Marsupial Cats

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Marsupial Cats

Marsupial cats are native carnivores of Australia, in the family Dasyuridae. Like all marsupials, the young of marsupial cats are born when they are still in an embryonic state, and they migrate to a belly pouch (or marsupium) on the female, where they fix onto a nipple and suckle until they are almost fully grown and independent.

Marsupial cats fill the ecological roles played by weasels, cats, foxes, and other medium-sized placental predators on other continents. They are typically about 3 ft (1 m) long (or less), with a similar length of body and tail. Marsupial cats are predators of small mammals, birds, and reptiles, which are killed by biting with their sharp canine teeth. These animals are intelligent and fierce predators. Most species are nocturnal hunters. Many marsupial cat species have declined greatly in abundance and range because of habitat loss and predation by introduced placental mammals, such as cats and foxes. In fact, most species are now endangered.

The eastern Australian native cat, tiger cat, or quoll (Dasyurus quoll ) is a medium-sized predator, with a grayish-brown or blackish pelage, marked with bright white spots.

The western Australian native cat or western quoll or chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroyi ) only occurs in remnants of its formerly extensive range of open-forest habitats, having been widely extirpated by introduced diseases and predators (especially foxes), hunters, and other factors.

The northern native cat Dasyurus hallucatus of northern Australia and the New Guinean native cat D. albopunctatus of New Guinea have a light-brown, spotted pelage. They occur in rocky areas and open forests.

The tiger cat, or large spotted-tailed native cat (Dasyurus maculatus) is a native predator of dense forests of eastern Australia and Tasmania. This animal can reach a length of about 47 in (120 cm), of which almost one-half is comprised of its tail. Sometimes, individual animals will wreak havoc in situations where prey is confined in a relatively small space, for example, in a chicken coop.

Bill Freedman