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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Department ofVertebrate Zoology

Division of Mammals

Tarsius bancanus
bar Ken Aplin
    Ken P. Aplin
    Research Associate

  • Phone: (202)633-1247
  • Fax: (202)633-0182
  • E-mail: aplink[at]

  • Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    PO Box 37012, MRC 108
    Washington, DC 20013-7012

  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    National Museum of Natural History
    1000 Constitution Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20004


Ph.D. (Biological Sciences): University of New South Wales, 1990
B.A. (Archaeology): Australian National University, 1981

Research Interests

My general research is focussed primarily on the terrestrial mammal fauna of the Australo-papuan and Wallacean regions, but it extends outside of this region in the case of the Old World murine rodents, for which I have a global interest.

Within this general sphere of interest, I have a number of current research foci including:

  • Discovery of species level diversity among Australo-papuan and Wallacean marsupials and rodents.
    Mammalian diversity in the Australo-papuan and Wallacean regions is grossly under-represented in current listings which are still marred by a phase of largely unwarranted and unjustified lumping by mammalian taxonomists during the 1950s to 70s. My three guiding principles in reassessing mammalian diversity are: 1) an open-mind about possibilities, unhindered by ecological 'rules' of niche partitioning and competition; 2) careful restudy of existing museum collections; and 3) the judicious application of molecular techniques to test hypotheses formulated during morphological assessments. At the same time, I am ardent believer in the need for continued field surveys and collecting. I have undertaken field work in almost every Asian and Melanesian country and contributed many thousands of mammal specimens to institutional collections.
  • Higher level systematics of Australo-papuan marsupials and Old World muroid rodents.
    Although these fields are now dominated by molecular systematic, traditional morphology continues to play a major role by highlighting taxa of critical interest and by forming the link between contemporary diversity and the fossil record. I have a long and ongoing record of collaboration with molecular systematists working to understand the evolution of Australo-papuan mammals.
  • Circumscription and morphological definition of the genus Rattus.
    This perennial 'chestnut' of mammalian systematics is finally yielding to a combination of high-end molecular approaches and detailed morphological study. A new generic arrangement of Rattus and its closest relatives is currently in preparation.
  • The taxonomy and history of commensal small mammals, particularly of members of the genera Rattus, Mus and Bandicota.
    With the exception of the house mouse, these mammals have been largely neglected by mammal systematists. However, each of them contains a fascinating history of interaction with human history, and several are of vital concern in the field of zoonotic disease research. My current major focus is to understand the evolutionary history of Black rats, Rattus rattus, a task which has attracted an international team of collaborators based in Australia, the U.S.A., France, Japan, Singapore and South Africa.

A second major research interest is the Quaternary palaeoecology of mammal communities in the Australo-papuan and Wallacean regions, including:

  • Investigations of the extinct or severely threatened rodent faunas of the Lesser Sundan and Moluccan Island groups in Wallacea.
  • Investigations of the impacts of Quaternary climate change and human activity on the mammalian faunas of Melanesia and Australia.

Recent Publications

Rowe K.C., Aplin K.P., Baverstock P.R., Moritz, C. (2011) Recent and rapid speciation with limited morphological disparity in the genus Rattus. Systematic Biology 60: 188–203.

Kambe, Y., Tanikawa T., Matsumoto, Y., Tomozawa, M., Aplin, K.P., et al. (2011) Origin of agouti-melanistic polymorphism in wild Black Rats (Rattus rattus) inferred from Mc1r gene sequences. Zoological Science 28: 560–567.

Aplin, K.P., Helgen, K.M. and Lunde, D.P. (2010). A review of Peroryctes broadbenti, the Giant Bandicoot of Papua New Guinea. American Museum Novitates No. 3696, 41 pp.

Louys, J., Aplin, K.P., Beck, R., Archer, M. (2010) Cranial anatomy of Oligo-Miocene koalas (Diprotodontia: Phascolarctidae): stages in the evolution of an extreme leaf-eating specialization. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29: 981-992.

Aplin, K.P. and Helgen, K.M. (2010) Quaternary murid rodents of Timor. Part I: New material of Coryphomys buehleri Schaub, 1937, and description of a second species of the genus. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 341: 1-80.

