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Rare Australian animals

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Tasmanian Devil

As comical as it is, the familiar Looney Tunes portrayal of a Tasmanian devil as a seething, snarling, insatiable lunatic is, at times, not all that far from the truth.

Tasmanian devils have a notoriously cantankerous disposition and will fly into a maniacal rage when threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending a meal. Early European settlers dubbed it a "devil" after witnessing such displays, which include teeth-baring, lunging, and an array of spine-chilling guttural growls.

These famously feisty mammals have a coat of coarse brown or black fur and a stocky profile that gives them the appearance of a baby bear. Most have a white stripe or patch on their chest and light spots on their sides or rear end. They have long front legs and shorter rear legs, giving them a lumbering, piglike gait.

The Tasmanian devil is the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, reaching 30 inches (76 centimeters) in length and weighing up to 26 pounds (12 kilograms), although its size will vary widely depending on its specific range and the availability of food. Its oversize head houses sharp teeth and strong, muscular jaws that can deliver, pound for pound, one of the most powerful bites of any mammal.

Tasmanian devils are strictly carnivorous, surviving on small prey such as snakes, birds, fish, and insects and frequently feasting communally on carrion. They are at their most rowdy when jockeying for position on a large carcass. Like other marsupials, when they are well fed, their tails swell with stored fat.

Devils are solitary and nocturnal, spending their days alone in hollow logs, caves, or burrows, and emerging at night to feed. They use their long whiskers and excellent sense of smell and sight to avoid predators and locate prey and carrion. They'll eat pretty much anything they can get their teeth on, and when they do find food, they are voracious, consuming everything—including hair, organs, and bones.

Mothers give birth after about three weeks of pregnancy to 20 or 30 very tiny young. These raisin-size babies crawl up the mother's fur and into her pouch. However, the mother has only four nipples, so only a handful of babies survive. Infants emerge after about four months and are generally weaned by the sixth month and on their own by the eighth.

Once abundant throughout Australia Tasmanian devils are now indigenous only to the island state of Tasmania. Their Tasmanian range encompasses the entire island, although they are partial to coastal scrublands and forests. Biologists speculate that their extinction on the mainland is attributable to the introduction of Asian dogs, or dingoes.

Efforts in the late 1800s to eradicate Tasmanian devils, which farmers erroneously believed were killing livestock (although they were known to take poultry), were nearly successful. In 1941, the government made devils a protected species, and their numbers have grown steadily since.

Survival Threatened

Tragically, though, a catastrophic illness discovered in the mid-1990s has killed tens of thousands of Tasmanian devils. Called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), this rapidly spreading condition is a rare contagious cancer that causes large lumps to form around the animal's mouth and head, making it hard for it to eat. The animal eventually starves to death. Animal health experts are sequestering populations where the disease has not yet appeared and are focusing on captive breeding programs to save the species from extinction. Because of the outbreak, the Australian government has listed Tasmanian devils as vulnerable.

As comical as it is, the familiar Looney Tunes portrayal of a Tasmanian devil as a seething, snarling, insatiable lunatic is, at times, not all that far from the truth.

Tasmanian devils have a notoriously cantankerous disposition and will fly into a maniacal rage when threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending a meal. Early European settlers dubbed it a "devil" after witnessing such displays, which include teeth-baring, lunging, and an array of spine-chilling guttural growls.

These famously feisty mammals have a coat of coarse brown or black fur and a stocky profile that gives them the appearance of a baby bear. Most have a white stripe or patch on their chest and light spots on their sides or rear end. They have long front legs and shorter rear legs, giving them a lumbering, piglike gait.

The Tasmanian devil is the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, reaching 30 inches (76 centimeters) in length and weighing up to 26 pounds (12 kilograms), although its size will vary widely depending on its specific range and the availability of food. Its oversize head houses sharp teeth and strong, muscular jaws that can deliver, pound for pound, one of the most powerful bites of any mammal.

Tasmanian devils are strictly carnivorous, surviving on small prey such as snakes, birds, fish, and insects and frequently feasting communally on carrion. They are at their most rowdy when jockeying for position on a large carcass. Like other marsupials, when they are well fed, their tails swell with stored fat.

Devils are solitary and nocturnal, spending their days alone in hollow logs, caves, or burrows, and emerging at night to feed. They use their long whiskers and excellent sense of smell and sight to avoid predators and locate prey and carrion. They'll eat pretty much anything they can get their teeth on, and when they do find food, they are voracious, consuming everything—including hair, organs, and bones.

Mothers give birth after about three weeks of pregnancy to 20 or 30 very tiny young. These raisin-size babies crawl up the mother's fur and into her pouch. However, the mother has only four nipples, so only a handful of babies survive. Infants emerge after about four months and are generally weaned by the sixth month and on their own by the eighth.

Once abundant throughout Australia Tasmanian devils are now indigenous only to the island state of Tasmania. Their Tasmanian range encompasses the entire island, although they are partial to coastal scrublands and forests. Biologists speculate that their extinction on the mainland is attributable to the introduction of Asian dogs, or dingoes.

Efforts in the late 1800s to eradicate Tasmanian devils, which farmers erroneously believed were killing livestock (although they were known to take poultry), were nearly successful. In 1941, the government made devils a protected species, and their numbers have grown steadily since.

Survival Threatened

Tragically, though, a catastrophic illness discovered in the mid-1990s has killed tens of thousands of Tasmanian devils. Called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), this rapidly spreading condition is a rare contagious cancer that causes large lumps to form around the animal's mouth and head, making it hard for it to eat. The animal eventually starves to death. Animal health experts are sequestering populations where the disease has not yet appeared and are focusing on captive breeding programs to save the species from extinction. Because of the outbreak, the Australian government has listed Tasmanian devils as vulnerable.

Rainbow Lorikeet

The Rainbow Lorikeet is unmistakable with its bright red beak and colourful plumage. Both sexes look alike, with a blue (mauve) head and belly, green wings, tail and back, and an orange/yellow breast. They are often seen in loud and fast-moving flocks, or in communal roosts at dusk.

The Rainbow Lorikeet is unmistakable with its bright red beak and colourful plumage. Both sexes look alike, with a blue (mauve) head and belly, green wings, tail and back, and an orange/yellow breast. They are often seen in loud and fast-moving flocks, or in communal roosts at dusk.

Common spotted cuscus

Common spotted cuscus[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Phalangeridae
Genus: Spilocuscus
Species: S. maculatus
Binomial name
Spilocuscus maculatus
(E. Geoffroy, 1803)
Common spotted cuscus range
(brown — native, red — introduced, dark gray — origin uncertain)

The common spotted cuscus (Spilocuscus maculatus) is a cuscus, a marsupial that lives in the Cape York region of Australia, New Guinea, and nearby smaller islands.

Description

The common spotted cuscus is about the size of a large house cat, weighing between 1.5 to 6 kilograms (3.3 to 13 lb), body size approximately 35 to 65 centimetres (14 to 26 in) long, and a tail 32 to 60 centimetres (13 to 24 in) long.[3] It has a round head, small hidden ears, thick fur, and a prehensile tail to aid in climbing. Its eyes range in colour from yellows and oranges to reds, and are slit much like a snake's. All four of its limbs have five digits and strong, curved claws, except the first digit on each foot. The second and third digits of the hind foot are partly syndactylous: they are united by skin at the top joint but divide at the claws. These smaller claws can serve as hair combs when cleaning. The first and second digits of the forefoot are opposable to the other three, helping it grip branches while climbing. The undersides of its paws are bare and striated, which also help it grasp trees and food. The first digit on the hind foot is clawless and opposable.[4]

It has thick, woolly fur of varying colours depending on age, sex, and location. Males are typically grey/white or brown/white with splotchy patterns on their back and a white underbelly. Only males have spots.[3] Females are usually white or grey and unspotted. Some completely white individuals are known in both males and females. As the young grow they go through a series of color changes before reaching sexual maturity at around one year old. Colouration varies from reds, whites, buffs, browns, light greys, and blacks. Unlike some other species of cuscuses or possums, the common spotted cuscus does not have a dorsal stripe on its fur.[5]

The curled, prehensile tail is a distinctive characteristic of the common spotted cuscus. The upper part of the tail closest to the body is covered in fur, while the lower half is covered in rough scales on the inside surface to grip branches.[3]

Behaviour

The common spotted cuscus is typically very shy, so it is rarely seen especially in northern Australia. It is nocturnal, hunting and feeding at night and sleeping during the day on self-made platforms in tree branches. It also has been found resting in tree hollows, under tree roots, or among rocks. It is slow moving and somewhat sluggish, sometimes mistaken for sloths, other possums, or even monkeys. Unlike its close relatives, the common spotted cuscus has been observed feeding during the day on rare occasions.[3]

The common spotted cuscus is typically a solitary creature, feeding and nesting alone. Interactions with others, especially between competing males, can be aggressive and confrontational. Male cuscuses scent mark their territory to warn off other males, emitting a penetrating musk odor both from their bodies and scent gland excretions. They distribute saliva on branches and twigs of trees to inform others of their territory and mediate social interactions. If they encounter another male in their area, they make barking, snarling and hissing noises, and stand upright to defend their territory. They are aggressive, and can scratch, bite and kick potential predators.[6]

Mating

Cuscuses mate year-round and with multiple partners, conducting courtship on tree limbs.[6] The gestation period for a pregnant female is around 13 days, with a pouch period of 6–7 months.[3] While females have four teats in their pouches and can have up to 3 young per birth, they seldom suckle more than two.[6] Each young weighs no more than 1 gram at birth, and is held in the mother's well-developed forward-opening pouch. Cuscuses can live to be 11 years old, and reach sexual maturity around one year old.[3]

Habitat and environment

The common spotted cuscus lives in rainforests, mangroves, hardwood and eucalypt forests below 1,200 metres (3,900 ft); unlike most of its relatives, it is not restricted to rainforest environments.[6] Because it lives in dense wooded habitats, it is not easily seen, especially in Australia.

It is debated whether cuscuses originated in Australia and then migrated to New Guinea, or vice versa.[5] It is believed that over the past million years there have been waves of migration during periods of low sea levels that exposed seabed across the Torres Strait. Currently the common spotted cuscus resides in Cape York, Queensland, in northeastern Australia, as well as New Guinea and nearby smaller islands. It inhabits areas as far west as Sulawesi and as far east as the Solomon Islands.[4]

Diet

The common spotted cuscus has an unspecialised dentition, allowing it to eat a wide variety of plant products.[6] It eats the leaves of ficus, alstonia, slonea plants,nectar, as well as the fruits of ficus, lithocarpus, aglia, and possibly mischocarpus and pometia plants.[7] It is also known to eat flowers, small animals, and occasionally eggs. Predators of the common spotted cuscus include pythons and some birds of prey.

Human interactions

The common spotted cuscus is hunted for its meat and pelt in New Guinea, but has very little economical influence. Despite hunting, it is still common in New Guinea and most islands; however it is rarely spotted in Australia, mostly because it is a very shy creature. It was introduced by humans to Salyer, Mussau, and New Ireland, and has since flourished in these areas.[7] The conservation status of the common spotted cuscus is least concern because of its wide population distribution, ability to flourish in a variety of environments, and lack of dominating predators.[2] However continued human expansion, an increase in demand for cuscus meat and pelts, and destruction of its natural habitat could lead to a demise in the spotted cuscus predominance.

References

1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 48. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
2. ^ a b Leary, T., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Helgen, K., Wright, D., Allison, A., Aplin, K. & Dickman, C. (2008). Spilocuscus maculatus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
3. Grzimek, Bernhard (1990). "Spotted Cuscus". Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. South Orange, NJ: McGraw-Hill Company.
4. ^ a b Paradiso, John L., and Ronald M. Nowak (1983). "Spotted Cuscus". Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.
5. ^ a b Ride, W.D.L. (1970). A Guide to the Native Mammals of Australia. Sydney: Halstead P. p. 72.
6. Macdonald, David, ed., ed. (1984). "Spotted Cuscus". Encyclopaedia of Mammals: 2. London: George Allen and Unwin.
7. ^ a b Flannery, Timothy (1990). Mammals of New Guinea. Carina: Robert Brown and Associates. pp. 130–132.

Common spotted cuscus

Common spotted cuscus[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Phalangeridae
Genus: Spilocuscus
Species: S. maculatus
Binomial name
Spilocuscus maculatus
(E. Geoffroy, 1803)
Common spotted cuscus range
(brown — native, red — introduced, dark gray — origin uncertain)

The common spotted cuscus (Spilocuscus maculatus) is a cuscus, a marsupial that lives in the Cape York region of Australia, New Guinea, and nearby smaller islands.

