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Marsupial Mice and Cats, Tasmanian Devil (Dasyuridae)

Marsupial mice and cats, Tasmanian devil

(Dasyuridae)

Class Mammalia

Order Dasyuormorphia

Family Dasyuridae


Thumbnail description
A large family of quadrupedal, predatory insectivores and carnivores, ranges in size from minute to medium

Size
1.8–25.7 in (46–652 mm); 0.07 oz–28.7 lb (2 g–13 kg)

Number of genera, species
17 genera; 69 species

Habitat
Occupy all terrestrial habitats in Australia and Papua New Guinea

Conservation status
Endangered: 6 species; Vulnerable: 9 species; Lower Risk: 4 species; Data Deficient: 9 species

Distribution
All of Australia, Tasmania, and Papua New Guinea, including close offshore islands

Evolution and systematics

First appearing in the fossil record in the early to middle Miocene, dasyurids were rare (only two species known) until the late Miocene, when they increased steadily in diversity to replace the thylacinids as the largest group of Australian carnivorous marsupials. Dasyurids comprise three extant subfamilies and one extinct subfamily (the earliest form), which was a sister group to the living subfamilies, and are most closely related to the thylacinids. Molecular data indicate that all four radiations of dasyurids took place in the late mid-Miocene, perhaps in response to climatic drying. Most of the species present in the Pleistocene were of living taxa, representatives of which occurred no earlier than the Pliocene. It is suggested that the dasyurids are highly specialized among dasyuromorphians in their morphology rather than primitive. The living fauna currently comprises 69 described species in seventeen genera (fifty-three restricted to Australia and islands, fourteen in New Guinea and islands). The number of species will almost certainly increase with taxonomic revisions, particularly with the recognition of morphologically cryptic but genetically distinct species. There is genetic and morphological differentiation at the subspecific level in some species.

Physical characteristics

Dasyurids are nearly all quadrupedal with long tails, long pointed snouts, four toes on the front feet, and four to five toes on the hind feet. If the fifth toe (inner rear) is present,

it is a clawless hallux. The footpads, which may be placed on the ground when standing or moving slowly, extend to the heel and wrist joints. There are four upper and three lower incisors, two premolars, and four molars, each of which is similar in form and has distinct cusps with both slicing (carnas-sial) and grinding surfaces (less so in highly carnivorous forms such as the Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus laniarius). Across the considerable size range (from the 0.14 oz [4 g] Planigale ingrami, the world's smallest marsupial, to the 28.6 lb [13 kg] devil), body shape is remarkably uniform. Arboreal species tend to have broader hind feet than terrestrial species, and a more prominent, dexterous hallux. One sandy desert species has fine bristles on the footpads. The most extreme variations in morphology include Antechinomys laniger, which has elongated hind legs and a bounding gait, and the heavily built, specialist scavenger, the Tasmanian devil, with massive skull, teeth, and jaw musculature. Coat color is mostly uniform shades of gray, sandy to reddish to dark brown, or black, sometimes with a lighter underbelly. Striking markings are the province of the larger dasyurids, with white spots on quolls and white markings in the devil, although six New Guinean dasyures (three Murexia, one Myoictis, and at least one Phascolosorex) have dark dorsal stripes, and two diurnal species have speckled (speckled dasyure, Neophascogale lorentzii) or grizzled (dibbler, Parantechinus spp.) gray fur, all of which may serve as camouflage. Some desert dasyurids have very sparse fine tail hair, the smaller quolls have soft, fluffy tails, while others are finely tufted at the tip, or sport a highly visible black bushy brush that contrasts with the pale body fur. Tail fur may function as flags in communication. Some species, notably the fattailed pseudantechinus (Pseudantechinus macdonnellensis), the fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata), and the Tasmanian devil, store quantities of fat in their tail when environmental conditions are good, leading to a distinctly parsnip-shaped tail. The pouch is either well developed (though still quite shallow compared with diprotodont marsupials) as well as backwards facing, or it is almost absent (raised lateral ridges of skin) and downward facing. Teat number varies from four to 12 and may vary within species. Male Tasmanian devils have a shallow scrotal pouch.