Helgen, K.M., Leary, T. and Aplin, K.P. (2010) A revision of Microhydromys (Rodentia: Murinae), with description of a new species from southern New Guinea. American Museum Novitates No. 3676, 22 pp.

Shimada, T., Aplin, K.P. and Suzuki, H. (2010). Mus lepidoides (Muridae, Rodentia) of central Burma is a distinct species of potentially great evolutionary significance. Zoological Science 27:449-459.

O'Connor, S., Aplin, K., St Pierre, E. and Feng, Y-X. (2010). Faces of the ancestors revealed: discovery and dating of a Pleistocene-age petroglyph in Lene Hara Cave, East Timor. Antiquity 84: 649-665.

David, B. Geneste, J.–M., Aplin, K., Delannoy, J.-J., Araho, N., Clarkson, C., Connell, K., Haberle, S., Barker, B., Lamb, L., Stanisic, J., Fairbairn, A., Skelly, R. and Rowe, C. (2010) The Emo site (OAC), Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea: resolving long-standing questions of antiquity and implications for the history of the ancestral Hiri maritime trade. Australian Archaeology 70: 39-54.

Singleton, G.R., Belmain, S., Brown, P.R., Aplin, K. and Htwe, N.M. 2010. Impacts of rodent outbreaks on food security in Asia. Wildlife Research 37: 355-359.

Aplin, K.P. and Lalsiamliana, J. (2010). The Chronicle and Impacts of Mautam 2007-2009 in Mizoram. In Singleton, G.R., Belmain, S., Brown, P.R. and Krebs, C. (eds). Rodent Outbreaks and Food Security. IRRI, Los Banos, Philippines.

Aplin, K.P. , Ford, F., Hiscock, P. (2010) Early Holocene human occupation and environment of the southeast Australian Alps: New evidence from the Yarrangobilly Plateau. Chapter 11. In Haberle, S., Stevenson, J., Prebble, M. (eds). Altered Ecologies: Fire, climate and human influence on terrestrial landscapes. Terra Australis 32, ANU E Press.

Sutton, A., Mountain, M.-J., Aplin, K., Bulmer, S. and Denham T. (2009). Archaeozoological Records for the Highlands of New Guinea: A Review of Current Evidence. Australian Archaeology: 41-58.

Shimada, T., Sato, J.J., Aplin, K.P., Suzuki, H. (2009). Comparative analysis of evolutionary modes in Mc1r coat colr gene in wild mice and mustelids. Genes and Genetic Systems 84: 225-231.

Aplin, K., Donnellan, S. and Dell, J. (2008). The herpetofauna of Faure Island, Shark Bay, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 75: 39-53.

O'Connor, S., Aplin, K. and Collins, S. (2008) Results of a small salvage excavation in Windjana Gorge, Kimberley, Western Australia. Archaeology in Oceania 43: 75-88.

Lecompte, E., Aplin, K., Denys, C., Catzeflis, F., Chades, M., Chevret, P. (2008) Phylogeny and Biogeography of African Murinae based on Mitochondrial and Nuclear gene sequences, with a new Tribal Classification of the Subfamily. BMC Evolutionary Biology 8: 199 (21 pp.).

Aplin, K.P., Brown, P.R., Singleton, G.R. Douang Boupha, B. and Khamphoukeo, K. (2007). Chapter 19. Rodents in the rice environments of Laos. Pp. 291-308. In Schiller, J.M., Chanphengxay, M.B., Linquist, B. and Appa Rao, S. Rice in Laos. IRRI and ACIAR, Los Banos, Philippines and Canberra.

Maryan, B., Aplin, K.P., Adams, M. (2007) Two new species of the Delma tincta group (Squamata: Pygopodidae) with remarks on patterns of species endemism in northwestern Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 23: 273-305.

Aplin, K.P., Fitsh, A.J. and King, D.J. (2007) A new species of Varanus Merrem (Squamata: Varanidae) from the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with observations on sexual dimorphism in closely related species. Zootaxa, 1313: 1-38.

