Kangaroo, a marsupial (pouched) mammal, native to Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, distinguished by its disproportionately large hind legs and feet on which it moves by hopping. Two other distinctive characteristics of the kangaroo are the possession of a sacculated (chambered) stomach and an unusual pattern of reproduction. All three features are important adaptations to the Australian environment of extensive dry grasslands and unpredictable rainfall. The earliest known fossil kangaroos are recorded from Australia and date back to the Miocene epoch, about 15 million years ago.
The largest living kangaroo is the red kangaroo, Macropus rufus, in which males may attain 5 feet, 3 inches (16 meters) in head and body length, plus a 41-inch (105-cm) tail, a height of about 6 feet (1.8 meters), and a weight of 200 pounds (90 kg). Some of the extinct giant kangaroos reached heights of 8 feet (2.4 meters) and weights of over 650 pounds (300 kg). The smallest living kangaroo is one of the rat kangaroos, so-called because of their superficial resemblance to large rats. The muskrat kangaroo, Hypsyprymnodon moschatus, reaches only 13 inches (335 mm) in head and body length, plus a 6.5-inch (170-mm) tail, and about a pound in weight.
There are 53 living species of kangaroo,
grouped into 18 genera and placed in four families: Macropodidae, Potoroidae,
Hypsyprymnodontidae, and Sthenuridae. The four families are classified
together into one superfamily, the Macropodoidea.
The word "kangaroo" was first recorded in 1770 by the British naturalist Sir Joseph Banks from Aborigine natives in Queensland and referred to one of the larger species. It is used today as a common name for all members of the superfamily, as well as more particularly for the six largest species. Other Aborigine names or derivatives thereof, such as wallaby, pademelon, and potoroo, are applied to smaller or more brightly colored forms.
In slow travel the kangaroo's hind legs are brought forward together while the body is supported on the front legs and tail. Above a velocity of 2.9 miles (4.6 km) per hour the gait becomes a two-footed hop, using only the hind legs. Once this speed is attained, the hopping gait is very efficient. Above a speed of 11 miles (18 km) per hour a large kangaroo expends less energy than an equivalent-sized animal, such as an antelope, moving in four-footed fashion. In the large kangaroos a big male may jump more than 10 feet (3 meters) high, cover up to about 30 feet (9 meters) in a single hop, and attain a maximum speed of about 30 miles (48 km) per hour.
All kangaroos have a sacculated stomach;
that is, the long, tubular stomach is formed into sac-like chambers functionally
similar to the chambers in the stomach of a cow. Anaerobic bacteria in
the alkaline fore stomach digest the cellulose from the cell walls of grass
and other consumed vegetation to volatile fatty acids, which pass into
the blood circulation and provide the main energy source for the kangaroo.
The released contents of the plant cells, as well as the bacteria themselves,
are digested in the hind stomach and duodenum (beginning of the small intestine)
to provide protein in the diet.
The main nitrogen-containing end product resulting from the digestion of protein in mammals is urea. Instead of eliminating the urea in the urine, which requires the use and loss of body water, the kangaroo recycles much of the urea to the fore stomach, where the bacteria use it for the manufacture of new protein. This recycling reduces the kangaroo's needs of dietary nitrogen and water, a reduction especially important for the desert-living forms.
Gestation in kangaroos, if uninterrupted,
lasts about a month. The young are born at a very minute size; that of
the red kangaroo, for example, is just under an inch (20 mm) in length
and about 3/100 of an ounce (0.85 gram) in weight. The newborn young spends
several weeks or months attached to one of the four teats in the pouch.
Within a day or so after giving birth, the females of all but a few species
come into heat (estrus) again, mate, and conceive again. The new embryo
proceeds to develop for one week and then becomes dormant as a tiny ball
of about 100 cells. This halted development, called embryonic diapause,
persists for as long as the previous young remains in the pouch, a period
of normally about 7 to 10 months in the larger kangaroos. Shortly before
the young leaves the pouch, development of the embryo resumes. The second
young is born and attaches to one of the remaining teats soon after the
older offspring vacates the pouch.