Distribution

Dasyurids occur in virtually every terrestrial environment at all altitudes in mainland Australia and some offshore islands, mainland New Guinea, and some islands between Australia and New Guinea. In Australia, species diversity of the smaller species is higher in arid regions than in the more mesic coastal and sub-coastal areas of the east, southeast, and extreme southwest, while the converse is true for the larger dasyurids (more than 17 oz [500 g]), quolls, and devils). Species richness of small dasyurids reaches its highest density in the spinifex hummock grasslands of arid central Australia (average 5.3, maximum eight species) and is correlated with structural complexity of the habitat that allows niche separation. Population density, on the other hand, reaches highest levels in coastal forest and heath among the smaller species, and is uniformly low in the arid zone. With the disappearance of the chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii), there are no larger dasyurids in the arid zone. The island of Tasmania supports the largest assemblage of larger dasyurids (three species, historically four) following the historic and prehistoric extinction of three of these species from mainland Australia. Dasyurid distribution within New Guinea is poorly documented.

Habitat

Every type of terrestrial habitat in Australia and New Guinea is occupied by dasyurids. Habitat preferences of individual species are strongly associated with food supply, and with either protection from predators or suitable habitat

structure for hunting. Even the largest species require dense vegetation or crevices as refuge from mammalian and raptorial predators. Tasmanian devils cover many miles (kilometers) in a night's foraging and show a preference for habitats with an open understory or routes through dense vegetation.

Behavior

The majority of dasyurids for which spacing patterns have been studied occupies undefended home ranges that overlap with other individuals of both sexes. The females of two species of quolls maintain a core or major part of their home range exclusive to other females, but overlap with several males. The mechanism of territorial defense is not known. At the other extreme, among very small arid-zone dasyurids, drifting home ranges, transience, and high mobility are common. Very long-distance movements relative to the diminutive size of these animals have been recorded, including movements in excess of 0.6 mi (1 km) in 24 hours in the 1.05 oz (30 g) white-footed dunnart (Sminthopsis leucopus). This strategy is adaptive in environments where insect prey abundance is low and unpredictable.

Feeding ecology and diet

The huge range of body sizes in the Dasyuridae means that diet encompasses a broad range of invertebrate and vertebrate prey sizes. Prey size increases with body size. Dasyurids that are less than 5.2 oz (150 g) in body size are mostly insectivorous, although they may kill and eat small mammals, lizards, and frogs, and eat carrion of larger species if it is available. Carnivory (consumption of vertebrate prey) gradually replaces insectivory as body size increases. At approximately 2.2 lb (1 kg), dasyurids become too large to support themselves primarily on invertebrates, and carnivory takes over as the principal component of the diet. Only the two largest species, the Tasmanian devil and the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), in which adult females and males exceed 4.4 lb (2 kg), are exclusively carnivorous. Tasmanian devils are specialized scavengers as well as being highly effective predators, although all species are likely to eat carrion if it is available. Several species have been recorded eating soft fruit or flowers seasonally, including antechinuses and eastern quolls.

Some species, both large and small, are renowned for their ferocity and take prey up to several times their body size. Prey is killed using generalized crushing bites towards the anterior end. The rear of the skull and the nape are often targeted in small vertebrates, and devils and spotted-tailed quolls go for the throat or chest of macropods.

Reproductive biology

The degree of reproductive synchrony and seasonality in dasyurids is associated with latitude and climatic predictability. Reproductive seasonality is known for approximately half of species with an information bias on a few temperate and

arid zone animals; very little is known of the New Guinean species. Most Australian dasyurids are seasonal breeders, and probably promiscuous. Reproduction is tightly synchronous (three to four weeks) in many temperate species, particularly the semelparous antechinuses and phascogales, but can extend over a number of months in arid zone animals. New Guinean dasyurids from wet tropical forests, for the two species of Murexia and one species of Phascolosorex, breed year-round. Changes in photoperiod seem to be the most important force driving timing of reproduction, which is consistent with aseasonal breeding in the wet tropical forests. In arid areas, rainfall events are important in defining the precise timing of reproduction within the broader seasonal window. This flexibility in arid-zone species enables reproduction to be synchronized with maximal food supply after rain, as breeding in predictably seasonal regions is timed so that young emerge in the late spring food flush.

Conservation status

Fourteen (24%) of the 58 smaller (less than 17.6 oz; 500 g) and two (40%) of the five larger (more than 17.6 oz; 500 g) Australian dasyurids are classified as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Data Deficient (IUCN criteria). This list does not include another five small and two larger species that are Lower Risk/Near Threatened. There is insufficient information available to assess the status of the New Guinean dasyurids.

Among the smaller species, larger (3.5–17.6 oz;100–500 g) body size and restricted habitat associations correlate strongly with endangerment. Habitat loss and fragmentation, altered fire regimes, and predation are the main threatening processes. The larger dasyurids have been more affected by human impacts than the smaller species. This is perhaps a consequence of their lower population densities and greater needs for space. They also are more likely to run into direct conflict with humans over livestock depredations, and are susceptible to non-target poisoning from fox baits and road mortality. The principal factor threatening the smaller quolls has been predation by red foxes, resulting in catastrophic declines and population extinctions across continental Australia everywhere fox populations are abundant. Tasmania has remained dingo- and fox-free until very recently (2000) and has functioned as a refuge for larger dasyurids, supporting healthy populations of three species.

