Physical characteristics

The public perception that "all bandicoots are much the same" is understandable. In appearance, this order has a great deal of uniformity, particularly in Australia, where the species are all roughly rabbit-sized. There is more size variation in New Guinea, where the largest of the Peroryctes is more than

A rabbit-eared bandicoot (Macrotis lagotis) eating in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. (Photo by Animals Animals ©R. J. B. Goodale, OSF. Reproduced by permission.)

three times bigger than the smallest of the Microperoryctes mouse bandicoots.

Bandicoots have thick-set bodies with a short neck and, in most species, a long, pointed snout. The tail is short, except in the greater bilby Macrotis lagotis, where it is long and brushlike. In the dry-country long-nosed bandicoots Perameles and in bilbies, the ears are large, but the general pattern is for short ears. The front limbs are generally short. The forefeet have powerful, flat claws, used for digging. The hind limbs are longer, with powerful thigh muscles. The hind feet are elongated and, unique among marsupials, the second and third toes are syndactylous, that is, fused together. This fusion is probably an adaptation for grooming. Bandicoots generally move slowly in a bunny hop, with the front and back legs working alternately. They can, however, adopt a fast gallop and some species use their strong back legs to make sudden leaps.

Bandicoot teeth are suited to an insectivorous diet. Although small, they are sharp and the molars are slightly pointed. In common with dasyurids, bandicoots are polypro-prodont, possessing four or five pairs of upper incisors and three lower pairs.

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