This complex pattern of overlapping young is an adaptation to take advantage of uncertain rainfall and food. If the rains fail, and the older offspring dies from lack of food, it is replaced by the next younger one of the sequence, and so on. Therefore, when the drought breaks, all of the kangaroos have small young in their pouches that can survive and grow immediately.
Most kangaroos breed continuously or, if desert-living like the red kangaroo, opportunistically, that is, when conditions of rainfall and food supply are right. In southern latitudes where there is a predictable winter rainfall, the gray kangaroo and some of the wallabies breed seasonally.
Maturity and Longevity
The small rat kangaroos and wallabies reach sexual maturity soon after leaving the pouch, but the large kangaroos do not attain sexual maturity until their third year. The few records of longevity in free-living kangaroos include 13 years of age for Tammar wallabies and 25 years of age for a red kangaroo.
In the early days of European settlement
the smaller species of wallabies were very abundant and, being considered
serious pests, were destroyed by landholders. The introduction of the European
fox and rabbit into Australia, as well as the alteration of the countryside
for agriculture, led to the extinction of most of the species under 10
pounds (5 kg) body mass, except for those on offshore islands where the
fox has not reached. In contrast, the largest kangaroos benefited from
the increase in grassland and the provision of watering sites for livestock.
However, they have long been considered by landholders to be serious competitors
of sheep and cattle for the grass that they use for forage, and they are
shot in considerable numbers. They are also slaughtered for their hides.
It is generally agreed by biologists that the large kangaroos and larger wallabies are secure, but all of the small species of wallaby are very rare or endangered, and several of these are expected to become extinct in the near future.
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Koala, a marsupial, or pouched, arboreal
mammal, Phascolarctus cinereus, native to Australia, where it is also known
as the native bear. Phascolarctos, the generic name, is made up of two
Greek words, phascolos, meaning leather bag, and arktos, meaning bear.
Koala is an aboriginal name meaning "no drink water," for koalas do not.
An average koala reaches a length of 34 inches (86 cm) and a weight of 30 pounds (13.6 kg). It is a tailless, blue-gray animal, recognizable by its large, bushy ears and prominent, rubbery, black nose. Its small, bright eyes always seem to exhibit a perplexed expression. The first and second fingers on its paws and the great toes on its hind feet are opposed to the rest of the fingers and toes, thus providing for greater ability in grasping branches and tree limbs. Probably no other herbivorous (plant-eating) animal has as restricted a diet as the koala. It feeds exclusively on the leaves of species of eucalyptus trees and the transfer from one particular grove of trees to another sometimes proves fatal.
Like most Australian mammals, the koala is a member of the order Marsupialia, mammals that bring forth their young in an incomplete state of development to complete the rest of their embryonic life in the mother's pouch. Without aid, the newborn animal crawls into its mother's pouch, which has the opening toward the rear. It does not fall out because it attaches itself firmly to the mother's teat and cannot be removed without application of considerable force. A newborn koala is about as thick as a lead pencil and no more than an inch (2.5 cm) long. There is rarely more than one born at a time. At the age of six months the koala is fully furred, has its eyes open, and soon begins riding on its mother's back or shoulders. The koala remains dependent for a long period compared with other wild animals and is still helpless when a year old. It is almost full grown before it can take care of itself. A koala reaches full growth in four years and may live to an age of 20 years. The female will nurse any koala infant. This is a most unusual practice among wild animals. The male koala shows no interest in the family.
In the past the koala was captured for its fur, starved by the destruction of eucalyptus trees, and brought near extinction. Rigid protection now preserves them in reduced numbers in New South Wales and Queensland.
It has been said that the koala provided the original pattern for the children's "teddy bear." However, the idea for the "teddy bear" toy was actually suggested by a grizzly bear cub shown with Theodore Roosevelt in a newspaper cartoon in 1902.
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Duckbilled Platypus, a mammal that lays eggs. It is found only in eastern Australia and in Tasmania. Its scientific name, Ornithorhynchus, means bird-snout or bird-bill, and its common name, platypus, means flat- or broad-footed and refers to its webbed feet.