A recovery plan implemented in 1992 for the chuditch (western quoll) has used captive breeding, reintroduction, and translocation of quolls to suitable areas of habitat within its former distributional range, as well as intense ongoing fox control through poison-baiting programs. The success

of this plan saw the recovery of this species from Endangered to Vulnerable in 1996. Chuditch may soon be removed from threatened species lists as well, although it is likely to retain the status of Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent, referring to the requirement in perpetuity for fox control. No recovery plans have yet been adopted for the smaller species.

Significance to humans

Apart from an occasional food source, the smaller species of daysurids seem not to have had great significance for aboriginal peoples. The larger, more distinctive species like quolls, were frequently totemic species and had dreaming histories and individual names that persisted long after they became extinct in a region.

Species Accounts

List of Species

Mulgara
Chuditch
Speckled dasyure
Southern dibbler
Tasmanian devil
Brown antechinus
Brush-tailed phascogale
Kultarr
Pilbara ningaui
Long-tailed dunnart
Long-tailed planigale

Mulgara

Dasycercus cristicauda

subfamily

Dasyurinae

taxonomy

Dasycercus cristicauda (Krefft, 1867), South Australia, Australia, probably Lake Alexandrina. Two subspecies described.

other common names

English: Crest-tailed marsupial mouse.

physical characteristics

Length 4.9–8.7 in (125–220 mm). Light brown above, pale below with crest of long black fur distal two-thirds of short tail; short, rounded ears; stores fat in the base of the tail.

distribution

Inland central and western Australia.

habitat

Found in arid, sandy regions.

behavior

Lives solitarily in burrows it digs in flats between or on lower slopes of sand dunes.

feeding ecology and diet

Generalized insectivore, takes small vertebrates.

reproductive biology

Quite long-lived for a dasyurid. Breed for up to six years and produce up to eight young. Probably promiscuous.

conservation status

Vulnerable. Decline possibly a result of predation by introduced foxes and cats, and changes in fire regimes. Susceptible to decline because of larger body size and restricted habitat.

significance to humans

None known.


Chuditch

Dasyurus geoffroii

subfamily

Dasyurinae

taxonomy

Dasyurus geoffroii (Gould, 1841), Liverpool Plains, New South Wales, Australia.

other common names

English: Western quoll.

physical characteristics

Brown above, light below, with conspicuous white spots on body, and bushy tail black on distal half.

distribution

Formerly western two-thirds of inland Australia. Now restricted to nine localities (including reintroduction sites) in the extreme southwest.

habitat

Open, dry eucalypt forests, woodlands, and shrublands. Formerly deserts.

behavior

Solitary. Females maintain an exclusive core range that overlaps with several males.

feeding ecology and diet

Primarily insects, also birds, mammals, and reptiles. Can kill vertebrate prey larger than body size.

reproductive biology

Up to six young. Longevity in the wild rarely more than three years. Probably promiscuous.

conservation status

Vulnerable. Was Endangered until 1996. Introduced red foxes are the primary cause of decline. Current populations require ongoing fox baiting for their survival.

significance to humans

A nuisance as a predator of poultry.


Speckled dasyure

Neophascogale lorentzi

subfamily

Dasyurinae

taxonomy

Neophascogale lorentzi (Jentink, 1911), Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

other common names

None known.

physical characteristics

Length 6.5–8.7 in (166–220 mm). Silvery speckled gray to reddish coat with long, white-tipped tail; long, pointed snout, small eyes, and very long claws.

distribution

High mountain forests of western New Guinea (over 6,500 ft; 2,000 m).

habitat

Wet montane moss forest.

behavior

Diurnal.

feeding ecology and diet

Large insects, probably small vertebrates.

reproductive biology

Nothing is known, but probably promiscuous.

conservation status

Data Deficient.

significance to humans

None known.


Southern dibbler

Parantechinus apicalis

subfamily

Dasyurinae

taxonomy

Parantechinus apicalis (Gray, 1842), Southwestern Western Australia, Australia.

other common names

English: Freckled antechninus, speckled marsupial mouse.

physical characteristics

Length 5.5–5.7 in (140–145 mm). Coarse brownish gray fur, speckled with white, and pale below; tapered hairy tail; white ring around eye.

distribution

A few locations in extreme southwestern Western Australia and offshore islands.

habitat

Shrubland.

behavior

Nothing is known.

feeding ecology and diet

Large insects, small reptiles.

reproductive biology

Facultatively semelparous; male die-off in some years in island population but not on mainland. Probably promiscuous.

conservation status

Endangered. Restricted habitat associations may play a role.

significance to humans

None known.