Shimada, T., Aplin, K.P., Jenkins, P. and Suzuki, H. (2007) Rediscovery of Mus nitidulus Blyth, 1859 (Rodentia, Muridae), an endemic murine rodent of the central basin of Myanmar. Zootaxa 1498: 45-68.

David, B., Fairbairn, A., Aplin, K., Murepe, L., Green, M., Stanisic, J., Weisler, M., Simala, D., Kokents, T., Dop, J. and Muke, J. (2007). OJP, a terminal Pleistocene archaeological site from the Gulf Province lowlands, Papua New Guinea. Archaeology in Oceania 42: 31-33.

O'Connor, S. and Aplin, K.P. (2007) A matter of balance: an overview of Pleistocene occupation history and the impact of the Last Glacial Phase in East Timor and the Aru Islands, eastern Indonesia. Archaeology in Oceania 42: 82-90.

Shimada, T., Aplin, K.P., Jyogahara. K., Lin, K.-L., Gonzalez, J.-P., Herbreteau, V. and Suzuki, H. (2007) Complex phylogeographic structuring in a continental small mammal from East Asia, the rice field mouse, Mus caroli (Rodentia, Muridae). Mammal Study 32: 49-62.

Singleton, G.R., Brown, P.R., Jacob, J., Aplin, K.P. and Sudarmaji (2007). Unwanted and unintended effects of culling: A case for ecologically-based rodent management. Integrative Zoology 2: 247-259.

Hope, G.S. and Aplin, K.P. (2007). Chapter 2.6 Palaeontology of Papua. Pp. 246-254. In Marshall, A.J. and Beehler, B.M. (eds). The Ecology of Papua. Part One. The Ecology of Indonesia Seies. Volume V1. Periplus Editions, Singapore. 749 pp.

Aplin, K. P. (2006). Ten million years of rodent evolution in Australasia: phylogenetic evidence and a speculative historical biogeography. Pp. 707 - 744. In Merrick, J. R., Archer, M., Hickey, G.M. and Lee, M.S.Y. (eds). Evolution and Biogeography of Australasian Vertebrates. Auscipub Pty Ltd., Sydney. 942 pp.

Hope, G. and K. Aplin (2005) Environmental change in the Aru Islands. Chapter 2 in O'Connor, S., Spriggs, M. and Veth. P. (eds.) The Archaeology of the Aru islands, eastern Indonesia. Terra Australis 22. Pandanus Press, Canberra, 25-40.

Aplin, K. and Pasveer, J. (2005) Mammals and other vertebrates from late Quaternary archaeological sites on Pulau Kobroor, Aru Islands, eastern Indonesia. Chapter 3 in O'Connor, Veth, P. and Spriggs, M. (eds) Archaeology of the Aru Islands, Terra Australis 22. Pandanus Press, Canberra, 41-62.

O'Connor, S., Aplin, K., Pasveer, J. and Hope, G. (2005) Nabulai Lisa, a Pleistocene cave site in the Aru Islands. Chapter 7 in S. O'Connor, Spriggs, M. and Veth, P. (eds) Archaeology of the Aru Islands, Terra Australis 22. Pandanus Press, Canberra, 125-161.

O'Connor, S., Aplin, K., Szabo, K., Pasveer, J., Veth, P. and Spriggs, M. (2005) Liang Lemdubu, a Pleistocene cave site in the Aru Islands. Chapter 8 in O'Connor, S., Veth, P. and Spriggs, M. (eds) Archaeology of the Aru Islands, Terra Australis 22. Pandanus Press, Canberra, 171-204.

Chinen, A. M., Suzuki, H., Aplin, K. P., Tsuchiya, K. and Suzuki, S. (2005) Preliminary genetic characterization of two lineages of black rats (Rattus rattus sensu lato) in Japan, with evidence for introgression at multiple localities. Genes and Genetic Systems 80: 367-375.

Khamphoukeo, K., Brown, P. R., Douangboupha, B., Aplin, K. P. & Singleton, G. R. (2006). Population dynamics of rodent pest species in upland farming systems of Lao PDR. The Lao Journal of Agriculture and Forestry, Jan-June 2006: 109-121. republished in Kasetsart Journal (Natural Science) 43: 125-131 (2009).

Complete List of Aplin's Publications[pdf]

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