Description

The common spotted cuscus is about the size of a large house cat, weighing between 1.5 to 6 kilograms (3.3 to 13 lb), body size approximately 35 to 65 centimetres (14 to 26 in) long, and a tail 32 to 60 centimetres (13 to 24 in) long.[3] It has a round head, small hidden ears, thick fur, and a prehensile tail to aid in climbing. Its eyes range in colour from yellows and oranges to reds, and are slit much like a snake's. All four of its limbs have five digits and strong, curved claws, except the first digit on each foot. The second and third digits of the hind foot are partly syndactylous: they are united by skin at the top joint but divide at the claws. These smaller claws can serve as hair combs when cleaning. The first and second digits of the forefoot are opposable to the other three, helping it grip branches while climbing. The undersides of its paws are bare and striated, which also help it grasp trees and food. The first digit on the hind foot is clawless and opposable.[4]

It has thick, woolly fur of varying colours depending on age, sex, and location. Males are typically grey/white or brown/white with splotchy patterns on their back and a white underbelly. Only males have spots.[3] Females are usually white or grey and unspotted. Some completely white individuals are known in both males and females. As the young grow they go through a series of color changes before reaching sexual maturity at around one year old. Colouration varies from reds, whites, buffs, browns, light greys, and blacks. Unlike some other species of cuscuses or possums, the common spotted cuscus does not have a dorsal stripe on its fur.[5]

The curled, prehensile tail is a distinctive characteristic of the common spotted cuscus. The upper part of the tail closest to the body is covered in fur, while the lower half is covered in rough scales on the inside surface to grip branches.[3]

Behaviour

The common spotted cuscus is typically very shy, so it is rarely seen especially in northern Australia. It is nocturnal, hunting and feeding at night and sleeping during the day on self-made platforms in tree branches. It also has been found resting in tree hollows, under tree roots, or among rocks. It is slow moving and somewhat sluggish, sometimes mistaken for sloths, other possums, or even monkeys. Unlike its close relatives, the common spotted cuscus has been observed feeding during the day on rare occasions.[3]

The common spotted cuscus is typically a solitary creature, feeding and nesting alone. Interactions with others, especially between competing males, can be aggressive and confrontational. Male cuscuses scent mark their territory to warn off other males, emitting a penetrating musk odor both from their bodies and scent gland excretions. They distribute saliva on branches and twigs of trees to inform others of their territory and mediate social interactions. If they encounter another male in their area, they make barking, snarling and hissing noises, and stand upright to defend their territory. They are aggressive, and can scratch, bite and kick potential predators.[6]

Mating

Cuscuses mate year-round and with multiple partners, conducting courtship on tree limbs.[6] The gestation period for a pregnant female is around 13 days, with a pouch period of 6–7 months.[3] While females have four teats in their pouches and can have up to 3 young per birth, they seldom suckle more than two.[6] Each young weighs no more than 1 gram at birth, and is held in the mother's well-developed forward-opening pouch. Cuscuses can live to be 11 years old, and reach sexual maturity around one year old.[3]

Habitat and environment

The common spotted cuscus lives in rainforests, mangroves, hardwood and eucalypt forests below 1,200 metres (3,900 ft); unlike most of its relatives, it is not restricted to rainforest environments.[6] Because it lives in dense wooded habitats, it is not easily seen, especially in Australia.

It is debated whether cuscuses originated in Australia and then migrated to New Guinea, or vice versa.[5] It is believed that over the past million years there have been waves of migration during periods of low sea levels that exposed seabed across the Torres Strait. Currently the common spotted cuscus resides in Cape York, Queensland, in northeastern Australia, as well as New Guinea and nearby smaller islands. It inhabits areas as far west as Sulawesi and as far east as the Solomon Islands.[4]

Diet

The common spotted cuscus has an unspecialised dentition, allowing it to eat a wide variety of plant products.[6] It eats the leaves of ficus, alstonia, slonea plants,nectar, as well as the fruits of ficus, lithocarpus, aglia, and possibly mischocarpus and pometia plants.[7] It is also known to eat flowers, small animals, and occasionally eggs. Predators of the common spotted cuscus include pythons and some birds of prey.

Human interactions

The common spotted cuscus is hunted for its meat and pelt in New Guinea, but has very little economical influence. Despite hunting, it is still common in New Guinea and most islands; however it is rarely spotted in Australia, mostly because it is a very shy creature. It was introduced by humans to Salyer, Mussau, and New Ireland, and has since flourished in these areas.[7] The conservation status of the common spotted cuscus is least concern because of its wide population distribution, ability to flourish in a variety of environments, and lack of dominating predators.[2] However continued human expansion, an increase in demand for cuscus meat and pelts, and destruction of its natural habitat could lead to a demise in the spotted cuscus predominance.

References

1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 48. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
2. ^ a b Leary, T., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Helgen, K., Wright, D., Allison, A., Aplin, K. & Dickman, C. (2008). Spilocuscus maculatus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
3. Grzimek, Bernhard (1990). "Spotted Cuscus". Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. South Orange, NJ: McGraw-Hill Company.
4. ^ a b Paradiso, John L., and Ronald M. Nowak (1983). "Spotted Cuscus". Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.
5. ^ a b Ride, W.D.L. (1970). A Guide to the Native Mammals of Australia. Sydney: Halstead P. p. 72.
6. Macdonald, David, ed., ed. (1984). "Spotted Cuscus". Encyclopaedia of Mammals: 2. London: George Allen and Unwin.
7. ^ a b Flannery, Timothy (1990). Mammals of New Guinea. Carina: Robert Brown and Associates. pp. 130–132.

Cuscus

Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Syngnathiformes
Family: Syngnathidae
Subfamily: Syngnathinae
Genus: Phycodurus
T. N. Gill, 1896
Species: P. eques
Binomial name
Phycodurus eques
(Günther, 1865)

The leafy seadragon or Glauert's seadragon,[1] Phycodurus eques, is a marine fish in the family Syngnathidae, which also includes the seahorses. It is the only member of the genus Phycodurus. It is found along the southern and western coasts of Australia. The name is derived from the appearance, with long leaf-like protrusions coming from all over the body. These protrusions are not used for propulsion; they serve only as camouflage. The leafy seadragon propels itself by means of a pectoral fin on the ridge of its neck and a dorsal fin on its back closer to the tail end. These small fins are almost completely transparent and difficult to see as they undulate minutely to move the creature sedately through the water, completing the illusion of floating seaweed.

Popularly known as "leafies", it is the marine emblem of the state of South Australia and a focus for local marine conservation.[2][3]

Description

Much like the seahorse, the leafy seadragon's name is derived from its resemblance to another creature (in this case, the mythical dragon). While not large, they are slightly larger than most seahorses, growing to about 20–24 cm (8–10 in). They feed on plankton and small crustaceans.

The lobes of skin that grow on the leafy seadragon provide camouflage, giving it the appearance of seaweed. It is able to maintain the illusion when swimming, appearing to move through the water like a piece of floating seaweed. It can also change colour to blend in, but this ability depends on the seadragon's diet, age, location, and stress level.

The creature feeds by sucking up small crustaceans, such as amphipods and mysid shrimp, plankton and larval fish through its long, pipe-like snout.[2]

The leafy seadragon is related to the pipefish and belongs to the family Syngnathidae, along with the seahorse. It differs from the seahorse in appearance, form of locomotion, and its inability to coil or grasp things with its tail. A related species is the weedy seadragon, which is multi-coloured and grows weed-like fins but is smaller than the leafy seadragon. Another unique feature are small,circular gill openings covering tufted gills, very unlike the crescent shaped gill openings and ridged gills of most fish species (Lourie 1999).[this quote needs a citation] Current research at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is investigating the evolutionary relationships of the Syngnathidae[4] and the DNA variation of the two seadragon species across their ranges.[5]

Reproduction

As with seahorses, the male leafy seadragon cares for the eggs. The female produces up to 250 bright pink eggs, then deposits them on to the male's tail via a long tube. The eggs then attach themselves to a brood patch, which supplies them with oxygen. It takes a total of nine weeks for the eggs to begin to hatch, depending on water conditions. The eggs turn a ripe purple or orange over this period, after which the male pumps its tail until the infants emerge, a process which takes place over 24–48 hours. The male aids in the babies hatching by shaking his tail, and rubbing it against seaweed and rocks. Once born, the infant seadragon is completely independent, eating small zooplankton until large enough to hunt mysids. Only about 5% of the eggs survive. Leafy seadragons take about 28 months to reach sexual maturity.[6]

Movement

The leafy seadragon uses the fins along the side of its head to allow it to steer and turn. However, its outer skin is fairly rigid, limiting mobility. Individual leafy seadragons have been observed remaining in one location for extended periods of time (up to 68 hours) but will sometimes move for lengthy periods. The tracking of one individual indicated it moved at up to 150 metres (490 feet) per hour.[7]

Threats

Leafy seadragons are subject to many threats, both natural and man-made. They are caught by collectors, and used in alternative medicine. They are vulnerable when first born, and are slow swimmers, reducing their chance of escaping from a predator. Seadragons are often washed ashore after storms, as unlike their relative the seahorse, seadragons cannot curl their tail and hold onto seagrass to stay safe.[8]

They have become endangered through pollution and industrial runoff as well as collection by fascinated divers who are entranced by their unique appearance. In response to these dangers they have been officially protected by the Australian Government.[citation needed]

Habitat

The leafy seadragon is found only in southern Australian waters, from Kangaroo Island at the eastern end of its range, westward to Jurien Bay,[9] 220 km (140 mi) north of Perth. It was once thought that individuals had very restricted ranges; however, further research has discovered that seadragons will actually travel several hundred metres from their habitual locations, returning to the same spot using a strong sense of direction. They are mostly found over sand patches in waters up to 50 metres (164 feet) deep, around kelp-covered rocks and clumps of sea grass.[2] They are commonly sighted by scuba divers near Adelaide, especially at Rapid Bay and Edithburgh.[10]

In captivity

Due to being protected by law, obtaining seadragons is often an expensive and difficult process as they must be from captive bred stock, and exporters must prove their broodstock were caught before collecting restrictions went into effect, or that they had a license to collect seadragons. Seadragons have a specific level of protection under federal fisheries legislation as well as in most Australian states where they occur.[1] Seadragons are difficult to maintain in aquaria. Success in keeping them has been largely confined to the public aquarium sector, due to funding and knowledge that would not be available to the average enthusiast. Attempts to breed the leafy seadragon in captivity have so far been unsuccessful.[11]

Australia

Australian aquaria featuring leafy seadragons include the Sydney Aquarium,[12] the Melbourne Aquarium, and the Aquarium of Western Australia.[13]

United States

A number of aquaria in the United States have leafy seadragon research programs or displays. Among them are the Aquarium of the Pacific at Long Beach,[14] the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, San Diego,[15] and the Monterey Bay Aquarium;[16] in California; the Dallas World Aquarium, Texas;[17] the New England Aquarium, Boston;[18] the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma WA;[19] the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago;[20], the California Academy of Sciences;[21], and the Tennessee Aquarium.[22]

Cultural references

The leafy seadragon is the official marine emblem of the state of South Australia.[23] It also features in the logo of the Marine Life Society of South Australia Inc.[24]

A biennial Leafy Sea Dragon Festival is held by the District Council of Yankalilla, South Australia. It is a festival of the environment, arts and culture of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, with the theme of celebrating the leafy seadragon. The inaugural festival in 2005 attracted over 7,000 participants and visitors.[25]

In 2006 an animated short film, The amazing adventures of Gavin, a Leafy Seadragon, was made on behalf of several South Australian organisations involved in conserving the marine environment, including the Coast Protection Board, the Department of Environment and Heritage and the Marine Discovery Centre.[26][27][28] Made through a collaboration of The People's Republic of Animation, Waterline Productions and the SA Film Corporation,[29] the film is an introductory guide to marine conservation and the marine bioregions of South Australia suitable for 8-12 year olds,[30] and copies were distributed on DVD to all primary schools in the State. An educator's resource kit to accompany the film was released in 2008.[31][32]

References

1. ^ a b IUCN Red List of Threatened Species > Phycodurus eques Accessed 6 April 2012.
2. ^ a b c Yankalilla Visitor Information Centre > The Leafy Sea Dragon Retrieved 17 August 2011.
3. ^ National Geographic > Animals > Leafy and Weedy Sea Dragon Retrieved 9 December 2011.
4. ^ Wilson, N. G. & Rouse, G. W. (2010): Convergent camouflage and the non-monophyly of ‘seadragons’ (Syngnathidae: Teleostei): suggestions for a revised taxonomy of syngnathids. Zoologica Scripta, 39, 551–558. Accessed 9 December 2011.
5. ^ Scripps > Marine Invertebrates Phylogenetics Lab > Seadragon Phylogeography Accessed 9 December 2011.
6. ^ "Life History of the Weedy Sea Dragon". Research. Sydney Institute of Marine Science. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
7. ^ "Patterns of movement and habitat use by leafy seadragons tracked ultrasonically.". Journal of Fish Biology (Oxford: Blackwell) (61): 684–695.. 2002.
8. ^ Zoo and Aquarium Association Inc Retrieved 8 August 2008.
9. ^ Morrison, Sue; Storrie, Ann (1999). Wonders of Western Waters. Como, Western Australia: Department of Conservation and Land Management. pp. 112. ISBN 0-7309-6894-4.
10. ^ Underwater Photography Guide Website
11. ^ Paula Branshaw-Carlson (2011): Seadragon husbandry in the new millennium: Lessons learned from the past will create a sustainable future. The Husbandry, Management and Conservation of Syngnathids 5th International Zoo and Aquarium Symposium, Chicago, 1–4 November 2011. Accessed 6 April 2012.
12. ^ Sydney Aquarium > Southern Oceans > Leafy Sea Dragon Accessed 6 April 2012.<
13. ^ Aquarium of Western Australia Retrieved 8 August 2011.
14. ^ Aquarium of the Pacific > Online Learning Center > Leafy Seadragon Accessed 6 April 2012.
15. ^ Birch Aquarium > There's something about seahorses Accessed 6 April 2012.
16. ^ Monterey Bay Aquarium > Leafy sea dragon Retrieved 6 September 2011.
17. ^ Dallas World Aquarium > Exhibits > Southern Australia Accessed 6 April 2012.
18. ^ New England Aquarium > Animals and Exhibits > Leafy Seadragon Accessed 6 April 2012.
19. ^ Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium > Aquariums Accessed 6 April 2012.
20. ^ Shedd Aquarium Rides Herd On Seahorse Conservation Accessed 6 April 2012.
21. ^ Live from the California Academy of Sciences > Summer 2008 Accessed 8 January 2013.
22. ^ Tennessee Aquarium > Leafy Seadragon Accessed 6 April 2012.
23. ^ Leafy Seadragon Government of South Australia - Insignia and Emblems. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
24. ^ Marine Life Society of South Australia Retrieved 8 August 2011.
25. ^ "Leafy Sea Dragon Festival". Community events. District council of Yankalilla. 29 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
26. ^ Marine Discovery Centre > Newsletter 3-06 Retrieved 17 August 2011.
27. ^ Department of Premier and Cabinet > Press release 13/6/2006: State's Marine emblem stars in new film Retrieved 17 August 2011.
28. ^ National Library of Australia > Trove > The amazing adventures of Gavin a leafy seadragon Retrieved 17 August 2011.
29. ^ SA Film Corporation > The amazing adventures of Gavin, a Leafy Seadragon Retrieved 17 August 2011.
30. ^ Reef Watch > Newsletter 9.2 - June 2006 Retrieved 17 August 2011.
31. ^ Marine Discovery Centre > Newsletter 3-08 Retrieved 17 August 2011.
32. ^ Department of Premier and Cabinet > Press release 24/8/2008: Gavin goes to school Retrieved 17 August 2011.