Tasmanian devil

Sarcophilus laniarius

subfamily

Dasyurinae

taxonomy

Sarcophilus laniarius (Owen, 1838), Wellington caves (Pleistocene), Australia.

other common names

None known.

physical characteristics

Length 22.4–25.7 in (570–652 mm). Black all over with coarse long fur on medium-length tail; white markings most common on chest as well as on shoulders and rump; robust build with massive head, sloping hindquarters, and very short legs; fat storage in tail.

distribution

The island of Tasmania, Australia.

habitat

Open forests and woodlands.

behavior

Social, but can be solitary; aggregates at carcasses. Promiscuous mating system.

feeding ecology and diet

Predator and specialized scavenger. Medium-sized mammals such as wallabies and possums.

reproductive biology

Lives up to five or six years in the wild. Up to four young from ages two to six. Probably promiscuous.

conservation status

Lower Risk. Common in suitable habitat.

significance to humans

Predates poultry and weak lambs.


Brown antechinus

Antechinus stuartii

subfamily

Dasyurinae

taxonomy

Antechinus stuartii (Macleay, 1841), Manly, New South Wales, Australia. Two subspecies described.

other common names

English: Macleay's marsupial mouse, Stuart's antechinus.

physical characteristics

Length 2.9–5.5 in (74–140 mm). Uniform grayish brown; paler below, with thin, hairy tail almost body length; broad head with pale fur around eye.

distribution

Australian east coast and hinterland from southeast Queensland to southern New South Wales.

habitat

Wet to dry forests with dense ground cover and numerous logs.

behavior

Nocturnal, but may be active during day if food scarce. Terrestrial; partly arboreal if sparse groundcover or larger terrestrial competitor present.

feeding ecology and diet

Small to large insects, beetles, and spiders.

reproductive biology

Tightly synchronized mating season (two weeks). Semelparous with abrupt male die-off immediately after mating season. Probably promiscuous.

conservation status

Lower Risk.

significance to humans

None known.


Brush-tailed phascogale

Phascogale tapoatafa

subfamily

Dasyurinae

taxonomy

Phascogale tapoatafa (F. Meyer, 1793), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

other common names

English: Tuan, common wambenger, black-tailed phascogale.

physical characteristics

Length 5.8–10.3 in (148–261 mm). Uniform grizzled gray above, cream to white below, with large, naked ears, and conspicuous black brush tail with hairs up to 2.1 in (55 mm) long.

distribution

Mesic coastal and hinterland areas of southeastern and southwestern Australia (P. t. tapoatafa). Monsoonal northern Australia (P. t. pirata).

habitat

Dry eucalypt forest and woodlands with open under-story in temperate and tropical Australia.

behavior

One of most arboreal of the dasyurids; very agile hunter aboveground. Nesting and mating in tree hollows.

feeding ecology and diet

Nectar, large insects, spiders, and small vertebrates. Forages by tearing away bark and probing into crevices.

reproductive biology

Semelparous with complete male die-off after a synchronized three-week mating season. Probably promiscuous.

conservation status

Lower Risk (Least Concern: P. t. tapoatafa and Near Threatened: P. t. pirata).

significance to humans

Occasionally takes penned poultry.


Kultarr

Antechinomys laniger

subfamily

Sminthopsinae

taxonomy

Antechinomys laniger (Gould, 1856), interior New South Wales, Australia. Two subspecies described.

other common names

English: Jerboa, marsupial mouse.

physical characteristics

Length 2.8–3.9 in (70–100 mm). Grizzled fawn-gray above, white below, with very large ears, large eyes, and a long tail with black brushed tip; hind-foot greatly elongated with only four toes.

distribution

Broad band across central and southern arid Australia.

habitat

Stony and sandy desert plains and acacia scrubland where small bushes constitute the principal vegetation.

behavior

Bounding gait; terrestrial; shelters beneath tussocks and in cracks in the soil, burrows, and logs. Nocturnal.

feeding ecology and diet

Large insects and spiders.

reproductive biology

Iteroparous (breeds in multiple years) with long breeding season. Pouch a crescent-like fold over anterior part of mammary glands. Six or eight teats. Probably promiscuous.

conservation status

Data Deficient. Uncommon over most of range. Populations appear to fluctuate seasonally. Not directly impacted by humans.

significance to humans

None known.