Male platypuses reach almost 18 inches (450 mm) in head-and-body length, plus a 6-inch (150-mm) tail, and more than 4 pounds (2 kg) in weight; females are about 20 percent smaller. The platypus's coat is thick and woolly and frequently colored dark brown above and reddish brown and gray below. The tail is flattened and beaverlike, but well furred. The bill is not rigid like that of a bird, but is soft and pliable and bears hornlike plates instead of teeth. Young platypuses have small temporary teeth. A cheek pouch, used for storing food during foraging, is present in each side of the mouth. The platypus's food consists of crayfish and other crustaceans, worms, snails, frogs, insects, and small fish.
As in most aquatic mammals, the legs of the platypus are short. All of the feet are webbed, but the webbing on the forefeet extends beyond the sides of the five toes and the ends of the claws, forming fan-shaped paddles. Unlike most aquatic mammals, the platypus propels itself mainly with its forefeet rather than with its hind feet.
The platypus lacks external ears; the eye and ear opening on each side of the head are located in a groove. The groove closes over, as do the flaps over the nostrils, when the animal is submerged, obstructing vision, hearing, and the sense of smell. The bill, however, is covered with a hairless skin rich in nerve endings that provide the bill not only with a highly developed sense of touch for locating food buried in mud but also, as first reported in 1986, with the ability of electroreception. The electroreceptors can detect weak electric fields, such as those generated by the muscle activity of crustaceans, and can guide the platypus to hidden prey.
The male platypus possesses a horny spur on each hind foot. The spur is connected to a gland at its base containing a venomous secretion. The platypus is one of the few venomous mammals, along with certain species of shrews and the related solenodons, which have toxic saliva.
Platypuses breed in the spring, and about two weeks after mating, the female lays one to three small, rounded, leathery eggs. The nest, lined with leaves and grass, is in a chamber at the end of a burrow dug in the bank of a lake or stream. Only the female occupies the breeding burrow. The eggs are incubated for about ten days, and then the young hatch, naked, blind, and helpless. They are fed by sucking milk from the mother's two teatless mammary glands, the milk oozing out onto two distinct but fur-covered skin patches. Nursing ends at about four months of age, when the young emerge from the nest and begin to feed themselves. Longevity is uncertain, but one zoo specimen lived for 17 years.
The platypus, along with the echidnas, or spiny anteaters (Tachyglossus and Zaglossus), is a member of the order Monotremata, which is reptilelike in a number of ways. The platypus, for example, has a shoulder girdle (shoulder blade, collarbone, and other bony supports for the forelimbs) containing well-developed bones present in many reptiles but absent or greatly reduced in all other mammals.
The single living species of platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, is classified in the platypus family, Ornithorhynchidae, along with the only other known platypus, the extinct Obdurodon insignis, which lived in Australia during the Miocene Epoch, more than five million years ago. The earliest known fossil of the living platypus was found in Australia and dates back possibly several hundred thousand years to the Pleistocene.
Echidna, also called spiny anteater, a nocturnal ant-eating
mammal. It is native to the arid areas of mainland Australia, Tasmania,
and New Guinea. In these places, it is also called porcupine. The animal
possesses a combination of highly specialized and primitive characteristics.
The five-toed echidna, or anteater, belongs to the genus Tachyglossus. It is a short-legged grayish brown animal with a head and body length of 16 to 20 inches (40-50 cm) and an extremely short tail. Its back and sides are covered with short, stiff, stout spines mixed with black, stiff hairs.
The Tasmanian echidna, T. setosus, is larger in size than the Australian species, T. aculeatus, and has fewer spines, which are almost hidden in a deep coat of thick, woolly hair. The echidna's head is covered with coarse, brownish hair and is drawn out into a slender, horny, toothless beak charged with sensitive nerves, well suited for probing into holes or nests in search of ants, termites, and similar food. All the feet have strong spadelike claws which are used for excavating in the ground and tearing down the hard walls of termite nests. When burrowing, it does not torpedo headfirst through the ground like a mole, but rather sinks straight down. Its clawed feet can excavate a shaft so rapidly that it would be useless to attempt to drag the animal out.