Australia

International

Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Syngnathiformes
Family: Syngnathidae
Subfamily: Syngnathinae
Genus: Phycodurus
T. N. Gill, 1896
Species: P. eques
Binomial name
Phycodurus eques
(Günther, 1865)

The leafy seadragon or Glauert's seadragon,[1] Phycodurus eques, is a marine fish in the family Syngnathidae, which also includes the seahorses. It is the only member of the genus Phycodurus. It is found along the southern and western coasts of Australia. The name is derived from the appearance, with long leaf-like protrusions coming from all over the body. These protrusions are not used for propulsion; they serve only as camouflage. The leafy seadragon propels itself by means of a pectoral fin on the ridge of its neck and a dorsal fin on its back closer to the tail end. These small fins are almost completely transparent and difficult to see as they undulate minutely to move the creature sedately through the water, completing the illusion of floating seaweed.

Popularly known as "leafies", it is the marine emblem of the state of South Australia and a focus for local marine conservation.[2][3]

Description

Much like the seahorse, the leafy seadragon's name is derived from its resemblance to another creature (in this case, the mythical dragon). While not large, they are slightly larger than most seahorses, growing to about 20–24 cm (8–10 in). They feed on plankton and small crustaceans.

The lobes of skin that grow on the leafy seadragon provide camouflage, giving it the appearance of seaweed. It is able to maintain the illusion when swimming, appearing to move through the water like a piece of floating seaweed. It can also change colour to blend in, but this ability depends on the seadragon's diet, age, location, and stress level.

The creature feeds by sucking up small crustaceans, such as amphipods and mysid shrimp, plankton and larval fish through its long, pipe-like snout.[2]

The leafy seadragon is related to the pipefish and belongs to the family Syngnathidae, along with the seahorse. It differs from the seahorse in appearance, form of locomotion, and its inability to coil or grasp things with its tail. A related species is the weedy seadragon, which is multi-coloured and grows weed-like fins but is smaller than the leafy seadragon. Another unique feature are small,circular gill openings covering tufted gills, very unlike the crescent shaped gill openings and ridged gills of most fish species (Lourie 1999).[this quote needs a citation] Current research at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is investigating the evolutionary relationships of the Syngnathidae[4] and the DNA variation of the two seadragon species across their ranges.[5]

Reproduction

As with seahorses, the male leafy seadragon cares for the eggs. The female produces up to 250 bright pink eggs, then deposits them on to the male's tail via a long tube. The eggs then attach themselves to a brood patch, which supplies them with oxygen. It takes a total of nine weeks for the eggs to begin to hatch, depending on water conditions. The eggs turn a ripe purple or orange over this period, after which the male pumps its tail until the infants emerge, a process which takes place over 24–48 hours. The male aids in the babies hatching by shaking his tail, and rubbing it against seaweed and rocks. Once born, the infant seadragon is completely independent, eating small zooplankton until large enough to hunt mysids. Only about 5% of the eggs survive. Leafy seadragons take about 28 months to reach sexual maturity.[6]

Movement

The leafy seadragon uses the fins along the side of its head to allow it to steer and turn. However, its outer skin is fairly rigid, limiting mobility. Individual leafy seadragons have been observed remaining in one location for extended periods of time (up to 68 hours) but will sometimes move for lengthy periods. The tracking of one individual indicated it moved at up to 150 metres (490 feet) per hour.[7]

Threats

Leafy seadragons are subject to many threats, both natural and man-made. They are caught by collectors, and used in alternative medicine. They are vulnerable when first born, and are slow swimmers, reducing their chance of escaping from a predator. Seadragons are often washed ashore after storms, as unlike their relative the seahorse, seadragons cannot curl their tail and hold onto seagrass to stay safe.[8]

They have become endangered through pollution and industrial runoff as well as collection by fascinated divers who are entranced by their unique appearance. In response to these dangers they have been officially protected by the Australian Government.[citation needed]

Habitat

The leafy seadragon is found only in southern Australian waters, from Kangaroo Island at the eastern end of its range, westward to Jurien Bay,[9] 220 km (140 mi) north of Perth. It was once thought that individuals had very restricted ranges; however, further research has discovered that seadragons will actually travel several hundred metres from their habitual locations, returning to the same spot using a strong sense of direction. They are mostly found over sand patches in waters up to 50 metres (164 feet) deep, around kelp-covered rocks and clumps of sea grass.[2] They are commonly sighted by scuba divers near Adelaide, especially at Rapid Bay and Edithburgh.[10]

In captivity

Due to being protected by law, obtaining seadragons is often an expensive and difficult process as they must be from captive bred stock, and exporters must prove their broodstock were caught before collecting restrictions went into effect, or that they had a license to collect seadragons. Seadragons have a specific level of protection under federal fisheries legislation as well as in most Australian states where they occur.[1] Seadragons are difficult to maintain in aquaria. Success in keeping them has been largely confined to the public aquarium sector, due to funding and knowledge that would not be available to the average enthusiast. Attempts to breed the leafy seadragon in captivity have so far been unsuccessful.[11]

Australia

Australian aquaria featuring leafy seadragons include the Sydney Aquarium,[12] the Melbourne Aquarium, and the Aquarium of Western Australia.[13]

United States

A number of aquaria in the United States have leafy seadragon research programs or displays. Among them are the Aquarium of the Pacific at Long Beach,[14] the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, San Diego,[15] and the Monterey Bay Aquarium;[16] in California; the Dallas World Aquarium, Texas;[17] the New England Aquarium, Boston;[18] the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma WA;[19] the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago;[20], the California Academy of Sciences;[21], and the Tennessee Aquarium.[22]

Cultural references

The leafy seadragon is the official marine emblem of the state of South Australia.[23] It also features in the logo of the Marine Life Society of South Australia Inc.[24]

A biennial Leafy Sea Dragon Festival is held by the District Council of Yankalilla, South Australia. It is a festival of the environment, arts and culture of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, with the theme of celebrating the leafy seadragon. The inaugural festival in 2005 attracted over 7,000 participants and visitors.[25]

In 2006 an animated short film, The amazing adventures of Gavin, a Leafy Seadragon, was made on behalf of several South Australian organisations involved in conserving the marine environment, including the Coast Protection Board, the Department of Environment and Heritage and the Marine Discovery Centre.[26][27][28] Made through a collaboration of The People's Republic of Animation, Waterline Productions and the SA Film Corporation,[29] the film is an introductory guide to marine conservation and the marine bioregions of South Australia suitable for 8-12 year olds,[30] and copies were distributed on DVD to all primary schools in the State. An educator's resource kit to accompany the film was released in 2008.[31][32]

References

1. ^ a b IUCN Red List of Threatened Species > Phycodurus eques Accessed 6 April 2012.
2. ^ a b c Yankalilla Visitor Information Centre > The Leafy Sea Dragon Retrieved 17 August 2011.
3. ^ National Geographic > Animals > Leafy and Weedy Sea Dragon Retrieved 9 December 2011.
4. ^ Wilson, N. G. & Rouse, G. W. (2010): Convergent camouflage and the non-monophyly of ‘seadragons’ (Syngnathidae: Teleostei): suggestions for a revised taxonomy of syngnathids. Zoologica Scripta, 39, 551–558. Accessed 9 December 2011.
5. ^ Scripps > Marine Invertebrates Phylogenetics Lab > Seadragon Phylogeography Accessed 9 December 2011.
6. ^ "Life History of the Weedy Sea Dragon". Research. Sydney Institute of Marine Science. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
7. ^ "Patterns of movement and habitat use by leafy seadragons tracked ultrasonically.". Journal of Fish Biology (Oxford: Blackwell) (61): 684–695.. 2002.
8. ^ Zoo and Aquarium Association Inc Retrieved 8 August 2008.
9. ^ Morrison, Sue; Storrie, Ann (1999). Wonders of Western Waters. Como, Western Australia: Department of Conservation and Land Management. pp. 112. ISBN 0-7309-6894-4.
10. ^ Underwater Photography Guide Website
11. ^ Paula Branshaw-Carlson (2011): Seadragon husbandry in the new millennium: Lessons learned from the past will create a sustainable future. The Husbandry, Management and Conservation of Syngnathids 5th International Zoo and Aquarium Symposium, Chicago, 1–4 November 2011. Accessed 6 April 2012.
12. ^ Sydney Aquarium > Southern Oceans > Leafy Sea Dragon Accessed 6 April 2012.<
13. ^ Aquarium of Western Australia Retrieved 8 August 2011.
14. ^ Aquarium of the Pacific > Online Learning Center > Leafy Seadragon Accessed 6 April 2012.
15. ^ Birch Aquarium > There's something about seahorses Accessed 6 April 2012.
16. ^ Monterey Bay Aquarium > Leafy sea dragon Retrieved 6 September 2011.
17. ^ Dallas World Aquarium > Exhibits > Southern Australia Accessed 6 April 2012.
18. ^ New England Aquarium > Animals and Exhibits > Leafy Seadragon Accessed 6 April 2012.
19. ^ Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium > Aquariums Accessed 6 April 2012.
20. ^ Shedd Aquarium Rides Herd On Seahorse Conservation Accessed 6 April 2012.
21. ^ Live from the California Academy of Sciences > Summer 2008 Accessed 8 January 2013.
22. ^ Tennessee Aquarium > Leafy Seadragon Accessed 6 April 2012.
23. ^ Leafy Seadragon Government of South Australia - Insignia and Emblems. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
24. ^ Marine Life Society of South Australia Retrieved 8 August 2011.
25. ^ "Leafy Sea Dragon Festival". Community events. District council of Yankalilla. 29 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
26. ^ Marine Discovery Centre > Newsletter 3-06 Retrieved 17 August 2011.
27. ^ Department of Premier and Cabinet > Press release 13/6/2006: State's Marine emblem stars in new film Retrieved 17 August 2011.
28. ^ National Library of Australia > Trove > The amazing adventures of Gavin a leafy seadragon Retrieved 17 August 2011.
29. ^ SA Film Corporation > The amazing adventures of Gavin, a Leafy Seadragon Retrieved 17 August 2011.
30. ^ Reef Watch > Newsletter 9.2 - June 2006 Retrieved 17 August 2011.
31. ^ Marine Discovery Centre > Newsletter 3-08 Retrieved 17 August 2011.
32. ^ Department of Premier and Cabinet > Press release 24/8/2008: Gavin goes to school Retrieved 17 August 2011.

Australia

International

Quoll

Threatened Species Day fact sheet
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004

Four species of quoll occur in Australia: the northern, spotted-tailed, eastern and western quolls. Once, most parts of Australia were inhabited by at least one of the species.

Captain Cook collected quolls along the east coast in 1770, and recorded "quoll" as their local Aboriginal name. Quolls were often seen by early settlers, who called them "native cat", "native polecat" and "spotted marten", names based on familiar European animals.

Since 1770, all four species have declined dramatically in numbers. This is mainly because of habitat loss or change across Australia, and introduced predators such as foxes and cats.

Quolls are carnivorous marsupials with a pointed snout, a long tail and brown to black fur distinctively spotted with white. They are lively, attractive animals, with bright eyes, a moist pink nose and many sharp teeth.

The largest species, the spotted-tailed quoll, eats birds, reptiles and mammals such as bandicoots, possums, echidnas and rabbits. The smaller quolls eat mainly insects, birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, small mammals and fruit. Quolls also eat carrion (dead animals), and sometimes scavenge around campsites and rubbish bins.

Like most Australian mammals, quolls are mainly active at night. Typically, they spend the day in one of their many dens, although spotted-tailed quolls and northern quolls sometimes forage and bask in the sunshine. Their large home ranges can extend for several kilometres in each direction from a smaller core range, and the range of a male quoll often overlaps those of several females. An interesting feature of their behaviour is the use of shared latrine (toilet) sites in open spaces such as rock ledges, for marking their territory and other social functions.

Male quolls travel widely during the breeding season, with mating occurring during winter. All four species have a gestation period of 21 days. Because they are marsupial mammals, their young are born tiny and undeveloped and must work their way to the pouch, where they attach themselves to a teat to feed. Only the spotted-tailed quoll has a true pouch. In the other species, the young are protected by shallow folds of skin around the teats. As the pups grow, they dangle from the mother's belly; later, she carries them on her back.

Quolls reach sexual maturity at one year. They have a naturally short life span, with smaller quolls living an average of only two years, and the larger spotted-tailed quoll about four to five years. The northern quoll is particularly short-lived.

Some documents are available as PDF files. You will need a PDF reader to view PDF files.

Key

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Threatened Species Day fact sheet
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004

Four species of quoll occur in Australia: the northern, spotted-tailed, eastern and western quolls. Once, most parts of Australia were inhabited by at least one of the species.

Captain Cook collected quolls along the east coast in 1770, and recorded "quoll" as their local Aboriginal name. Quolls were often seen by early settlers, who called them "native cat", "native polecat" and "spotted marten", names based on familiar European animals.