Pilbara ningaui

Ningaui timealeyi

subfamily

Sminthopsinae

taxonomy

Ningaui timealeyi (Archer, 1975), Western Australia, Australia.

other common names

English: Ealey's ningaui.

physical characteristics

Length 1.8–2.2 in (46–57 mm). Minute predatory dasyruid with grizzled gray, bristly fur, and furred, long tail.

distribution

Restricted distribution on Hamersley Plateau, Western Australia.

habitat

Semi-arid grasslands. Prefers drainage lines where large hummocks of spinifex, scattered shrubs, and mallee trees grow.

behavior

Mostly nocturnal.

feeding ecology and diet

Desert centipedes and cockroaches that may be larger than itself.

reproductive biology

Probably promiscuous. Potentially long breeding season (six months) to allow for annual rains. Pouch a simple furless depression in belly. Semelparous. Four to six young are independent at 0.07 oz (2 g) body weight.

conservation status

Lower Risk. Common. May survive only in moister pockets of habitat in dry seasons, repopulating after rains.

significance to humans

None known.


Long-tailed dunnart

Sminthopsis longicaudata

subfamily

Sminthopsinae

taxonomy

Sminthopsis longicaudata (Spencer, 1909), Western Australia, Australia.

other common names

English: Long-tailed marsupial mouse.

physical characteristics

Length 3.1–3.9 in (80–100 mm). Gray above, white below, white feet; scaly tail with short hairs more than twice length of head and body.

distribution

Arid interior of western and central Australia.

habitat

Rugged scree, boulders, and rocky plateau, sparsely vegetated with shrubs and spinifex hummocks.

behavior

Active and capable climber with striated footpads.

feeding ecology and diet

Small to large insects and spiders.

reproductive biology

Probably promiscuous. Long breeding season, winter to spring.

conservation status

Lower Risk. One of the most rarely recorded dasyurids, but with a broad, undisturbed range. May be locally common.

significance to humans

None known.


Long-tailed planigale

Planigale ingrami

subfamily

Sminthopsinae

taxonomy

Planigale ingrami (Thomas, 1906), Alexandria, Northern Territory, Australia.

other common names

English: Northern planigale.

physical characteristics

Length 2.2–2.6 in (55–65 mm). Smallest of the planigales and the smallest marsupial with very flat head and thin tail longer than head and body.

distribution

Northern Australia.

habitat

Seasonally flooded grasslands and savanna woodlands.

behavior

Forages and rests in crevices in moist, contracting (cracking) soils, under rocks, and in tussocks. Planigales may have evolved the very flat head to occupy the niche of foraging in seasonally flooded cracking soils.

feeding ecology and diet

Rapacious appetite; insects, lizards, and even young mammals almost as large as itself. Larger insects are killed by persistent biting.

reproductive biology

Probably promiscuous. Breeding throughout year but concentrated in late summer. Four to eight young.

conservation status

Lower Risk. Difficult to study on account of minute size. No accurate assessment of populations.

significance to humans

None known.