Like the platypus, the echidna belongs to the order Monotremata, the egg-laying mammals. It usually lays only one egg, which is covered with a parchmentlike shell. The rate of reproduction is slow, as mating takes place only once a year. Like the kangaroo, the echidna carries her young in a pocket or abdominal pseudo-pouch. When the egg is laid the female curls up in a ball, causing the skin on her abdo men to wrinkle or fold into a sort of pouch. A sticky substance is discharged onto the wrinkled area, and the egg rolls into place and is cemented there until ready to hatch. The hardening of the sticky paste further helps to form the pouch. The young echidna hatches in a few days and feeds on milk that exudes from teatless glands inside the pouch. Except for the size, there is little difference between the young and the adult, and little or no external difference between the sexes. When the spines of the young echidna become troublesome, it is removed from the pouch to a secluded nest in the ground and is cared for for a month or more before being weaned. The empty pouch then disappears or spreads out into a flat abdominal covering.
The curve-beaked echidna, or three-toed spiny anteater, belongs to the genus Zaglossus. It is restricted to the highlands of New Guinea and nearby Salawati, where it lives in burrows among the rocks. This animal reaches a length of 30 inches (76 cm) and is about 8 inches (20 cm) high. It is toothless; it has a long beak with a small opening in the tip, out of which its tongue darts to pick up termites.
The echidna appears to be a long-lived animal; there is a record of one having survived for 30 years in the London Zoological Gardens.
The echidna is classified in the order Monotremata, family Tachyglossidae (formerly Echidnidae).
Bandicoot, a small marsupial (a mammal with
a pouch for carrying the young) of Australia and neighboring islands. The
bandicoot has a long, pointed face and narrow feet with strong claws that
are used for digging for its food. The food consists of insects, insect
larvae, worms, roots, fruit, and vegetables. The animal's hind limbs are
long and slender, enabling it to hop like a kangaroo. In size the bandicoot
may be as small as a chipmunk or as large as a rabbit. At a distance, bandicoots
are sometimes mistaken for large rats or rabbits. There are usually four
or five young in a litter.
The bandicoot uses a unique technique when hunting or fighting. Instead of meeting an adversary head-on, it jumps on its opponent from the rear and simultaneously strikes him with the powerful claws of its hind feet.
The bandicoot family, Peramelidae, is well known and widely spread over Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. The long-nosed bandicoot, Perameles, is slender, grayish-brown in color, and has large pointed ears. The Australians call it a "thill" or "moncat." The spiny bandicoot, Echymipera, has sharp spines mixed with its fur. The rabbit bandicoot, bilbie, or pinkie, Thylacomys, has large, rabbitlike ears, a long, pointed face, and a long tail. The pig-footed bandicoot, Chaeropus, has hooflike feet. The mouse bandicoot, Microperoryctes, is a tiny black species. There is also the New Guinean bandicoot, Peroryctes, the short-nosed or brown bandicoot, Isoodon, and the Ceram bandicoot, Rhynchomeles.
Some animals that are neither true bandicoots nor members of the bandicoot family are called bandicoots. The bandicoot rat, Bandicota, is a giant rat of southern Asia, and, being a rodent, is in no way related to the true bandicoots. Its name, pandi kokku, comes from the Telegu language and means pig rat, referring to the piglike grunts it makes when attacked. The white-banded bandicoot, Myrmecobius, also known as the banded anteater, or numbat, is a marsupial of another family; it feeds on termites and the female does not have a pouch. The plague bandicoot, Nesokia, another rodent of southern Asia, lives in underground burrows. It is thought to be a carrier of the bubonic plague and other communicable diseases
Cuscus, Phalanger, a slow-moving marsupial
or pouched mammal. The cuscus is found in northern Queensland, New Guinea,
Sulawesi, the Solomons and a few other islands of the South Pacific. It
may reach a length of 35 to 45 inches (88-114 cm) including the tail, which
is about half the body length. The terminal tip of its tail is bare and
is prehensile, that is, it is used for grasping branches, a character common
in South American mammals, but unusual in mammals elsewhere in the world.