Since 1770, all four species have declined dramatically in numbers. This is mainly because of habitat loss or change across Australia, and introduced predators such as foxes and cats.

Quolls are carnivorous marsupials with a pointed snout, a long tail and brown to black fur distinctively spotted with white. They are lively, attractive animals, with bright eyes, a moist pink nose and many sharp teeth.

The largest species, the spotted-tailed quoll, eats birds, reptiles and mammals such as bandicoots, possums, echidnas and rabbits. The smaller quolls eat mainly insects, birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, small mammals and fruit. Quolls also eat carrion (dead animals), and sometimes scavenge around campsites and rubbish bins.

Like most Australian mammals, quolls are mainly active at night. Typically, they spend the day in one of their many dens, although spotted-tailed quolls and northern quolls sometimes forage and bask in the sunshine. Their large home ranges can extend for several kilometres in each direction from a smaller core range, and the range of a male quoll often overlaps those of several females. An interesting feature of their behaviour is the use of shared latrine (toilet) sites in open spaces such as rock ledges, for marking their territory and other social functions.

Male quolls travel widely during the breeding season, with mating occurring during winter. All four species have a gestation period of 21 days. Because they are marsupial mammals, their young are born tiny and undeveloped and must work their way to the pouch, where they attach themselves to a teat to feed. Only the spotted-tailed quoll has a true pouch. In the other species, the young are protected by shallow folds of skin around the teats. As the pups grow, they dangle from the mother's belly; later, she carries them on her back.

Quolls reach sexual maturity at one year. They have a naturally short life span, with smaller quolls living an average of only two years, and the larger spotted-tailed quoll about four to five years. The northern quoll is particularly short-lived.

Some documents are available as PDF files. You will need a PDF reader to view PDF files.

Key

Opens a pop-up window

Wombat

Wombats[1]
Temporal range: Pleistocene to Recent
Common Wombat, Maria Island, Tasmania
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Suborder: Vombatiformes
Family: Vombatidae
Burnett, 1829
Genera and Species

Wombats are short-legged, muscular quadrupedal marsupials, native to Australia, approximately 1 metre (40 in) in length with a short, stubby tail. They are adaptable in habitat tolerance, and are found in forested, mountainous, and heathland areas of south-eastern Australia, including Tasmania, as well as an isolated patch of about 300 hectares (740 acres) in Epping Forest National Park[2] in central Queensland.

Characteristics

Wombat in Narawntapu National Park, Tasmania

Wombats dig extensive burrow systems with rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws. One distinctive adaptation of wombats is their backwards pouch. The advantage of a backwards-facing pouch is that when digging, the wombat does not gather dirt in its pouch over its young. Although mainly crepuscular and nocturnal, wombats also venture out to feed on cool or overcast days. They are not commonly seen, but leave ample evidence of their passage, treating fences as minor inconveniences to be gone through or under, and leaving distinctive cubic faeces.

Wombats are herbivores; their diet consists mostly of grasses, sedges, herbs, bark and roots. Their incisor teeth somewhat resemble those of the placental rodents (rats, mice, etc.), being adapted for gnawing tough vegetation. Like many other herbivorous mammals, they have a large diastema between the incisors and the cheek teeth, which are relatively simple. The dental formula of wombats is $Upper: 1.0.1.4, lower: 1.0.1.4, total: 24$

Wombats' fur colour can vary from a sandy colour to brown, or from grey to black. All three known extant species of wombats average around a metre in length and weigh between 20 and 35 kg (44 and 77 lb).

Female wombats give birth to a single young in the spring, after a gestation period, which like all marsupials can vary, in the case of the wombat: 20–21 days.[3][4] They have a well-developed pouch, which the young leave after about 6–7 months. Wombats are weaned after 15 months, and are sexually mature at 18 months.[5]

Ecology and behaviour

Dentition, as illustrated in Knight's Sketches in Natural History
Wombat burrow and scat, Narawntapu National Park, Tasmania
Wombat scat, found near Cradle Mountain in Tasmania

Wombats have an extraordinarily slow metabolism, taking around 8 to 14 days to complete digestion, which aids their survival in arid conditions.[5] They generally move slowly.[citation needed] When threatened, however, they can reach up to 40 km/h (25 mph) and maintain that speed for up to 90 seconds.[6] Wombats defend home territories centred on their burrows, and they react aggressively to intruders. The common wombat occupies a range of up to 23 ha (57 acres), while the hairy-nosed species have much smaller ranges, of no more than 4 ha (10 acres).[5]

Dingos and Tasmanian Devils prey on wombats. The wombat's primary defence is its toughened rear hide with most of the posterior made of cartilage. This, combined with its lack of a meaningful tail, makes it difficult for any predator that follows the wombat into its tunnel to bite and injure its target. When attacked, wombats dive into a nearby tunnel, using their rump to block a pursuing attacker.[7] Wombats may allow an intruder to force its head over their back and then use their powerful legs to crush the skull of the predator against the roof of the tunnel, or drive it off with two-legged 'donkey' kicks.

Humans who accidentally find themselves in an affray with a wombat may find it best to scale a tree until the animal calms and leaves. Humans can receive puncture wounds from wombat claws as well as bites. Startled wombats can also charge humans and bowl them over,[8] with the attendant risks of broken bones from the fall. One naturalist, Harry Frauca, once received a bite 2 cm (0.8 in) deep into the flesh of his leg—through a rubber boot, trousers and thick woollen socks (Underhill, 1993). A UK newspaper, The Independent reported that on 6 April 2010 a 59-year-old man from rural Victoria state was mauled by a wombat (thought to have been angered by mange)[9] causing a number of cuts and bite marks requiring hospital treatment. He resorted to killing it with an axe.[10]

Species

There are three living species of wombat,[1] all of which reside only in Australia. They are protected under Australian law.[6]

Discovery and Naming

After the ship Sydney Cove had run aground on Clarke Island in February 1797, the crew of the salvage ship, Francis discovered wombats on the island.[12]A live animal was taken back to Port Jackson.[12] Matthew Flinders travelling on board the Francis on its third and final salvage trip also decided to take a wombat specimen from the island to Port Jackson. Governor John Hunter later sent the animal's corpse to Joseph Banks at the Literary and Philosophical Society[13] to verify it as a new species. The island was named Clarke island after William Clark[14][15]

The name wombat comes from the now nearly extinct Darug language spoken by the Aboriginal Darug people who originally inhabited the Sydney area.[16] It was first recorded in January 1798 when John Price and James Wilson, a white man who had adopted Aboriginal ways, visited the area of what is now Bargo, New South Wales. Price wrote: "We saw several sorts of dung of different animals, one of which Wilson called a Whom-batt, which is an animal about 20 inches high, with short legs and a thick body with a large head, round ears, and very small eyes; is very fat, and has much the appearance of a badger."[17] Wombats were often called badgers by early settlers because of their size and habit. Because of this, localities such as Badger Creek, Victoria, and Badger Corner, Tasmania, were named after the wombat.[18] The spelling went through many variants over the years including "wambat", "whombat", "womat", "wombach" and "womback", possibly reflecting dialectal differences in the Darug language.[16]

Conservation

The northern hairy-nosed wombat is an endangered species.[19] The biggest threats the species faces are its small population size, predation by wild dogs, competition for food because of overgrazing by cattle and sheep, and disease. [19][20]

The only known wild populations of this species exist in two locations in Queensland, the Epping Forrest National Park, and a smaller colony being established by translocating wombats to the Richard Underwood Nature Refuge at Yarran Downs.[19] This second colony is being created through the Xstrata reintroduction project which is being funded by Xstrata, a Swiss global mining company.[18]

The wombat population in the Epping Forrest National Park has been increasing since a predator-proof fence was erected in the park.[19] According to the latest census, taken in 2007, the park is home to 138 of these endangered wombats.[19]

Wombat Day

Since 2005 there has been an unofficial holiday called Wombat Day observed on 22 October, at the beginning of the traditional aboriginal spring planting season.[21]

References

Notes

1. ^ a b Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 43–44. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
2. ^ "Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Australian Government. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
3. ^ Watson, A (1999). "Vombatus ursinus". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
4. ^ Green, E; Myers, P (2006). "Lasiorhinus latifrons". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
5. ^ a b c McIlroy, John (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 876–877. ISBN 0-87196-871-1
6. ^ a b Humble, Gary (1 June 2006). "The Uncommon Wombat". Scribbly Gum. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
7. ^ "Common Wombat". Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Tasmanian Government. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
8. ^ Robinson, Georgina (7 April 2010). "Wombat combat: danger is their middle name". The Examiner. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
9. ^ BBC News (6 April 2010). "Wombat bites Australian bush fire survivor". BBC News Online. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
10. ^ The Independent (7 April 2010). "Australian Man Mauled in Rare Attack". The Independent. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
11. ^
12. ^ a b Wells, R.T. (1989). "Volume 1B Mammalia". In Walton, D.W.. Vombatidae. Richardson, B.J.. AGPS Canberra/Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts - Commonwealth of Australia. p. 4. ISBN 0-644-06056-5. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
13. ^ Simpson, J. (16 January 2009). "The 'wombat' trail - David Nash". Transient Languages & Cultures. The University of Sydney. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
14. ^ Nash, M. "Maritime Archaeology Monograph and Reports Series No.2 - Investigation of a Survivors Camp from the Sydney Cove Shipwreck." Master of Maritime Archaeology Thesis. Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, South Australia. 2004. Accessed 30 December 2009.
15. ^ Moore-Robinson, J. (1911). A Record of Tasmanian nomenclature, with dates and origins. The Mercury Printing Office - Hobart, Tasmania. p. 28. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
16. ^ a b Butler, Susan (2009). The Dinkum Dictionary: The Origins of Australian Words. Text Publishing. p. 266. ISBN 1-921799-10-2.
17. ^ Reed, Alexander Wyclif (1969). Place-names of New South Wales, their origins and meanings. Reed. p. 152.
18. ^ a b "Common Wombat". Lady Wild Life. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
19. "Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat". Queensland Government. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
20. ^ Willis, Paul (2003-03-07). "Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat". ABC Television, Catalyst. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
21. ^ Middleton, Amy (22 October 2009). "The day of the wombat". Australian Geographic. Retrieved 13 August 2010.

• Wombats, Barbara Triggs, Houghton Mifflin Australia Pty, 1990, ISBN 0-86770-114-5. Facts and photographs of wombats for children.
• The Wombat: Common Wombats in Australia, Barbara Triggs, University of New South Wales Press, 1996, ISBN 0-86840-263-X.
• The Secret Life of Wombats, James Woodford, Text Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-877008-43-5.
• How to Attract the Wombat, Will Cuppy with illustrations by Ed Nofziger, David R. Godiine, 2002, ISBN 1-56792-156-6 (Originally published 1949, Rhinehart)
• The Secret World of Wombats, Jackie French with illustrations by Bruce Whatley, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005, ISBN 0-207-20031-9.

Wombat

Wombats[1]
Temporal range: Pleistocene to Recent
Common Wombat, Maria Island, Tasmania
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Suborder: Vombatiformes
Family: Vombatidae
Burnett, 1829
Genera and Species

Wombats are short-legged, muscular quadrupedal marsupials, native to Australia, approximately 1 metre (40 in) in length with a short, stubby tail. They are adaptable in habitat tolerance, and are found in forested, mountainous, and heathland areas of south-eastern Australia, including Tasmania, as well as an isolated patch of about 300 hectares (740 acres) in Epping Forest National Park[2] in central Queensland.

Characteristics

Wombat in Narawntapu National Park, Tasmania

Wombats dig extensive burrow systems with rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws. One distinctive adaptation of wombats is their backwards pouch. The advantage of a backwards-facing pouch is that when digging, the wombat does not gather dirt in its pouch over its young. Although mainly crepuscular and nocturnal, wombats also venture out to feed on cool or overcast days. They are not commonly seen, but leave ample evidence of their passage, treating fences as minor inconveniences to be gone through or under, and leaving distinctive cubic faeces.

Wombats are herbivores; their diet consists mostly of grasses, sedges, herbs, bark and roots. Their incisor teeth somewhat resemble those of the placental rodents (rats, mice, etc.), being adapted for gnawing tough vegetation. Like many other herbivorous mammals, they have a large diastema between the incisors and the cheek teeth, which are relatively simple. The dental formula of wombats is $Upper: 1.0.1.4, lower: 1.0.1.4, total: 24$

Wombats' fur colour can vary from a sandy colour to brown, or from grey to black. All three known extant species of wombats average around a metre in length and weigh between 20 and 35 kg (44 and 77 lb).

Female wombats give birth to a single young in the spring, after a gestation period, which like all marsupials can vary, in the case of the wombat: 20–21 days.[3][4] They have a well-developed pouch, which the young leave after about 6–7 months. Wombats are weaned after 15 months, and are sexually mature at 18 months.[5]

Ecology and behaviour

Dentition, as illustrated in Knight's Sketches in Natural History
Wombat burrow and scat, Narawntapu National Park, Tasmania
Wombat scat, found near Cradle Mountain in Tasmania

Wombats have an extraordinarily slow metabolism, taking around 8 to 14 days to complete digestion, which aids their survival in arid conditions.[5] They generally move slowly.[citation needed] When threatened, however, they can reach up to 40 km/h (25 mph) and maintain that speed for up to 90 seconds.[6] Wombats defend home territories centred on their burrows, and they react aggressively to intruders. The common wombat occupies a range of up to 23 ha (57 acres), while the hairy-nosed species have much smaller ranges, of no more than 4 ha (10 acres).[5]

Dingos and Tasmanian Devils prey on wombats. The wombat's primary defence is its toughened rear hide with most of the posterior made of cartilage. This, combined with its lack of a meaningful tail, makes it difficult for any predator that follows the wombat into its tunnel to bite and injure its target. When attacked, wombats dive into a nearby tunnel, using their rump to block a pursuing attacker.[7] Wombats may allow an intruder to force its head over their back and then use their powerful legs to crush the skull of the predator against the roof of the tunnel, or drive it off with two-legged 'donkey' kicks.