Common name / Scientific name/Other common names Physical characteristics Habitat and behavior Distribution Diet Conservation status
Dusky antechinus Antechinus swainsonii; English: Dusky marsupial; Spanish: Antechino sombrioPale pinkish fawn through gray to coppery brown. Underparts creamy or white. Short, dense, and rather coarse hair and long-haired tail. Head and body length 3.0–6.9 in (7.5–17.5 cm), tail length 2.6–6.1 in (6.5–15.5 cm). Typical male 1.7–3.2 oz (48–90 g), female 1.1–1.9 oz (31–55 g).Found mostly in dense, moist forest. Monestrous, breeding pattern of three months followed by a synchronized male die-off. One litter produced per year.Southeast Queensland, east New South Wales, east and southeast Victoria, coastal south-east Australia, and Tasmania.Mostly invertebrates the size of small insects to domestic sparrows, but can supplement diet with fruit, such as blackberries.Not threatened
Yellow-footed antechinus Antechinus flavipes Spanish: Antechino de patas amarillasPale pinkish fawn through gray to coppery brown. Underparts creamy or white. Short, dense and rather coarse hair, short, hooked claws. Head and body length 3.0–6.9 in (7.5–17.5 cm), tail length 2.6–6.1 in (6.5–15.5 cm).Found in wide variety of forest and brushland habitat with sufficient cover. Very active, climbs well. Monestrous, three month breeding period, one litter produced per year.Cape York Peninsula (Queensland) to Victoria and southeast South Australia, southwest Western Australia.Mostly invertebrates.Not threatened
Little red kaluta Dasykaluta rosamondae Spanish: Kalutica rojizaRusset to coppery brown, rough fur. Head and body length 3.5–4.3 in (9–11 cm), tail length 2.2–2.8 in (5.5–7 cm), weight 0.7–1.4 oz (20–40 g).Found in spinifex grassland. Mating occurs in September, followed by synchronized male die-off.Pilbara region of north-western Western Australia.Insects and small vertebrates.Not threatened
Northern quoll Dasyurus hallucatus English: Little northern cat; Spanish: Quoll norte'Upperparts predominantly gray or darker brown. Tip and ventral surface of tail are dark brown or black. Head and body length 9.4–13.8 in (24–35 cm), tail length 8.3–12.2 in (21–31 cm).Found in woodland and rocky areas. Monestrous, winter breeders, one litter produced a year. Cats maintained in pairs except when female has young.Australia, in north Northern Territory, north and northeast Queensland, and north Western Australia.Aggressive carnivores. Diet consists of mammals such as large rock rats, common rock rats, and sandstone antechinus, as well as reptiles, worms, ants, termites, grasshoppers, beetles, figs, and other soft fruits.Lower Risk/Near Threatened
Spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus English: Tiger quoll; Spanish: Quoll de cola moteadaUpperparts grayish or dark brown, white spots or blotches on back and sides. Spots usually extend well onto the tail. Head and body length 15.7–29.9 in (40–76 cm), tail length 19.7–22.0 in (50–56 cm).Found in dry forest and open country. Nocturnal hunter. Lengthy courtship. Monestrous, winter breeders, six to eight young produced per year.Australia, in east Queensland, east New South Wales, east and south Victoria, southeast South Australia, and Tasmania. Formerly found in South Australia.Predatory animal, but will also eat vegetable matter. May consume mammals as large as wallabies.Vulnerable
Eastern quoll Dasyurus viverrinus Spanish: Quoll orientalUpperparts mostly grayish, or olive brown to dark rufous brown, underparts paler yellowish or white. Prominent white spots or blotches on back and sides. Head and body length 13.8–17.7 in (35–45 cm), tail length 8.3–11.8 in (21–30 cm).Variety of habitats, including rainforest, heathland, alpine areas, and scrub. Prefers dry grassland, forest mosaics bounded by agricultural land, drier forest, and open country. Shelters in rock piles or hollow logs. Five to six young per litter. Maximum known lifespan is six years, ten months.Probably survives only in Tasmania; formerly South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria.Predatory animal, but will also consume vegetable matter. Insects and rodents also compose diet.Lower Risk/Near Threatened
New Guinean quoll Dasyurus albopunctatus Spanish: Quoll de Nueva GuineaUpperparts grayish or olive brown to dark rufous brown. Coat is coarse with little underfur. Head and body length 9.4–13.8 in (24–35 cm), tail length 8.3–12.2 in (21–31 cm).Found in dense, moist forest in a variety of conditions up to an altitude of 11,480 ft (3,500 m) in New Guinea. Primarily terrestrial, can climb well, nocturnal.New Guinea.High proportion of insects.Vulnerable
Short-furred dasyure Murexia longicaudata French: Phascogalin's de Nouvelle-Guin'e; German: Neuguinea BeutelmäuseDull grayish brown upperparts, white underparts, long, sparsely haired tail, few long hairs at tip. Head and body length 4.1–11.2 in (10.5–28.5 cm) and tail length 5.7–9.4 in (14.5–24 cm).Found in all lowland and midmountain forests of New Guinea, from sea level to 6,230 ft (1,900 m).New Guinea, Aru Islands.Insectivorous and carnivorous.Not threatened
Broad-striped dasyure Murexia rothschildiDark, grayish brown upperparts. Broad, black dorsal stripe is present. Underparts are light brown, fur is short and dense. Head and body length 4.1–11.2 in (10.5–28.5 cm), tail length 5.7–9.4 in (14.5–24 cm).Known from only eight specimens, this species has an altitudinal range of 3,280–6,560 ft (1,000–2,000 m).Southeast New Guinea.Presumed to be insectivorous and carnivorous.Data Deficient
Common name / Scientific name/Other common names Physical characteristics Habitat and behavior Distribution Diet Conservation status
Three-striped dasyure Myoictis melasUpperparts richly variegated chestnut mixed with black and yellow, head is dark rusty red. Most colorful of all marsupials Long tapered tail and slender snout. Head and body length 6.7–9.8 in (17–25 cm), tail length 5.9–9.1 in (15–23 cm).Occurs in most rainforests of the lowland and midmountains of New Guinea. Nocturnal and scansorial in habit.New Guinea; Salawati Island and Aru Islands (Indonesia).Plants and insects, mainly ants and termites.Not threatened
