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Tasmanian bettong

Bettongia gaimardi

TAXONOMY

Bettongia gaimardi (Desmarest, 1822), Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Bettong, rat-kangaroo, wallaby-rat; French: Kangourou-rat de Tasmanie; Spanish: Canguro-rata de Tasmania.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 12-13 in (31-33 cm); weight 4-6 lb (1.5-2.2 kg). Coat color is gray-brown above, light below. Its long tail has a white tip.

DISTRIBUTION

Eastern Tasmania and Australia.

HABITAT

Open sclerophyll forest and woodland; often with a rocky substrate.

BEHAVIOR

Usually seen singly, nocturnal. Carries nest material in mildly prehensile tail. Males and females are aggressive.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The diet is composed of underground fungi.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Probably polygynous. Breeds continuously; single young born after gestation of 21 days; pouch life of 105 days and mature

by one year. Mothers have embryonic diapause. Lactation lasts for approximately 22 weeks.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Extinct on mainland Australia; listed by the IUCN as Lower Risk/Near Threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

Long-nosed potoroo

Potorous tridactylus

TAXONOMY

Potorous tridactylus (Kerr, 1792), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Potoroo, rat-kangaroo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 13.3-16 in (34-38 cm); weight females: 1.5-3 lb (660-1,350 g; males: 1.6-3.6 lb (740-1,640 g). Fur color is dark gray above, paler below. Its tapering tail has a white tip.

DISTRIBUTION

Southeast Australia and Tasmania. HABITAT

Coastal heath and dry and wet sclerophyll forests. Often makes forays in the undergrowth.

BEHAVIOR

Lives solitarily or in pairs; males are territorial. Unobtrusive and secretive. May be monogamous or polygynous.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Mainly eats underground fungi.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Gestation lasts approximately six weeks and pouch life is 125 days. Mother has embryonic diapause and mates shortly after giving birth.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Cell line used in genetic studies. ♦

Brush-tailed bettong

Bettongia penicillata

TAXONOMY

Bettongia penicillata Gray, 1837, New South Wales, Australia. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Woylie; French: Bettongie a queue touffue, kangourou-rata a queue touffue; Spanish: Canguro-rata colipeludo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 11.8-16 in (30-38 cm), tail 12 in (31 cm); weight 2.6 lb (1,300 g). Coat is darker above and paler below. Similar in appearance to other bettongs, but tail has a small crest.

DISTRIBUTION

Southwestern Australia; successfully reintroduced into South Australia.

HABITAT

Open sclerophyll forest and woodland; reenters areas soon after forest fires.

BEHAVIOR

Nocturnal, solitary living in an above-ground nest. FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Mainly feeds on the fruiting bodies of underground fungi. REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Similar to other bettongs; gestation is 21 days and pouch life 100 days. Probably polygynous or promiscuous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Listed as Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent. It is threatened by the fox and the cat in some areas. Increased numbers have come via translocations.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 15.3 in (39 cm), tail 14 in (36 cm); weight 2.6-3.1 lb (1,200-1,400 g). Coat is darker above and paler below. Similar in appearance to other bettongs.

DISTRIBUTION

Northeastern coastal Queensland. HABITAT

Tall wet sclerophyll forest along the edge of rainforest. BEHAVIOR

Nocturnal, solitary living in an above-ground nest.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Mainly feeds on the fruiting bodies of underground fungi and cockatoo grass.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Similar to other bettongs; gestation is 21 days and pouch life is 106 days. Probably polygynous or promiscuous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Endangered, and threatened by the fox and the cat in some areas. Increased numbers have come via translocations.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

Northern bettong

Bettongia tropica

TAXONOMY

Bettongia tropica Wakefield, 1967, Queensland, Australia.