Humans who accidentally find themselves in an affray with a wombat may find it best to scale a tree until the animal calms and leaves. Humans can receive puncture wounds from wombat claws as well as bites. Startled wombats can also charge humans and bowl them over,[8] with the attendant risks of broken bones from the fall. One naturalist, Harry Frauca, once received a bite 2 cm (0.8 in) deep into the flesh of his leg—through a rubber boot, trousers and thick woollen socks (Underhill, 1993). A UK newspaper, The Independent reported that on 6 April 2010 a 59-year-old man from rural Victoria state was mauled by a wombat (thought to have been angered by mange)[9] causing a number of cuts and bite marks requiring hospital treatment. He resorted to killing it with an axe.[10]

Species

There are three living species of wombat,[1] all of which reside only in Australia. They are protected under Australian law.[6]

Discovery and Naming

After the ship Sydney Cove had run aground on Clarke Island in February 1797, the crew of the salvage ship, Francis discovered wombats on the island.[12]A live animal was taken back to Port Jackson.[12] Matthew Flinders travelling on board the Francis on its third and final salvage trip also decided to take a wombat specimen from the island to Port Jackson. Governor John Hunter later sent the animal's corpse to Joseph Banks at the Literary and Philosophical Society[13] to verify it as a new species. The island was named Clarke island after William Clark[14][15]

The name wombat comes from the now nearly extinct Darug language spoken by the Aboriginal Darug people who originally inhabited the Sydney area.[16] It was first recorded in January 1798 when John Price and James Wilson, a white man who had adopted Aboriginal ways, visited the area of what is now Bargo, New South Wales. Price wrote: "We saw several sorts of dung of different animals, one of which Wilson called a Whom-batt, which is an animal about 20 inches high, with short legs and a thick body with a large head, round ears, and very small eyes; is very fat, and has much the appearance of a badger."[17] Wombats were often called badgers by early settlers because of their size and habit. Because of this, localities such as Badger Creek, Victoria, and Badger Corner, Tasmania, were named after the wombat.[18] The spelling went through many variants over the years including "wambat", "whombat", "womat", "wombach" and "womback", possibly reflecting dialectal differences in the Darug language.[16]

Conservation

The northern hairy-nosed wombat is an endangered species.[19] The biggest threats the species faces are its small population size, predation by wild dogs, competition for food because of overgrazing by cattle and sheep, and disease. [19][20]

The only known wild populations of this species exist in two locations in Queensland, the Epping Forrest National Park, and a smaller colony being established by translocating wombats to the Richard Underwood Nature Refuge at Yarran Downs.[19] This second colony is being created through the Xstrata reintroduction project which is being funded by Xstrata, a Swiss global mining company.[18]

The wombat population in the Epping Forrest National Park has been increasing since a predator-proof fence was erected in the park.[19] According to the latest census, taken in 2007, the park is home to 138 of these endangered wombats.[19]

Wombat Day

Since 2005 there has been an unofficial holiday called Wombat Day observed on 22 October, at the beginning of the traditional aboriginal spring planting season.[21]

References

Notes

1. ^ a b Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 43–44. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
2. ^ "Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Australian Government. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
3. ^ Watson, A (1999). "Vombatus ursinus". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
4. ^ Green, E; Myers, P (2006). "Lasiorhinus latifrons". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
5. ^ a b c McIlroy, John (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 876–877. ISBN 0-87196-871-1
6. ^ a b Humble, Gary (1 June 2006). "The Uncommon Wombat". Scribbly Gum. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
7. ^ "Common Wombat". Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Tasmanian Government. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
8. ^ Robinson, Georgina (7 April 2010). "Wombat combat: danger is their middle name". The Examiner. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
9. ^ BBC News (6 April 2010). "Wombat bites Australian bush fire survivor". BBC News Online. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
10. ^ The Independent (7 April 2010). "Australian Man Mauled in Rare Attack". The Independent. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
11. ^
12. ^ a b Wells, R.T. (1989). "Volume 1B Mammalia". In Walton, D.W.. Vombatidae. Richardson, B.J.. AGPS Canberra/Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts - Commonwealth of Australia. p. 4. ISBN 0-644-06056-5. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
13. ^ Simpson, J. (16 January 2009). "The 'wombat' trail - David Nash". Transient Languages & Cultures. The University of Sydney. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
14. ^ Nash, M. "Maritime Archaeology Monograph and Reports Series No.2 - Investigation of a Survivors Camp from the Sydney Cove Shipwreck." Master of Maritime Archaeology Thesis. Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, South Australia. 2004. Accessed 30 December 2009.
15. ^ Moore-Robinson, J. (1911). A Record of Tasmanian nomenclature, with dates and origins. The Mercury Printing Office - Hobart, Tasmania. p. 28. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
16. ^ a b Butler, Susan (2009). The Dinkum Dictionary: The Origins of Australian Words. Text Publishing. p. 266. ISBN 1-921799-10-2.
17. ^ Reed, Alexander Wyclif (1969). Place-names of New South Wales, their origins and meanings. Reed. p. 152.
18. ^ a b "Common Wombat". Lady Wild Life. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
19. "Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat". Queensland Government. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
20. ^ Willis, Paul (2003-03-07). "Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat". ABC Television, Catalyst. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
21. ^ Middleton, Amy (22 October 2009). "The day of the wombat". Australian Geographic. Retrieved 13 August 2010.

• Wombats, Barbara Triggs, Houghton Mifflin Australia Pty, 1990, ISBN 0-86770-114-5. Facts and photographs of wombats for children.
• The Wombat: Common Wombats in Australia, Barbara Triggs, University of New South Wales Press, 1996, ISBN 0-86840-263-X.
• The Secret Life of Wombats, James Woodford, Text Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-877008-43-5.
• How to Attract the Wombat, Will Cuppy with illustrations by Ed Nofziger, David R. Godiine, 2002, ISBN 1-56792-156-6 (Originally published 1949, Rhinehart)
• The Secret World of Wombats, Jackie French with illustrations by Bruce Whatley, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005, ISBN 0-207-20031-9.

Frilled Lizard

Undoubtedly, one of the quirkiest sights in nature is the gangly retreat of an Australian frilled lizard. When this unique creature feels threatened, it rises on its hind legs, opens its yellow-colored mouth, unfurls the colorful, pleated skin flap that encircles its head, and hisses. If an attacker is unintimidated by these antics, the lizard simply turns tail, mouth and frill open, and bolts, legs splaying left and right. It continues its deliberate run without stopping or looking back until it reaches the safety of a tree.

Frilled lizards, or "frillnecks," are members of the dragon family that live in the tropical and warm temperate forests and savanna woodlands of northern Australia. They spend most of their lives in the trees, but descend occasionally to feed on ants and small lizards. Other menu items include spiders, cicadas, termites, and small mammals.

They vary in color and size from region to region. On average, the larger adults reach about 3 feet (0.9 meters) from head to tail and weigh up to 1.1 pounds (0.5 kilograms).

Their main predators are birds of prey, larger lizards, snakes, dingoes and feral cats. They are currently not threatened or protected, but habitat reduction and predation in some areas, particularly by feral cats, is affecting their populations.

Females lay 8 to 23 tiny eggs in an underground nest, and hatchlings emerge fully independent and capable of hunting and utilizing their frill. Their lifespan in the wild is unknown, but specimens in captivity have lived 20 years.

Undoubtedly, one of the quirkiest sights in nature is the gangly retreat of an Australian frilled lizard. When this unique creature feels threatened, it rises on its hind legs, opens its yellow-colored mouth, unfurls the colorful, pleated skin flap that encircles its head, and hisses. If an attacker is unintimidated by these antics, the lizard simply turns tail, mouth and frill open, and bolts, legs splaying left and right. It continues its deliberate run without stopping or looking back until it reaches the safety of a tree.

Frilled lizards, or "frillnecks," are members of the dragon family that live in the tropical and warm temperate forests and savanna woodlands of northern Australia. They spend most of their lives in the trees, but descend occasionally to feed on ants and small lizards. Other menu items include spiders, cicadas, termites, and small mammals.

They vary in color and size from region to region. On average, the larger adults reach about 3 feet (0.9 meters) from head to tail and weigh up to 1.1 pounds (0.5 kilograms).

Their main predators are birds of prey, larger lizards, snakes, dingoes and feral cats. They are currently not threatened or protected, but habitat reduction and predation in some areas, particularly by feral cats, is affecting their populations.

Females lay 8 to 23 tiny eggs in an underground nest, and hatchlings emerge fully independent and capable of hunting and utilizing their frill. Their lifespan in the wild is unknown, but specimens in captivity have lived 20 years.

Numbat

Numbat[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Synapsida
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Dasyuromorphia
Family: Myrmecobiidae
Waterhouse, 1841
Genus: Myrmecobius
Species: M. fasciatus
Binomial name
Myrmecobius fasciatus
Waterhouse, 1836
Subspecies
• M. f. fasciatus
• M. f. rufus (extinct)
Numbat range
(green — native, pink — reintroduced)

The numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), also known as the banded anteater, or walpurti, is a marsupial found in Western Australia. Its diet consists almost exclusively of termites. Once widespread across southern Australia, the range is now restricted to several small colonies and it is listed as an endangered species. The numbat is an emblem of Western Australia and protected by conservation programs.

Classification

The numbat genus Myrmecobius is the sole member of the family Myrmecobiidae, one of the three families that make up the order Dasyuromorphia, the Australian marsupial carnivores.[1]

The species is not closely related to other extant marsupials; the current arrangement in the dasyuromorphia order places its monotypic family with the diverse and carnivorous species of Dasyuridae. A closer affinity with the extinct thylacine, contained in the same order, has been proposed.[citation needed] Genetic studies have shown that the ancestors of the numbat diverged from other marsupials between 32 and 42 million years ago, during the late Eocene.[3]

There are two recognised subspecies. However, one of these, the rusty numbat (M. f. rufus), has been extinct since at least the 1960s, and only the nominate subspecies (M. f. fasciatus) remains alive today. As its name implies, the rusty numbat was said to have a more reddish coat than the surviving subspecies.[4] Only a very small number of fossil specimens are known, the oldest dating back to the Pleistocene, and no fossils belonging to other species from the same family have yet been discovered.[4]

Description

The numbat is a small, colourful creature between 35 and 45 centimetres (14 and 18 in) long, including the tail, with a finely pointed muzzle and a prominent, bushy tail about the same length as its body. Colour varies considerably, from soft grey to reddish-brown, often with an area of brick red on the upper back, and always with a conspicuous black stripe running from the tip of the muzzle through the eyes to the bases of the small, round-tipped ears. There are between four and eleven white stripes across the animal's hindquarters, which gradually become fainter towards the mid-back. The underside is cream or light grey, while the tail is covered with long grey hair flecked with white. Weight varies between 280 and 700 grams (9.9 and 25 oz).[5][4]

Unlike most other marsupials, the numbat is diurnal, largely because of the constraints of having a specialised diet without having the usual physical equipment for it. Most ecosystems with a generous supply of termites have a fairly large creature with a very long, thin, sticky tongue for penetrating termite colonies, and powerful forelimbs with heavy claws.[6] There are five toes on the forefeet, and four on the hindfeet.[4] Like other mammals that eat termites or ants, the numbat has a degenerate jaw with up to 50 very small non-functional teeth, and although it is able to chew,[4] rarely does so, because of the soft nature of its diet. Uniquely among terrestrial mammals, there is an additional cheek tooth between the premolars and molars; it is unclear whether this represents a supernumary molar tooth or a deciduous tooth retained into adult life. As a result, although not all individuals have the same dental formula, in general, it follows the unique pattern: $Upper: 4.1.3.1.4, lower: 3.1.4.1.4$[4]

Like many ant-eating animals, the numbat has an unusually long, narrow, tongue, coated with sticky saliva produced by large submandibular glands. A further adaptation to the diet is the presence of numerous ridges along the soft palate, which apparently help to scrape termites off the tongue so that they can be swallowed. The digestive system is relatively simple, and lacks many of the adaptations found in other entomophagous animals, presumably because termites are easier to digest than ants, having a softer exoskeleton. Numbats are apparently able to gain a considerable amount of water from their diet, since their kidneys lack the usual specialisations for retaining water found in other animals living in their arid environment.[7] Numbats also possess a sternal scent gland, which may be used for marking its territory.[4]

Although the numbat finds termite mounds primarily using scent, it has the highest visual acuity of any marsupial, and, unusually for marsupials, has a high proportion of cone cells in the retina. These are both likely adaptations for its diurnal habits, and vision does appear to be the primary sense used to detect potential predators.[4] Numbats regularly enter a state of torpor, which may last up to fifteen hours a day during the winter months.[8]

Distribution and habitat

Numbats were formerly found across southern Australia from Western Australia across as far as northwestern New South Wales. However, the range has declined significantly since the arrival of Europeans, and the species has survived only in two small patches of land in the Dryandra Woodland and the Perup Nature Reserve, both in Western Australia. In recent years, it has, however, been successfully reintroduced into a few fenced reserves, including some in South Australia (Yookamurra Sanctuary) and New South Wales (Scotia Sanctuary).[2]

Today, numbats are found only in areas of eucalypt forest, but they were once more widespread in other types of semi-arid woodland, Spinifex grassland, and even in terrain dominated by sand dunes.[4]

Ecology and behaviour

Numbats are insectivores and eat an exclusive diet of termites. An adult numbat requires up to 20,000 termites each day. The only marsupial that is fully active by day, the numbat spends most of its time searching for termites. It digs up termites from loose earth with its front claws and captures them with its long sticky tongue. [9] Despite its banded anteater name, although the remains of ants have occasionally been found in numbat dung, these belong to species that themselves prey on termites, and so were presumably eaten accidentally, along with the main food. Known predators on numbats include carpet pythons, introduced red foxes, and various falcons, hawks, and eagles.[4]

Adult numbats are solitary and territorial; an individual male or female establishes a territory of up to 1.5 square kilometres (370 acres)[6] early in life, and defends it from others of the same sex. The animal generally remains within that territory from that time on; male and female territories overlap, and in the breeding season males will venture outside their normal home range to find mates.