Wongai ningaui Ningaui ridei Spanish: Ningaui vongaiUpperparts dark brown to black, underparts usually yellowish, sides of face salmon to brown. Thin tail. Length known only from two young samples: head and body length 1.9–2.1 in (4.9–5.3 cm), tail length 1.9–2.0 in (4.8–5 cm).Found in dry grassland and savanna, mainly under dry conditions. Nocturnal. Uses dry, raspy sound to communicate.Australia, in Western Australia to New South Wales and Victoria.Insects and small invertebrates.Not threatened
Sandstone dibbler Parantechinus bilarni English: Northern dibblerUpperparts grizzled brown, underparts pale gray, cinnamon patches behind large ears. Head and body length 2.2–3.9 in (5.7–10 cm), tail length 3.2–4.5 in (8.2–11.5 cm), and weight 0.42–1.6 oz (12–44 g). Tail is long and thin.Found in rugged, rocky country covered with eucalyptus forest, perennial grasses. Mating occurs late June to early July, four to five young constitute a litter.Northern Territory, Australia.Mostly insects.Not threatened
Red-tailed phascogale Phascogale calura English: Red-tailed wamberger; Spanish: Fascogale de cola rojaGrayish upper parts, white underparts. Head and body length 3.7–4.8 in (9.3–12.2 cm), tail length 4.7–1.8 in (11.9–4.5 cm), and weight 1.3–2.4 oz (38–68 g). Rear half covered by long, silky, black hairs.Found in heavy, humid forest and more sparsely timbered arid regions. Nests consist of leaves and twigs in the forks or holes of trees, some are built on ground. Nocturnal.Inland southwest Western Australia, formerly in Northern Territory. South Australia, northwest Victoria, southwest New South Wales. Most likely extinct, except in Western Australia wheat belt.Small mammals, birds, lizards, and insects.Endangered
Narrow-striped marsupial shrew Phascolosorex dorsalis Spanish: Murasà marsupial rayadaGrizzled gray-brown coloration with chestnut red underneath. Head and body length 2.6–5.3 in (6.7–13.4 cm), tail length 2.4–4.3 in (6–11 cm). Thin black stripe runs from head to tail.Occur in mountain forests at high altitudes from 3,970 to 10,170 ft (1,210–3,100 m). Nocturnal and scansorial (climbing) in habit.West and east interior of New Guinea.Mainly insects.Not threatened
Pygmy planigale Planigale maculataUpperparts pale tawny olive, darker tawny, or brownish gray; underside olive buff, fuscous, or light tan. Head and body length 2.0–3.9 in (5–10 cm), tail length 1.8–3.5 in (4.5–9 cm), average weight 0.54 oz (15.3 g) for males, 0.38 oz (10.9 g) for females.Can be found in savanna woodland and grassland, and reportedly in rainforests. Shelter consists of rocky areas, clumps of grass, bases of trees, or hollow logs. Nests are saucer-shaped, composed of dry grass. Most nocturnal, primarily terrestrial.East Queensland, north-east New South Wales, and north Northern Territory, Australia.Insects, spiders, and small mammals.Not threatened
Gile's planigale Planigale gilesi Spanish: Planigale de GileUpperparts pale tawny olive, darker tawny, or brownish gray, underparts are olive buff, fuscous, or light tan. Head and body length 2.0–3.9 in (5–10 cm), tail length 1.8–3.5 in (4.5–9 mm), weight 0.18 oz (5 g).Can be found mainly in savanna woodland and grassland. Seemingly nocturnal, but active throughout periods of the day. Avid predator.Northeast South Australia, northwest New South Wales, and southwest Queensland, Australia.Insects, spiders, small lizards, and small mammals.Not threatened
Fat-tailed pseudantechinus Pseudantechinus macdonnellensis Spanish: Pseudantechino de cola anchaUpperparts are grayish brown, chestnut patches behind ears, underparts are grayish white. Head and body length 3.7–4.1 in (9.5–10.5 cm), tail length 3.0–3.3 in (7.5–8.5 cm), and weight 0.71–1.6 oz (20–45 g).Can be found mainly on rocky hills, breakaways and in termite mounds. Predominantly nocturnal. Females produce one litter annually. Mating occurs in winter and spring.North Western Australia, Northern Territory, and central deserts in Australia.Mainly insects.Not threatened
Fat-tailed dunnart Sminthopsis crassicaudata Spanish: Dunart de cola gordaSoft, fine, dense fur, buffy to grayish in color, underparts are white or grayish white. Feet usually white, tail is brownish or grayish. Some species have a median facial stripe. Head and body length 3.3 in (8.3 cm), weight 0.35–0.53 oz (10–15 g).Can be found mainly in dry country, but sometimes in moist areas. Dig burrows or construct nest of grasses and leaves. Mainly terrestrial, but some are agile climbers. Nocturnal.South Australia, south-west Queensland, south-east Northern Territory, south Western Australia, west New South Wales, and west Victoria.Mainly insectivorous, but also eats small vertebrates, such as lizards and mice.Not threatened
Common name / Scientific name/Other common names Physical characteristics Habitat and behavior Distribution Diet Conservation status
Slender-tailed dunnart Sminthopsis murina German: Kleine Schmalfussbeutelmaus; Spanish: Dunart de cola delgadaBack and sides buffy to grayish, underparts white or grayish white. Feet usually white, tail is brownish or grayish. Head and body length 2.8–4.7 in (7–12 cm), and tail length 2.2–5.1 in (5.5–13 cm).Can be found in moist forest or savanna. Terrestrial and nocturnal. Can be up to eight young in a litter.Southwest Western Australia, southeast South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and east Queensland.Mainly insectivorous, but also eats small vertebrates. May also jump high to catch moths.Not threatened
Sandhill dunnart Sminthopsis psammophilaBack and sides buffy to grayish, underparts white or grayish white. Tail accumulates fat when food is scarce. Head and body length 2.8–4.7 in (7–12 cm), tail length 2.2–5.1 in (5.5–13 cm).Can be found in moist forest or savanna, but also arid grassland and desert. Terrestrial and nocturnal.Australia, in southwest Northern Territory (vicinity of Ayer's Rock) and Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.Mainly insectivorous, but small vertebrates also eaten.Endangered
White-footed dunnart Sminthopsis leucopus Spanish: Dunart de patas blancasBack and sides buffy to grayish, underparts white or grayish white. Head and body length 4.4 in (11.2 cm), weight 1.1 oz (30 g).Can be found in moist forest or savanna. Terrestrial and nocturnal.South and southeast Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, and Queensland, Australia.Insects and small vertebrates.Data Deficient