Boodie

Bettongia lesueur TAXONOMY

Bettongia lesueur (Quoy and Gaimard, 1824), Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia, Australia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Burrowing bettong; French: Bettongie de Lesueur, kangourou-rat de Lesueur; Spanish: Canguro-rata de Lesueur.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 15.7 in (40 cm), tail 11.8 in (30 cm); weight 3.3 lb (1,500 g). Coat is darker above, paler below. Similar to other bettongs, no crest on thickish tail.

DISTRIBUTION

Several islands off the west coast of Western Australia; translocated to several areas on the mainland of Western Australia and South Australia.

HABITAT

Semi-arid coastal sandy areas where it lives in burrows. BEHAVIOR

Nocturnal, solitary, living in burrow, occasionally extends into warrens.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET Omnivorous, eating fruit and fungi.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Similar to other bettongs; gestation lasts 21 days and pouch life is about 115 days. Probably polygynous or promiscuous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Listed as Vulnerable, due to the small area in which it lives.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

Gilbert's potoroo

Potorous gilbertii

TAXONOMY

Potorous gilbertii Gould, 1841, southwest Australia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 13.3-15 in (34-38 cm); tail 9 in (23 cm); weight 2.2 lb (1000 g). Appearance similar to other potoroos, tail not well furred compared to body.

DISTRIBUTION

Resticted areas near Two People's Bay Nature Reserve, Western Australia.

HABITAT

Not well-described, open areas but foraging in areas with denser cover.

BEHAVIOR

No data available.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds on underground fungi.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Little known, likely to be similar to long-nosed potoroo. May be monogamous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Listed as Critically Endangered, due to its small population size.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

Long-footed potoroo

Potorous longipes

TAXONOMY

Potorous longipes Seebeck and Johnston, 1980, Victoria, Australia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 15.7 in (40 cm), tail 12.6 in (32 cm); weight 3.3-5 lb (1.5-2.3 kg). Similar to other potoroos, but larger with hind foot longer than head.

DISTRIBUTION

Limited to two areas in northeastern Victoria and one in southeastern New South Wales.

HABITAT

Dry and wet sclerophyll forests, temperate rainforest, and montane forest.

BEHAVIOR

No data available.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Fungivorous, eating the fruiting bodies of hypogeous fungi.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

May be monogamous. Gestation approximately 25-38 days, though this is not clear; pouch life 140-150 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Listed as Endangered, due to its fragmented populations.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

Rufous bettong

Aepyprymnus rufescens

TAXONOMY

Aepyprymnus rufescens (Gray, 1837), New South Wales, Australia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Rufous rat-kangaroo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 15 in (38 cm), tail 14 in (36 cm); weight 6.6-7.7 lb (3,000-3,500 g), females larger than males. Largest member of the family, reddish brown coloring and hairy muzzle.

DISTRIBUTION

Northeastern Queensland to northeastern New South Wales. Also found on the New South Wales-Victoria border.

HABITAT

Open sclerophyll forest and woodland. BEHAVIOR

Nocturnal, solitary animals living in a nest by day. Males can be aggressive toward each other.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Mainly fungivorous.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Similar to other bettongs. Gestation 23 days and pouch life about 114 days. Has loose polygynous interactions.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

Resources

Books

Rose, R. W. "Reproductive Biology of Rat Kangaroos." In Kangaroos, Wallabies and Rat Kangaroos, edited by G. Grigg, P. Jarman, and I. D. Hume. New South Wales: Surrey Beatty & Sons, 1989.

Strahan, R., ed. Complete Book of Australian Mammals. Sydney: Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1995.

Walton, D., ed. Mammals of Australia. Canberra: Bureau of Fauna and Flora, 1988.

Periodicals

Rose, R. W. "Reproductive Energetics of Two Tasmanian Rat-kangaroos (Potoroinae: Marsupialia)." Symposium of the Zoology Society of London 57 (1987): 149-165.

Rose, R. W., and R. B. Rose. "The Tasmanian Bettong Bettongia gaimardi." Mammalian Species 584D (1998).

Randolph W. Rose, PhD

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