While the numbat has relatively powerful claws for its size,[6] it is not strong enough to get at termites inside their concrete-like mound, and so must wait until the termites are active. It uses a well-developed sense of smell to locate the shallow and unfortified underground galleries that termites construct between the nest and their feeding sites; these are usually only a short distance below the surface of the soil, and vulnerable to the numbat's digging claws.

The numbat synchronises its day with termite activity, which is temperature dependent: in winter, it feeds from mid-morning to mid-afternoon; in summer, it rises earlier, takes shelter during the heat of the day, and feeds again in the late afternoon.

At night, the numbat retreats to a nest, which can be in a hollow log or tree, or in a burrow, typically a narrow shaft 1-2 metres long which terminates in a spherical chamber lined with soft plant material: grass, leaves, flowers and shredded bark. The numbat is able to block the opening of its nest, with the thick hide of its rump, to prevent a predator being able to access the burrow.[10] Numbats have relatively few vocalisations, but have been reported to hiss, growl, or make a repetitive 'tut' sound when disturbed.[4]

Reproduction

Numbats breed in February and March, normally producing one litter a year, although they can produce a second if the first is lost.[11] Gestation lasts 15 days, and results in the birth of four young. Unusually among marsupials, female numbats have no pouch, although the four teats are protected by a patch of crimped, golden hair and by the swelling of the surrounding abdomen and thighs during lactation.[4]

The young are 2 centimetres (0.79 in) long at birth, and crawl to the teats, and remain attached until late July or early August, by which time they have grown to 7.5 centimetres (3.0 in). They first develop fur at 3 centimetres (1.2 in), and the adult coat pattern begins to appear once they reach 5.5 centimetres (2.2 in). After weaning, the young are initially left in a nest, or carried about on the mother's back, and they are fully independent by November. Females are sexually mature by the following summer, but males do not reach maturity for another year.[4]

Conservation status

Trap set to monitor the wild population in the Dryandra Woodland

Until European colonisation, the numbat was found across most of the area from the New South Wales and Victorian borders west to the Indian Ocean, and as far north as the southwest corner of the Northern Territory. It was at home in a wide range of woodland and semi-arid habitats. The deliberate release of the European red fox in the 19th century, however, wiped out the entire numbat population in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory, and almost all numbats in Western Australia as well. By the late 1970s, the population was well under 1,000 individuals, concentrated in two small areas not far from Perth, Dryandra and Perup.

The first record of the species described it as beautiful;[12] its appeal saw it selected as the faunal emblem of the state of Western Australia and initiated efforts to conserve it from extinction.[10]

It appears that the reason the two small Western Australia populations were able to survive is that both areas have many hollow logs that may serve as refuge from predators. Being diurnal, the numbat is much more vulnerable to predation than most other marsupials of a similar size: its natural predators include the Little Eagle, Brown Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk and Carpet Python. When the Western Australia government instituted an experimental program of fox baiting at Dryandra (one of the two remaining sites), numbat sightings increased by a factor of 40.

An intensive research and conservation program since 1980 has succeeded in increasing the numbat population substantially, and reintroductions to fox-free areas have begun. Perth Zoo is very closely involved in breeding this native species in captivity for release into the wild. Despite the encouraging degree of success so far, the Numbat remains at considerable risk of extinction and is classified as an endangered species.[2]

Discovery

Richter's Myrmecobius fasciatus, 1845

The numbat first became known to Europeans in 1831. It was discovered by an exploration party who were exploring the Avon Valley under the leadership of Robert Dale. George Fletcher Moore, who was a member of the expedition, recounted the discovery thus:

"Saw a beautiful animal; but, as it escaped into the hollow of a tree, could not ascertain whether it was a species of squirrel, weasel, or wild cat..."

and the following day

"chased another little animal, such as had escaped from us yesterday, into a hollow tree, where we captured it; from the length of its tongue, and other circumstances, we conjecture that it is an ant-eater—its colour yellowish, barred with black and white streaks across the hinder part of the back; its length about twelve inches." [12]

The first classification of specimens was published by George Robert Waterhouse, describing the species in 1836 and the family in 1841. Myrmecobius fasciatus was included in the first part of John Gould's The Mammals of Australia, issued in 1845, with a plate by H. C. Richter illustrating the species.

References

1. ^ a b Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
2. ^ a b c Friend, T. & Burbidge, A. (2008). Myrmecobius fasciatus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 8 October 2008.
3. ^ Bininda-Emonds, O.R.P. (2007). "The delayed rise of present-day mammals". Nature 446: 507–512. doi:10.1038/nature05634. PMID 17392779.
4. Cooper, C.E. (2011). "Myrmecobius fasciatus (Dasyuromorphia: Myrmecobiidae)". Mammalian Species 43 (1): 129–140. doi:10.1644/881.1.
5. ^ Ellis, Eric (2003). "Animal Diversity Web: Myrmecobius fasciatus". Retrieved 2006-09-01.
6. ^ a b c Lee, A.K. (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. p. 844. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
7. ^ Cooper, C.E. & Withers, P.C. (2010). "Gross renal morphology of the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) (Marsupialia : Myrmecobiidae)". Australian Mammalogy 32 (2): 95–97. doi:10.1071/AM10005.
8. ^ Cooper, C.E. & Withers, P.C. (2004). "Patterns of body temperature variation and torpor in the numbat, Myrmecobius fasciatus (Marsupialia: Myrmecobiidae)". Journal of Thermal Biology 29 (6): 277–284. doi:10.1016/j.jtherbio.2004.05.003.
9. ^ http://www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au/en/Animals--Plants/Australia/Australian-Bushwalk/Numbat/
10. ^ a b "What is the fauna emblem of Western Australia?". NatureBase. Western Australia's Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). Retrieved 2009-05-11.
11. ^ Power, V. et al. (2009). "Reproduction of the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus): observations from a captive breeding program". Australian Mammalogy 31 (1): 25–30. doi:10.1071/AM08111.
12. ^ a b Moore, George Fletcher (1884). Diary of ten years. London: M. Walbrook.

Numbat

Numbat[1]
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Synapsida
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Dasyuromorphia
Family: Myrmecobiidae
Waterhouse, 1841
Genus: Myrmecobius
Species: M. fasciatus
Binomial name
Myrmecobius fasciatus
Waterhouse, 1836
Subspecies
• M. f. fasciatus
• M. f. rufus (extinct)
Numbat range
(green — native, pink — reintroduced)

The numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), also known as the banded anteater, or walpurti, is a marsupial found in Western Australia. Its diet consists almost exclusively of termites. Once widespread across southern Australia, the range is now restricted to several small colonies and it is listed as an endangered species. The numbat is an emblem of Western Australia and protected by conservation programs.

Classification

The numbat genus Myrmecobius is the sole member of the family Myrmecobiidae, one of the three families that make up the order Dasyuromorphia, the Australian marsupial carnivores.[1]

The species is not closely related to other extant marsupials; the current arrangement in the dasyuromorphia order places its monotypic family with the diverse and carnivorous species of Dasyuridae. A closer affinity with the extinct thylacine, contained in the same order, has been proposed.[citation needed] Genetic studies have shown that the ancestors of the numbat diverged from other marsupials between 32 and 42 million years ago, during the late Eocene.[3]

There are two recognised subspecies. However, one of these, the rusty numbat (M. f. rufus), has been extinct since at least the 1960s, and only the nominate subspecies (M. f. fasciatus) remains alive today. As its name implies, the rusty numbat was said to have a more reddish coat than the surviving subspecies.[4] Only a very small number of fossil specimens are known, the oldest dating back to the Pleistocene, and no fossils belonging to other species from the same family have yet been discovered.[4]

Description

The numbat is a small, colourful creature between 35 and 45 centimetres (14 and 18 in) long, including the tail, with a finely pointed muzzle and a prominent, bushy tail about the same length as its body. Colour varies considerably, from soft grey to reddish-brown, often with an area of brick red on the upper back, and always with a conspicuous black stripe running from the tip of the muzzle through the eyes to the bases of the small, round-tipped ears. There are between four and eleven white stripes across the animal's hindquarters, which gradually become fainter towards the mid-back. The underside is cream or light grey, while the tail is covered with long grey hair flecked with white. Weight varies between 280 and 700 grams (9.9 and 25 oz).[5][4]

Unlike most other marsupials, the numbat is diurnal, largely because of the constraints of having a specialised diet without having the usual physical equipment for it. Most ecosystems with a generous supply of termites have a fairly large creature with a very long, thin, sticky tongue for penetrating termite colonies, and powerful forelimbs with heavy claws.[6] There are five toes on the forefeet, and four on the hindfeet.[4] Like other mammals that eat termites or ants, the numbat has a degenerate jaw with up to 50 very small non-functional teeth, and although it is able to chew,[4] rarely does so, because of the soft nature of its diet. Uniquely among terrestrial mammals, there is an additional cheek tooth between the premolars and molars; it is unclear whether this represents a supernumary molar tooth or a deciduous tooth retained into adult life. As a result, although not all individuals have the same dental formula, in general, it follows the unique pattern: $Upper: 4.1.3.1.4, lower: 3.1.4.1.4$[4]

Like many ant-eating animals, the numbat has an unusually long, narrow, tongue, coated with sticky saliva produced by large submandibular glands. A further adaptation to the diet is the presence of numerous ridges along the soft palate, which apparently help to scrape termites off the tongue so that they can be swallowed. The digestive system is relatively simple, and lacks many of the adaptations found in other entomophagous animals, presumably because termites are easier to digest than ants, having a softer exoskeleton. Numbats are apparently able to gain a considerable amount of water from their diet, since their kidneys lack the usual specialisations for retaining water found in other animals living in their arid environment.[7] Numbats also possess a sternal scent gland, which may be used for marking its territory.[4]

Although the numbat finds termite mounds primarily using scent, it has the highest visual acuity of any marsupial, and, unusually for marsupials, has a high proportion of cone cells in the retina. These are both likely adaptations for its diurnal habits, and vision does appear to be the primary sense used to detect potential predators.[4] Numbats regularly enter a state of torpor, which may last up to fifteen hours a day during the winter months.[8]

Distribution and habitat

Numbats were formerly found across southern Australia from Western Australia across as far as northwestern New South Wales. However, the range has declined significantly since the arrival of Europeans, and the species has survived only in two small patches of land in the Dryandra Woodland and the Perup Nature Reserve, both in Western Australia. In recent years, it has, however, been successfully reintroduced into a few fenced reserves, including some in South Australia (Yookamurra Sanctuary) and New South Wales (Scotia Sanctuary).[2]

Today, numbats are found only in areas of eucalypt forest, but they were once more widespread in other types of semi-arid woodland, Spinifex grassland, and even in terrain dominated by sand dunes.[4]

Ecology and behaviour

Numbats are insectivores and eat an exclusive diet of termites. An adult numbat requires up to 20,000 termites each day. The only marsupial that is fully active by day, the numbat spends most of its time searching for termites. It digs up termites from loose earth with its front claws and captures them with its long sticky tongue. [9] Despite its banded anteater name, although the remains of ants have occasionally been found in numbat dung, these belong to species that themselves prey on termites, and so were presumably eaten accidentally, along with the main food. Known predators on numbats include carpet pythons, introduced red foxes, and various falcons, hawks, and eagles.[4]

Adult numbats are solitary and territorial; an individual male or female establishes a territory of up to 1.5 square kilometres (370 acres)[6] early in life, and defends it from others of the same sex. The animal generally remains within that territory from that time on; male and female territories overlap, and in the breeding season males will venture outside their normal home range to find mates.

While the numbat has relatively powerful claws for its size,[6] it is not strong enough to get at termites inside their concrete-like mound, and so must wait until the termites are active. It uses a well-developed sense of smell to locate the shallow and unfortified underground galleries that termites construct between the nest and their feeding sites; these are usually only a short distance below the surface of the soil, and vulnerable to the numbat's digging claws.

The numbat synchronises its day with termite activity, which is temperature dependent: in winter, it feeds from mid-morning to mid-afternoon; in summer, it rises earlier, takes shelter during the heat of the day, and feeds again in the late afternoon.

At night, the numbat retreats to a nest, which can be in a hollow log or tree, or in a burrow, typically a narrow shaft 1-2 metres long which terminates in a spherical chamber lined with soft plant material: grass, leaves, flowers and shredded bark. The numbat is able to block the opening of its nest, with the thick hide of its rump, to prevent a predator being able to access the burrow.[10] Numbats have relatively few vocalisations, but have been reported to hiss, growl, or make a repetitive 'tut' sound when disturbed.[4]

Reproduction

Numbats breed in February and March, normally producing one litter a year, although they can produce a second if the first is lost.[11] Gestation lasts 15 days, and results in the birth of four young. Unusually among marsupials, female numbats have no pouch, although the four teats are protected by a patch of crimped, golden hair and by the swelling of the surrounding abdomen and thighs during lactation.[4]

The young are 2 centimetres (0.79 in) long at birth, and crawl to the teats, and remain attached until late July or early August, by which time they have grown to 7.5 centimetres (3.0 in). They first develop fur at 3 centimetres (1.2 in), and the adult coat pattern begins to appear once they reach 5.5 centimetres (2.2 in). After weaning, the young are initially left in a nest, or carried about on the mother's back, and they are fully independent by November. Females are sexually mature by the following summer, but males do not reach maturity for another year.[4]

Conservation status

Trap set to monitor the wild population in the Dryandra Woodland

Until European colonisation, the numbat was found across most of the area from the New South Wales and Victorian borders west to the Indian Ocean, and as far north as the southwest corner of the Northern Territory. It was at home in a wide range of woodland and semi-arid habitats. The deliberate release of the European red fox in the 19th century, however, wiped out the entire numbat population in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory, and almost all numbats in Western Australia as well. By the late 1970s, the population was well under 1,000 individuals, concentrated in two small areas not far from Perth, Dryandra and Perup.

