arrivals on the continent about 50,000 years ago and that they remained almost entirely isolated until around 4,000 years ago. “They are probably the oldest group in the world that you can link to one particular place,” said Willerslev.

En route to Australia, early humans would have encountered a motley assortment of other roving hominin species, including an unknown human relative who has now been shown to have contributed around 4% to the Indigenous Australian genome. Previously, scientists have discovered that prehistoric couplings have left all non-Africans today carrying 1-6% of Neanderthal DNA.
Oh my God, another completely distinct hybridization, and at a level of 4%? How thrilling!
Willerslev’s study also resolves the apparent discrepancy between genetic findings implying that Indigenous populations have been in Australia for tens of thousands of years and the fact that the languages spoken by these populations are only around 4,000 years old. “You see a movement of people spreading across the continent and leaving signatures across the continent,” said Willerslev. “That is the time that this new language has spread. It’s a tiny genetic signature. It’s almost like two guys entering a village and saying ‘guys, now we have to speak another language and use another stone tool and they have a little bit of sex in that village and then they disappear again.”
And yet, an introduced language carried by a tiny cohort 4K years ago has somehow (tracelessly?) displaced a language or related family of languages that had persisted and developed there in isolation for 50K years? What an utterly tragic loss that would be!
posted by jamjam at 9:50 AM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's all cats, rats & bats where I live.

They also use a sleight of hand, like how food packaging finds different ways of subdividing sugar into sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose and so on.

Who ever knew there were so many different species of "flying fox"?

Oh, and there were four sightings of common dogs, which makes sense. Each designer breed around here would be a single unique sighting, otherwise its owners would offload it in search of another breed that more perfectly expresses their special snowflakeness.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:39 PM on September 22, 2016

This is neat! Am I reading it right that Tasmania basically has no spiders? (But lots of famous carnivorous marsupials.)
posted by bigbigdog at 1:45 PM on September 22, 2016

More like: nobody has lived long enough to be able to report a sighting of a Tasmanian spider.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:48 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh god, more reasons to be paranoid of every leaving my house.

I've been in Australia for more than a decade and I still haven't been to the zoo... only time I've seen a kangaroo was at a nuclear research facility.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:32 PM on September 22, 2016

You really should: Taronga Zoo is a short ferry ride from Circular Quay; it has gorgeous views; and it has a gondola you can ride in to the top of the hill. SO much fun.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2016

Spiders in Tasmania - you may not have found them if you weren't searching for "Araneae"

There seems to be a bit of misunderstanding in this post over what the ALA actually is. It's primarily a scientific resource so it may be a bit difficult to search for the non-expert because it's organised taxonomically - hence Araneae rather than spider. For biologists this genuinely is an easier way to search - they literally never search by common name and get really confused if you try.

The dates will tend to be a few years old at least because taxonomic identification requires expertise and there may not be an expert in the particular taxa you're searching for. So the identification of charismatic animals will be done pretty quickly but for example there are precious few working arachnid taxonomists in Australia so the identification of spiders tends to take a bit longer. (I'm talking about specimens in collections here - researchers on the whole will be filtering away anything in the Record facet apart from PhysicalSpecimen - and maybe MaterialSample if they're doing genetic work. Unless they're researching whales they have pretty much no interest in sightings data. (disclaimer: I work with faunal data, workers with other sorts of data may do things differently))

The Atlas should be a source of great pride for Australians in the way Trove is - both of them are genuinely world-leading in their field.
posted by coleboptera at 5:45 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ah thanks for the explanation about the spiders. I don't know what it says about me that I was on pretty shaky evidence willing to believe that Tasmania actually has no spiders, and spent some time imagining what they had instead.
posted by bigbigdog at 7:21 PM on September 22, 2016

Why doesn't this have a filter to just show me the dangerous species around me so I know what to avoid? I don't know their names...
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:20 PM on September 22, 2016

I shared this with a bunch of science teacher educators who are excited about using local data.
posted by b33j at 3:13 AM on September 23, 2016

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