The cuscus has short, rounded ears which are almost concealed in its long,
thick, woolly coat. It is a robust animal with strong hooked claws.
The cuscus spends most of its life in the trees and rarely descends to the ground. It feeds largely on leaves and shoots of trees and vines. During the day the animal rests in thick masses of foliage or in a hollow tree and comes out only after the sun has set. At night the cuscus becomes quite active, and it is believed that it may then capture and feed on birds and other small animals. There appears to be no fixed breeding season and females taken the year round have been found with from one to four young in the pouch.
The animal gives off a strong, fetid odor which enables the natives to locate it easily. Native tradition claims that the animal will fall to the ground if stared at incessantly. Cuscus flesh is eaten by the local people, who roast it whole over peat fires.
There are several distinct kinds of cuscuses. The bear cuscus, P. ursinus, is the largest and is almost black in color. It is found in the Celebes and some of the neighboring islands. The most colorful type is the spotted cuscus, Spilocuscus maculatus, of New Guinea, New Britain, and the Admiralty Islands, with an allied species at Cape York. This is one of the few animals which exhibits a marked difference in color pattern between the sexes. The basic color is grayish white, and males are marked with large white spots on the back and sides; females are uniformly grayish without any spots. There is usually a light-colored area on the rump in both sexes due to their sitting for long hours crouched in the crotch of a tree. The gray cuscus, P. orientatis, is another species native to New Guinea and some of the neighboring islands, while the mountain cuscus, P. vestitis, is a small species about 20 inches (50 cm) in length, with a 16-inch (40-cm) tail. It is restricted to the highlands of New Guinea.
Wombat, a burrowing, mostly nocturnal marsupial
(pouched-mammal) in the family Vombatidae, sometimes alternatively named
Phascolomyidae. The common wombat, Vombatus or Phascolomis ursinus, is
native to Australia, Tasmania, and Flinders Island but is not abundant
anywhere today. It is usually about 40 inches (1 meter) long and weighs
about 40 pounds (18 kg), but large specimens may reach a length of 4 feet
(1.2 meters) and weigh as much as 80 pounds (36 kg). The common wombat
is virtually tailless and has short, sturdy legs and strong claws used
for digging. Its thick, coarse hair varies in color from almost jet black
The wombat is the sole marsupial that has only two front teeth (incisors) in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw. They are chisel-shaped, rodentlike teeth and have a hard enamel covering on the front surface. These teeth continue to grow throughout the animal's life. Its cheek teeth have flat crowns and are used for grinding.
The wombat lives in a burrow that it digs in the ground. Because of this burrowing habit the natives often call it a badger. The length of the burrow may extend from 15 to 100 feet (4.5-30 meters), and the den is usually at the end of this tunnel. The den is lined with dry grass and leaves, and the animal rests here during the day. The wombat feeds on grasses, roots, and the inner bark of trees. Its vocal powers are limited to a low, growling cough.
The mating season in the common wombat begins in April and may extend to the end of June. It is solitary in its habits except during this period. Females have a single young which is born in a very incomplete state of development. The newborn remains firmly fixed to a teat in the mother's pouch until it is more fully developed. Wombats have a long life span, and some have been known to survive for 30 years.
Less well known is the hairy-nosed wombat, Lasiorhinus latifrons, which was once plentiful in New South Wales and Victoria but is now found only in southern Australia. It is a soft-furred animal with rather long, pointed ears and a heavy nose. A similar but very rare species, L. krefftii, is today found only in central Queensland. During the Australian Pleistocene Epoch (about 1,000,000 years ago) there was a giant wombat, Phascolonus gigas, in Queensland that was as big as a hippopotamus.