The first record of the species described it as beautiful;[12] its appeal saw it selected as the faunal emblem of the state of Western Australia and initiated efforts to conserve it from extinction.[10]

It appears that the reason the two small Western Australia populations were able to survive is that both areas have many hollow logs that may serve as refuge from predators. Being diurnal, the numbat is much more vulnerable to predation than most other marsupials of a similar size: its natural predators include the Little Eagle, Brown Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk and Carpet Python. When the Western Australia government instituted an experimental program of fox baiting at Dryandra (one of the two remaining sites), numbat sightings increased by a factor of 40.

An intensive research and conservation program since 1980 has succeeded in increasing the numbat population substantially, and reintroductions to fox-free areas have begun. Perth Zoo is very closely involved in breeding this native species in captivity for release into the wild. Despite the encouraging degree of success so far, the Numbat remains at considerable risk of extinction and is classified as an endangered species.[2]

Discovery

Richter's Myrmecobius fasciatus, 1845

The numbat first became known to Europeans in 1831. It was discovered by an exploration party who were exploring the Avon Valley under the leadership of Robert Dale. George Fletcher Moore, who was a member of the expedition, recounted the discovery thus:

"Saw a beautiful animal; but, as it escaped into the hollow of a tree, could not ascertain whether it was a species of squirrel, weasel, or wild cat..."

and the following day

"chased another little animal, such as had escaped from us yesterday, into a hollow tree, where we captured it; from the length of its tongue, and other circumstances, we conjecture that it is an ant-eater—its colour yellowish, barred with black and white streaks across the hinder part of the back; its length about twelve inches." [12]

The first classification of specimens was published by George Robert Waterhouse, describing the species in 1836 and the family in 1841. Myrmecobius fasciatus was included in the first part of John Gould's The Mammals of Australia, issued in 1845, with a plate by H. C. Richter illustrating the species.

References

1. ^ a b Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
2. ^ a b c Friend, T. & Burbidge, A. (2008). Myrmecobius fasciatus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 8 October 2008.
3. ^ Bininda-Emonds, O.R.P. (2007). "The delayed rise of present-day mammals". Nature 446: 507–512. doi:10.1038/nature05634. PMID 17392779.
4. Cooper, C.E. (2011). "Myrmecobius fasciatus (Dasyuromorphia: Myrmecobiidae)". Mammalian Species 43 (1): 129–140. doi:10.1644/881.1.
5. ^ Ellis, Eric (2003). "Animal Diversity Web: Myrmecobius fasciatus". Retrieved 2006-09-01.
6. ^ a b c Lee, A.K. (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. p. 844. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
7. ^ Cooper, C.E. & Withers, P.C. (2010). "Gross renal morphology of the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) (Marsupialia : Myrmecobiidae)". Australian Mammalogy 32 (2): 95–97. doi:10.1071/AM10005.
8. ^ Cooper, C.E. & Withers, P.C. (2004). "Patterns of body temperature variation and torpor in the numbat, Myrmecobius fasciatus (Marsupialia: Myrmecobiidae)". Journal of Thermal Biology 29 (6): 277–284. doi:10.1016/j.jtherbio.2004.05.003.
9. ^ http://www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au/en/Animals--Plants/Australia/Australian-Bushwalk/Numbat/
10. ^ a b "What is the fauna emblem of Western Australia?". NatureBase. Western Australia's Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). Retrieved 2009-05-11.
11. ^ Power, V. et al. (2009). "Reproduction of the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus): observations from a captive breeding program". Australian Mammalogy 31 (1): 25–30. doi:10.1071/AM08111.
12. ^ a b Moore, George Fletcher (1884). Diary of ten years. London: M. Walbrook.

Bandicoot

The Southern Brown Bandicoot is also known by its scientific name, "Isoodon obesulus", which means something like 'fat creature with equal-sized teeth' in Latin, and in Western Australia by its Nyungar name, "Quenda".

Bandicoots are small marsupial mammals that live in parts of Australia. The male is much bigger than the female. Males can weigh up to 1500 grams (About three pounds) but females weigh only about 700 grams. The males measure about 360mm long (about 14 inches) and the females about 300mm. The tail adds another 100 millimetres, but is often shorter due to injury. (These figures change depending on which scientific study you read; bandicoots in different areas can vary in size and weight considerably. The three dead male bandicoots I have found and measured over the years all weighed in within 20 grams of 1500 grams.)

The females usually roam around in a small area, such as a back yard or a small part of the forest. The males have a much larger territory. A male bandicoot may travel around an area as big as seven hectares (about 18 acres) and visit several different females in their own areas.

Some studies tell you that bandicoots are solitary creatures; however it is not unusual to find several at once at a food source such as a back-yard feeding station. Chicken pens and aviaries are favourite foraging sites, and you will often find both bandicoots and brush-tailed possums eating from a bowl of cracked corn or wheat after the chickens have gone to bed.

When two male bandicoots meet, they sometimes fight. This involves standing on the hind legs and clawing at each other's shoulders and backs, often twining around each other and then throwing the opponent over the shoulder in a sort of bandicoot jujitsu. Sometimes these fights are totally silent; at other times the males snort and bark. Quite horrific injuries can result from these fights, but I have not witnessed or discovered any fatalities. The fighting males are single-minded in their determination to win, and humans can approach the scene of the battle very closely, often within a few feet before the combatants are aware of the observers.

Bandicoots are multi-oestrus, meaning they breed at several times during the year, not just in one short season. Female bandicoots have very tiny babies, which are born after only 12 1/2 days' gestation. This is believed to be the shortest gestation period of any mammal. The babies climb into the mother's pouch the same way baby kangaroos do. They drink milk and grow, until they are big enough to come out of the pouch. When they are about three months old they can begin to live by themselves. Female bandicoots can have as many as five babies, but usually only one or two survive.

Bandicoot pouches are open at the back, not at the top like kangaroo pouches. Bandicoots spend most of their time on all four feet. They do a lot of digging. If the pouch opened at the top, it would get full of dirt, which wouldn't be very nice for the baby bandicoots-also the extra cargo would slow down the bandicoot when she was running from a predator.

Bandicoots have three big toes on each front foot and two other tiny toes that haven't developed. There are long curved nails on the toes, which help the bandicoots to dig holes and find food. Two of the four toes on the back foot have joined together to make a double-clawed tool like a comb for cleaning the fur and getting rid of ticks and other parasites.

Southern Brown bandicoots get their name from the colour of their fur. They can easily shake the dirt out of this fur, which is quite coarse on the back and sides. The fur on the belly is light grey and much finer and softer. There are other kinds of bandicoots, including the Golden Bandicoot and the Bilby, but they are very rare.

Bandicoots have very good hearing. Their ears are very soft and flexible, and they can twitch them towards any noise. They have bright, dark eyes, but their eyesight does not seem to be as good as their hearing and smelling senses. If you put a peanut on the ground for a bandicoot, he will find it by smelling for it.

Bandicoots eat many different things. They will eat beetles, worms and grubs, which they dig out of the ground, as well as wild mushrooms and fungus. They will eat cat or dog food if they can find it. Among the favourite treats that humans give them are peanuts and raisins. They are very partial to cooked chicken, and will reduce the carcase of the Sunday roast chicken to almost nothing within a matter of minutes. Bandicoots do not need much water and have been known to go for weeks without drinking.

Bandicoots were in danger of becoming extinct in Western Australia in many areas, because foxes and feral cats hunted them. Since the Department of Environment and Conservation has started programs to get rid of these predators, the bandicoot populations have increased. Bandicoots now live in many suburbs. Their natural enemies are owls, hawks, snakes and large lizards like monitors.

Some books tell you that bandicoots are nocturnal animals that only come out at night. In fact, you can see bandicoots any time of the day. If they know where there is food to be found, they will come for it even at midday.

Bandicoots are very curious. They will nose around anything that interests them. They don't seem recognize potential danger, and will come right up to your feet and sniff your shoes if you stand still for a few minutes. They will accept food from your hand, often sitting up on their haunches and supporting themselves by holding onto your fingers with their front claws while they feed. They are also not very street smart, and get run over on the roads very frequently.

Driving home by a back road recently, I saw a tiny bandicoot, possibly less than two months old, sitting at the side of the road nuzzling something a few centimetres from the edge. This was high noon on a bright and sunny day, once again giving the lie to the statements that bandicoots are nocturnal or crepuscular creatures. I was unable to stop due to traffic, but I drove on with fingers crossed hoping that the tiny beast would not become another road fatality.

Bandicoots make warm nests with grass and leaves and sometimes things they find around, such as yarn and string and bits of paper. They like to be snug and safe under a woodpile or some other place that protects them from the weather. Sometimes they will tunnel into a thick bush and drag leaves and grass into the centre of it for their nests.

Bandicoots are normally silent, but they can and do make a variety of noises when they need to. Baby bandicoots give a high-pitched whistle, rather like a bird, which seems to be how they keep in touch with their mothers. Male bandicoots can make a sort of barking sound when they are feeling aggressive. Bandicoots of both sexes will make a 'whuff-whuff' noise from time to time.

If you live in Australia and would like to know if there are bandicoots in your neighbourhood, put some peanuts under a bush in the garden and check to see if they are still there every day. If they are gone, and if you find little holes in your yard that look as if someone has been digging with a teaspoon and piling up the dirt in one small cone-shaped pile, you probably have a bandicoot living nearby.

BANDICOOT SOUNDS

Bandicoots have at least four distinct vocalisations.

When out in the long grass, they have a high pitched whistle that seems to be a way of keeping track of each other. I first noticed this when Bounce and Pounce were first going out away from the nest and playing in the grass. The noise is very like a bird call, not loud, but high-pitched.

They also make a "Whuff, whuff" noise which seems to indicate irritation. Old Scabby often said it when I patted him. He also said it to other bandicoots who tried to share the food dish.

Related to this noise is an alarm call, a fairly loud 'Chuff,Chuff" noise that is uttered at the same time as a loud whistling squeak. It's rather like a two-part call: "Chuff-Squeak". I heard it clearly when one of the less-tame younger bandicoots ran out of the cat door the other night as I entered the porch.

Finally, there is a loud shriek of fear or pain. When one of the adult females chased off a small bandicoot he gave this cry., and I have since heard it on a number of occasions. I suspect the adult bandicoots nip the youngsters to drive home the message "you're on your own now, I'm not feeding you any longer."

MALE BEHAVIOUR

Male bandicoots fight by sitting up on their haunches and grappling with each other. They wrestle and twine around rather like mating snakes. A strong musk smell and a sort of growling accompanies this behaviour. The loser apparently is banished: at least, we have not seen Old Scabby since the Great Back Porch Fight last September. When they are fighting, males are oblivious to their surroundings; we have on several occasions stood within a few feet of a pair of battling males.

We know you will enjoy the Scoot, Scoot Bandicoot book series for children. Please vist the bandicoot diary pages for entertaining stories of our favourite bandicoot hijinks. You may also want to visit some of our link partners.

The Southern Brown Bandicoot is also known by its scientific name, "Isoodon obesulus", which means something like 'fat creature with equal-sized teeth' in Latin, and in Western Australia by its Nyungar name, "Quenda".

Bandicoots are small marsupial mammals that live in parts of Australia. The male is much bigger than the female. Males can weigh up to 1500 grams (About three pounds) but females weigh only about 700 grams. The males measure about 360mm long (about 14 inches) and the females about 300mm. The tail adds another 100 millimetres, but is often shorter due to injury. (These figures change depending on which scientific study you read; bandicoots in different areas can vary in size and weight considerably. The three dead male bandicoots I have found and measured over the years all weighed in within 20 grams of 1500 grams.)

The females usually roam around in a small area, such as a back yard or a small part of the forest. The males have a much larger territory. A male bandicoot may travel around an area as big as seven hectares (about 18 acres) and visit several different females in their own areas.

Some studies tell you that bandicoots are solitary creatures; however it is not unusual to find several at once at a food source such as a back-yard feeding station. Chicken pens and aviaries are favourite foraging sites, and you will often find both bandicoots and brush-tailed possums eating from a bowl of cracked corn or wheat after the chickens have gone to bed.

When two male bandicoots meet, they sometimes fight. This involves standing on the hind legs and clawing at each other's shoulders and backs, often twining around each other and then throwing the opponent over the shoulder in a sort of bandicoot jujitsu. Sometimes these fights are totally silent; at other times the males snort and bark. Quite horrific injuries can result from these fights, but I have not witnessed or discovered any fatalities. The fighting males are single-minded in their determination to win, and humans can approach the scene of the battle very closely, often within a few feet before the combatants are aware of the observers.

Bandicoots are multi-oestrus, meaning they breed at several times during the year, not just in one short season. Female bandicoots have very tiny babies, which are born after only 12 1/2 days' gestation. This is believed to be the shortest gestation period of any mammal. The babies climb into the mother's pouch the same way baby kangaroos do. They drink milk and grow, until they are big enough to come out of the pouch. When they are about three months old they can begin to live by themselves. Female bandicoots can have as many as five babies, but usually only one or two survive.

Bandicoot pouches are open at the back, not at the top like kangaroo pouches. Bandicoots spend most of their time on all four feet. They do a lot of digging. If the pouch opened at the top, it would get full of dirt, which wouldn't be very nice for the baby bandicoots-also the extra cargo would slow down the bandicoot when she was running from a predator.