Resources

Books

Archer, M., T. Flannery, S. Hand, and J. Long. (2002). Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea: One Hundred Million Years of Evolution. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002.

Dickman, R. R. "Distributional Ecology of Dasyurid Marsupials." In Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials, edited by M. E. Jones, C. R. Dickman, and M. Archer. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing:2003.

Flannery, T. Mammals of New Guinea. Sydney: Reed Books, 1995.

Geiser, F. "Thermal Biology and Energetics of Carnivorous Marsupials." In Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials, edited by M. E. Jones, C. R. Dickman, and M. Archer. Melbourne: CSIRO Books, 2003.

Krajewski, C., and M. Westerman. "Molecular Systematics of Dasyuromorphia." In Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials, edited by M. E. Jones, C. R. Dickman, and M. Archer. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, 2003.

McAllan, B. "Timing of Reproduction in Carnivorous Marsupials." In Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials, edited by M. E. Jones, C. R. Dickman, and M. Archer. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, 2003.

Morris, K., B. Johnson, P. Orell, A. Wayne, and G. Gaikorst. "Recovery of the Threatened Chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii Gould, 1841: A Case Study." In Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials, edited by M. E. Jones, C.R. Dickman, and M. Archer. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, 2003.

Morton, S. R., C. R. Dickman, and T. P. Fletcher. "Dasyuridae." In Fauna of Australia, edited by D. W. Walton, and B. J. Richardson. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1989.

Strahan, R., ed. The Mammals of Australia. Sydney: Australian Museum, Reed Books, 1995.

Wilson, B. A., C. R. Dickman, and T. P. Fletcher. "Dasyurid Dilemmas: Problems and Solutions for Conserving Australia's Small Carnivorous Marsupials." In Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials, edited by M.E. Jones, C. R. Dickman, and M. Archer. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, 2003.

Wroe, S. "Australian Marsupial Carnivores: An Overview of Recent Advances in Paleontology." In Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials, edited by M. E. Jones, C. R. Dickman, and M. Archer. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, 2003.

Periodicals

Fisher, D. O., C. R. Dickman. (1993). "Body Size-Prey Size Relationships in Insectivorous Marsupials: Tests of Three Hypotheses." Ecology 74 (1993): 1871–1883.

Jones, M. E., and L. A. Barmuta. "Diet Overlap and Abundance of Sympatric Dasyurid Carnivores: A Hypothesis of Competition?" Journal of Animal Ecology 67 (1998): 410–421.

Menna Jones, PhD

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