Emu, a large flightless bird of Australia. In size it is second only to the ostrich, to which it is related. The emu stands 5 to 6 feet (1.5-1.8 meters) tall and weighs about 120 pounds (54 kg). Its brown or gray plumage consists of long, drooping, coarse, hairy feathers. The emu's rudimentary wings are useless for flying, but with its long, powerful legs it can run as fast as 40 miles (64 km) an hour. It is an expert swimmer. The nest is a bed of grass or leaves, and the male incubates the dark-green eggs for about 60 days. The emu inhabits grasslands and feeds on fruits, leaves, and caterpillars. Destructive to crops, it has been hunted so much that it is now scarce. It is the national bird of Australia. The emu, Dromiceius novaehollandiae, is classified in the order Casuariiformes, family Dromiceiidae.
Cassowary, a large flightless bird. There are three species, belonging to the genus Casuarius. The cassowary is found in dense forests on New Guinea, a few nearby islands, and northernmost Australia. It has a heavy body, degenerate wings, and short strong legs. On its head is a huge bony projection, called a casque. The head and neck are naked blue, green, red, purple, or yellow skin; some species have throat wattles. The plumage of both sexes is black, coarse, bristle-like, and drooping. The bird is shy and flees by running at speeds of up to 30 miles (48 km) an hour; it is also an adept swimmer. Its feet have three toes, the inner toe having a long sharp claw. When cornered, the bird leaps feet first and can eviscerate large animals with this claw. The cassowary feeds on fruits, insects, and plants. The nest is a mat of leaves on the ground, and the male, which is smaller, incubates the huge greenish eggs and rears the young. The Australian cassowary, Casuarius casuarius, has a bright-blue neck and red wattles and stands over 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall. The cassowary is classified in the order Casuariiformes, family Casuariidae.
Dingo, a wild dog and the only carnivore (meat-eater)
native to Australia. It is also known as warrigal. The dingo, Canis dingo,
may have been the first domesticated animal. It was almost certainly brought
to Australia from Malaya by early man some 40,000 or more years ago. The
dingo is a rusty red-colored animal with its toes and the tip of its tail
being white. It has a wolflike head with erect ears. A full-grown
dog stands 24 inches (60 cm) at the shoulder and is about 3 feet (90 cm)
long, not including its 1-foot (30-cm)-long bushy tail. Its breeding with
domestic dogs has resulted in black dingos and others of various shades
between red and black.
In general, the habits of the dingo are much like those of the coyote. The true dingo cannot bark but is able to utter a low, plaintive cry and a few yelps when in distress. It feeds on small mammals, mostly marsupials, and breeds in an underground burrow, a den in the rocks, or a hollow tree. The number of young in a litter varies from four to eight. It is not a sociable animal, but family groups stay together until the pups are old enough to hunt and take care of themselves.
The dingo, Canis dingo, is classified in the order Carnivora, family Canidae.
Marsupial Mole, a burrowing, insectivorous
(insect-eating) mammal, also known as pouched mole and southern digger,
found in Australia. It is a marsupial, a member of the order Marsupialia
(pouched mammals), which includes the kangaroo, opossum, and Tasmanian
wolf. Although similar in appearance and habit, it is not even remotely
related to the common mole.
The marsupial mole, Notoryctes, is about the size of a garden mole, with a torpedolike body and short limbs. It has no apparent neck, and a small pointed head, with a hairless pad on the tip of its nose for rooting in the earth. Its eyes are tiny and sightless and its small ears are poorly developed. A short, hairless tail is used as a feeler when the animal moves backwards. Its forefeet are larger than the hind feet and have stout claws used for digging. The animal has a thick coat of soft, close, velvety fur which is yellowish-white rather than the usual glossy black color of other moles.
The marsupial mole burrows 3 inches (7.6 cm) below the surface of the ground. At regular intervals it will break the surface soil and stick its nose out, apparently in order to breathe more freely. When on the surface the animal shuffles along rapidly, with a fluid, seemingly floating, motion.