Bandicoots have three big toes on each front foot and two other tiny toes that haven't developed. There are long curved nails on the toes, which help the bandicoots to dig holes and find food. Two of the four toes on the back foot have joined together to make a double-clawed tool like a comb for cleaning the fur and getting rid of ticks and other parasites.

Southern Brown bandicoots get their name from the colour of their fur. They can easily shake the dirt out of this fur, which is quite coarse on the back and sides. The fur on the belly is light grey and much finer and softer. There are other kinds of bandicoots, including the Golden Bandicoot and the Bilby, but they are very rare.

Bandicoots have very good hearing. Their ears are very soft and flexible, and they can twitch them towards any noise. They have bright, dark eyes, but their eyesight does not seem to be as good as their hearing and smelling senses. If you put a peanut on the ground for a bandicoot, he will find it by smelling for it.

Bandicoots eat many different things. They will eat beetles, worms and grubs, which they dig out of the ground, as well as wild mushrooms and fungus. They will eat cat or dog food if they can find it. Among the favourite treats that humans give them are peanuts and raisins. They are very partial to cooked chicken, and will reduce the carcase of the Sunday roast chicken to almost nothing within a matter of minutes. Bandicoots do not need much water and have been known to go for weeks without drinking.

Bandicoots were in danger of becoming extinct in Western Australia in many areas, because foxes and feral cats hunted them. Since the Department of Environment and Conservation has started programs to get rid of these predators, the bandicoot populations have increased. Bandicoots now live in many suburbs. Their natural enemies are owls, hawks, snakes and large lizards like monitors.

Some books tell you that bandicoots are nocturnal animals that only come out at night. In fact, you can see bandicoots any time of the day. If they know where there is food to be found, they will come for it even at midday.

Bandicoots are very curious. They will nose around anything that interests them. They don't seem recognize potential danger, and will come right up to your feet and sniff your shoes if you stand still for a few minutes. They will accept food from your hand, often sitting up on their haunches and supporting themselves by holding onto your fingers with their front claws while they feed. They are also not very street smart, and get run over on the roads very frequently.

Driving home by a back road recently, I saw a tiny bandicoot, possibly less than two months old, sitting at the side of the road nuzzling something a few centimetres from the edge. This was high noon on a bright and sunny day, once again giving the lie to the statements that bandicoots are nocturnal or crepuscular creatures. I was unable to stop due to traffic, but I drove on with fingers crossed hoping that the tiny beast would not become another road fatality.

Bandicoots make warm nests with grass and leaves and sometimes things they find around, such as yarn and string and bits of paper. They like to be snug and safe under a woodpile or some other place that protects them from the weather. Sometimes they will tunnel into a thick bush and drag leaves and grass into the centre of it for their nests.

Bandicoots are normally silent, but they can and do make a variety of noises when they need to. Baby bandicoots give a high-pitched whistle, rather like a bird, which seems to be how they keep in touch with their mothers. Male bandicoots can make a sort of barking sound when they are feeling aggressive. Bandicoots of both sexes will make a 'whuff-whuff' noise from time to time.

If you live in Australia and would like to know if there are bandicoots in your neighbourhood, put some peanuts under a bush in the garden and check to see if they are still there every day. If they are gone, and if you find little holes in your yard that look as if someone has been digging with a teaspoon and piling up the dirt in one small cone-shaped pile, you probably have a bandicoot living nearby.

BANDICOOT SOUNDS

Bandicoots have at least four distinct vocalisations.

When out in the long grass, they have a high pitched whistle that seems to be a way of keeping track of each other. I first noticed this when Bounce and Pounce were first going out away from the nest and playing in the grass. The noise is very like a bird call, not loud, but high-pitched.

They also make a "Whuff, whuff" noise which seems to indicate irritation. Old Scabby often said it when I patted him. He also said it to other bandicoots who tried to share the food dish.

Related to this noise is an alarm call, a fairly loud 'Chuff,Chuff" noise that is uttered at the same time as a loud whistling squeak. It's rather like a two-part call: "Chuff-Squeak". I heard it clearly when one of the less-tame younger bandicoots ran out of the cat door the other night as I entered the porch.

Finally, there is a loud shriek of fear or pain. When one of the adult females chased off a small bandicoot he gave this cry., and I have since heard it on a number of occasions. I suspect the adult bandicoots nip the youngsters to drive home the message "you're on your own now, I'm not feeding you any longer."

MALE BEHAVIOUR

Male bandicoots fight by sitting up on their haunches and grappling with each other. They wrestle and twine around rather like mating snakes. A strong musk smell and a sort of growling accompanies this behaviour. The loser apparently is banished: at least, we have not seen Old Scabby since the Great Back Porch Fight last September. When they are fighting, males are oblivious to their surroundings; we have on several occasions stood within a few feet of a pair of battling males.

We know you will enjoy the Scoot, Scoot Bandicoot book series for children. Please vist the bandicoot diary pages for entertaining stories of our favourite bandicoot hijinks. You may also want to visit some of our link partners.

Cassowary

I know, it looks like something that came out of an ostrich-impregnated turkey, but it’s actually very dangerous.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Cassowaries are the world’s most dangerous birds, capable of dealing fatal blows. They are very unpredictable, aggressive creatures, especially if wounded or cornered. The Cassowary lives in the rain forests of Australia and New Guinea and are actually pretty shy animals if undisturbed, but if you get to close and it thinks you’re a threat you could receive a bone-breaking kick or get sliced by its dagger-like sharp claws. During WWII, soldiers stationed in New Guinea were warned to stay away from these birds, but some of them still became victims.

The Cassowary is also one of the most difficult animals to keep in the Zoo because of the frequent injuries suffered by Zoo keepers that look after them. I like a bird that can take care of itself, but, unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to help it very much against human cruelty and it is on the endangered species list, along with so many others…

Source 1, 2

I know, it looks like something that came out of an ostrich-impregnated turkey, but it’s actually very dangerous.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Cassowaries are the world’s most dangerous birds, capable of dealing fatal blows. They are very unpredictable, aggressive creatures, especially if wounded or cornered. The Cassowary lives in the rain forests of Australia and New Guinea and are actually pretty shy animals if undisturbed, but if you get to close and it thinks you’re a threat you could receive a bone-breaking kick or get sliced by its dagger-like sharp claws. During WWII, soldiers stationed in New Guinea were warned to stay away from these birds, but some of them still became victims.

The Cassowary is also one of the most difficult animals to keep in the Zoo because of the frequent injuries suffered by Zoo keepers that look after them. I like a bird that can take care of itself, but, unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to help it very much against human cruelty and it is on the endangered species list, along with so many others…

Source 1, 2

Monotremes

WELCOME TO THE MONOTREMES

 CLASS MAMMALIASUBCLASS PROTOTHERIAORDER MONOTREMATA
WHAT IS A MONOTREME?
 Monotremes are the only group of mammals that lay eggs, i.e. they are oviparous, laying one to three eggs. They have a single posterior opening, the cloaca, for excretion and reproduction. The name monotreme means one-holed. Monotremes resemble other mammals in producing milk to nourish their young, in having three inner ear bones and a single bone in the lower jaw. Monotremes are highly specialized feeders and the adults have no teeth.Like marsupials, monotremes have lower metabolic rates than eutherian mammals but they are still endothermic and can maintain their bodies at a constant temperature regardless of environmental temperatures. They are one of the only two groups of venomous mammals, shrews are the other group.
 Platypus Short-beaked echidna

There are only three species of monotremes in two families: the platypus (family Ornithorhynchidae) and two species of echidna or spiny anteater (family Tachyglossidae). We have specimens of the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) and the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).

Fossil monotremes are scarce. The oldest, estimated to be about 100 million years old, was found in New South Wales, Australia. Finding a fossil monotreme in Argentina suggested that monotremes once occurred across Gondwanaland (Antartica, Australia and South America). Today, monotremes occur only in Australia and New Guinea.

 MAP OF THE WORLD The southern masses (green) represent Gondwanaland

WELCOME TO THE MONOTREMES

 CLASS MAMMALIASUBCLASS PROTOTHERIAORDER MONOTREMATA
WHAT IS A MONOTREME?
 Monotremes are the only group of mammals that lay eggs, i.e. they are oviparous, laying one to three eggs. They have a single posterior opening, the cloaca, for excretion and reproduction. The name monotreme means one-holed. Monotremes resemble other mammals in producing milk to nourish their young, in having three inner ear bones and a single bone in the lower jaw. Monotremes are highly specialized feeders and the adults have no teeth.Like marsupials, monotremes have lower metabolic rates than eutherian mammals but they are still endothermic and can maintain their bodies at a constant temperature regardless of environmental temperatures. They are one of the only two groups of venomous mammals, shrews are the other group.
 Platypus Short-beaked echidna

There are only three species of monotremes in two families: the platypus (family Ornithorhynchidae) and two species of echidna or spiny anteater (family Tachyglossidae). We have specimens of the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) and the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).

Fossil monotremes are scarce. The oldest, estimated to be about 100 million years old, was found in New South Wales, Australia. Finding a fossil monotreme in Argentina suggested that monotremes once occurred across Gondwanaland (Antartica, Australia and South America). Today, monotremes occur only in Australia and New Guinea.

 MAP OF THE WORLD The southern masses (green) represent Gondwanaland

What does it look like?

With its many rows of curved spikes, the thorny devil looks a force to be reckoned with! The lizard’s scientific name, Moloch horridus, was derived from Milton’s poem Paradise Lost. In the poem the Canaanite god Moloch is described as a “horrid king besmeared with blood of human sacrifice”. But the thorny devil’s fearsome appearance belies its true nature. Less than 20 cm long, this slow-moving creature feeds solely on ants.

Attractively dappled with yellow, orange, brown and white markings, the thorny devil can change its colour according to the amount of sunlight and its surroundings. Combined with its unpalatable spines, the lizard’s camouflage provides an effective defence against predators. But scientists are still unsure about the purpose of the large “horns” above each eye and the strange spiked hump behind the lizard’s head. The hump, which looks a bit like a second head, is probably a defence mechanism lowered to distract pecking predators such as birds. The horns may be used to store body fat or water.

Where does it live?

The thorny devil is found throughout the arid regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, south-western Queensland and western South Australia, living in sand, spinifex grasslands and scrub. It is very common throughout the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, especially in the red sands on Peron Peninsula, and at Nanga and on the coastal highway south of Carnarvon. Ideally adapted to its harsh environment, it uses tiny channels between the scales on its belly and legs to collect morning dew and water from damp sand. The water travels up these channels by capillary action to the lizard’s mouth.

How does it breed?

The thorny devil can live for at least twenty years and starts breeding at three years of age. Like other dragon lizards it attracts a mate with elaborate courtship rituals, including leg-waving and head-bobbing! In November and December the female lays a clutch of 3–10 eggs in a chamber burrowed up to 30 cm below the surface. Incubation depends on weather conditions, with warmer temperatures reducing hatching time from 18 weeks to about 13 weeks. Once hatched, the young lizards start eating ants almost immediately. Oblivious to the ants’ bites, they lie on an ant trail or nest and may lick up 1,000 ants in a single meal!

Any threats to its survival?

Like all reptiles thorny devils are ectotherms, deriving their body heat from external sources. They are often seen basking on roads in the early morning or late afternoon – and can be mistaken for twigs. Please keep a lookout for these animals while driving to avoid running them over. Thorny devils are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act, so admire them but leave them in peace.

 Thorny devils have a large spiked hump above their head. The purpose of this structure is uncertain. Scales cover the entire surface of the thorny devil's body.

What does it look like?

With its many rows of curved spikes, the thorny devil looks a force to be reckoned with! The lizard’s scientific name, Moloch horridus, was derived from Milton’s poem Paradise Lost. In the poem the Canaanite god Moloch is described as a “horrid king besmeared with blood of human sacrifice”. But the thorny devil’s fearsome appearance belies its true nature. Less than 20 cm long, this slow-moving creature feeds solely on ants.

Attractively dappled with yellow, orange, brown and white markings, the thorny devil can change its colour according to the amount of sunlight and its surroundings. Combined with its unpalatable spines, the lizard’s camouflage provides an effective defence against predators. But scientists are still unsure about the purpose of the large “horns” above each eye and the strange spiked hump behind the lizard’s head. The hump, which looks a bit like a second head, is probably a defence mechanism lowered to distract pecking predators such as birds. The horns may be used to store body fat or water.

Where does it live?

The thorny devil is found throughout the arid regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, south-western Queensland and western South Australia, living in sand, spinifex grasslands and scrub. It is very common throughout the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, especially in the red sands on Peron Peninsula, and at Nanga and on the coastal highway south of Carnarvon. Ideally adapted to its harsh environment, it uses tiny channels between the scales on its belly and legs to collect morning dew and water from damp sand. The water travels up these channels by capillary action to the lizard’s mouth.

How does it breed?

The thorny devil can live for at least twenty years and starts breeding at three years of age. Like other dragon lizards it attracts a mate with elaborate courtship rituals, including leg-waving and head-bobbing! In November and December the female lays a clutch of 3–10 eggs in a chamber burrowed up to 30 cm below the surface. Incubation depends on weather conditions, with warmer temperatures reducing hatching time from 18 weeks to about 13 weeks. Once hatched, the young lizards start eating ants almost immediately. Oblivious to the ants’ bites, they lie on an ant trail or nest and may lick up 1,000 ants in a single meal!

Any threats to its survival?

Like all reptiles thorny devils are ectotherms, deriving their body heat from external sources. They are often seen basking on roads in the early morning or late afternoon – and can be mistaken for twigs. Please keep a lookout for these animals while driving to avoid running them over. Thorny devils are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act, so admire them but leave them in peace.