Review: Australian Wildlife After Dark

The Book: Australian Wildlife After Dark
The Authors: Martyn Robinson & Bruce Thomson

Australia’s wildlife is notoriously cryptic. One could be forgiven for walking through a patch of forest during the day and spotting only a few bird species, and perhaps some mammals if luck strikes. Once the sun falls, however, it’s a very different story.

Chatter, shrieks and rustles resound as many incredible species go about their nightly routine. Some of them are familiar to us, many are not. Take, for example, the many species of microbat that are all around us throughout the suburbs, yet we hear the sounds of only one species – the white-striped freetail bat. Or perhaps the greater glider – what is it about this somewhat clumsy species that allows it to persist in our forests?

Australian Wildlife After Dark is unique. Not quite a field guide, not quite a textbook, but somewhere in between. Authors Martyn Robinson and Bruce Thomson focus on the adaptations that allow Australia’s fauna to exploit different ecological niches throughout the night. The authors go through these one after another, from sight and sound to some of the more unique adaptations (such as the electromagnetic sensors used by the platypus).

As is indicated by the cover image, the photography in Australian Wildlife After Dark is fantastic. Robinson and Thomson have collected some wonderful images, all of which help to illustrate their overarching point that Australian wildlife is uniquely adapted to take advantage of the time after sunset. Particularly impressive is the diverse assortment of invertebrate images and their respective adaptations on display.

An important aspect of this book is its high level of accessibility. The writers have pitched the text at a very broad audience, such that school-aged students and experienced naturalists alike will get something out of it. This is a rare feat with ecology and natural history texts, and will hopefully inspire readers to delve further into literature on Australia’s fauna.

Also useful is a final section describing some methods for seeking out Australia’s nocturnal creatures. Combining this with the detailed descriptions of the various ways these animals exploit the night, and Australian Wildlife After Dark makes for a great resource for any budding spot-lighter. Ultimately, this is where Robinson and Thomson have succeeded, constructing a book that is informative and accessible enough to hopefully inspire more people to get to know our unique wildlife.

This book belongs on your bookshelf if… you’re interested in learning about the adaptations that allow Australia’s fauna to take over the night, or if you’re interested in seeking them out in the Australian wilderness.

Head to the CSIRO Publishing website to purchase a copy.  

Cover image by Emma Walsh