American rodent middens have made a more dramatic contribution to understanding past environments and the development of ecological theory than Australian rodent middens. This relates to differences in the natural environment, the landscape histories, the scale and scientific approaches of the researchers. The comparison demonstrates: the power of synoptic perspectives; the value of thorough macrofossil identification in midden analysis and its potential advance in Australia where pollen has dominated analyses, the value of herbaria and reference collections; the potential of environmental databases; the importance of scientific history and 'critical research mass' and; finally, the opportunistic nature of palaeoecological research. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.