Like most insect-eaters, the marsupial mole feeds or searches for food almost constantly, day and night. Having satisfied its hunger, it abruptly stops in its tracks and falls asleep. A short time later it awakens with a start and continues hurrying about in search of insects hidden in the soil.
All that is known of this animal's breeding habits is that, being a typical marsupial, the female has a pouch in which to carry her young, which are born in an incomplete state of development.
Tasmanian Devil, a carnivorous marsupial,
or pouched mammal, also known as badger and native devil. The Tasmanian
devil once ranged over southern Australia, but it is now limited to Tasmania.
It favors brush country bordering lakes, rivers, and beaches. The Tasmanian
devil is about 3 feet (0.9 meter) in length, not including its foot-long
(0.3-meter) tail. Except for this rather long tail it is bearlike in appearance.
Its habit of moving with its nose to the ground suggests a keen sense of
smell. The animal has a large, broad head with a strong, muscular neck,
powerful jaws, and massive teeth enabling it to keep a stranglehold on
animals much larger than itself. All of its strength is centered forward
in its thick shoulders, front legs, and strong claws. Its hindquarters
are weak and slender. The animal's thick, black coat of coarse hair has
irregular patches of white on the rump, throat, and shoulders.
A night-hunter, the Tasmanian devil feeds on rats, mice, frogs, and crabs, and will also sometimes eat larger animals in the form of carrion. At night it utters a low yelling growl that is followed by a snarling cough. The Tasmanian devil was so named by early settlers of Australia because of its black color and ferocious appearance.
The breeding season is in March and April. The young are born in a very incomplete state of development about a month after mating. There are usually two in a litter, and they are carried in the female's pouch until they are about one month old. At this time the female builds a nest for them among some rocks. The young play like kittens and are excellent tree climbers, much more so than the adults.
The Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii, is classified in the order Marsupialia, family Dasyuridae.
* Note: This animal is one of the favorite animals of TiamaT, since he first saw the cartoon about it.
Tasmanian Wolf, a doglike marsupial native
to Tasmania, Australia, and now generally considered to be extinct. The
Tasmanian wolf, Thylacinus cynocephalus, is also known, particularly in
Tasmania, as the Tasmanian tiger, but since it is neither a wolf nor a
tiger, it is correctly and increasingly more commonly referred to as the
The thylacine attained a shoulder height of 24 inches (60 cm), a head-and-body length of 50 inches (125 cm), and a tail length of 24 inches (60 cm). It weighed up to 70 pounds (30 kg). Its short coarse fur was yellowish brown to grayish brown; its back and base of the tail were crossed with blackish-brown stripes, accounting for its local name "tiger"; and its face was grayish, with whitish markings. Its rump tapered gradually toward the tail, as in kangaroos. The thylacine's jaws had a remarkable gape, opening to form an angle as wide as 160°.
The thylacine's preferred habitat was probably open forest or grassland, where it hunted at night for small mammals and birds. Its last known habitat, however, was the remote rain forest of southwestern Tasmania. The thylacine was generally solitary and was a persistent hunter, said to trot relentlessly after its intended prey.
Breeding occurred year-round, but was most common in summer. The female had a rear-opening pouch and bore litters of two to four young. The period of gestation is not known, but was probably five weeks or less. The young remained in the pouch for their first three months. In captivity, thylacines lived to about eight years of age.
Once widespread on mainland Australia and in New Guinea, the thylacine was driven to extinction there about 3,000 years ago, probably by the aboriginals' domestic dogs and by dingos. The thylacine remained isolated and abundant on the island of Tasmania until the advent of European colonization. Because of its attacks on sheep and poultry, the thylacine was remorselessly killed by the early settlers. The excessive hunting, along with disease, habitat destruction, and competition from domestic dogs, resulted in the thylacine's virtual extinction by 1909. The last known wild thylacine was killed in 1930. The last known surviving thylacine died in a Tasmanian zoo in 1936. A slim hope remains for the thylacine's continued existence based on unconfirmed sightings in secluded forests.
The thylacine, Thylacinus cynocephalus, is classified in the order Marsupialia, family Thylacinidae.