Animal Info - Brush-tailed Bettong

(Other Names: Bettong, Bettongie Queue Touffue, Brush-tailed Rat Kangaroo, Canguro-rata Colipeludo, Kangourou-rat Queue Touffue, Woylie)

Bettongia penicillata

Status: Lower Risk - Conservation Dependent


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Maximum Age, Diet, Social Organization, Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Brush-tailed Bettong #1 (30 Kb JPEG) (Milamba Aust.); Brush-tailed Bettong #2 (101 Kb JPEG) (Mus. Vict.)

The brush-tailed bettong is a marsupial that once inhabited more than 60% of the Australian mainland but now occurs only on less than 1%. It is strictly nocturnal and is not gregarious. During the day it rests in a well-made and hidden nest which consists of grass and shredded bark. It digs out food such as bulbs, tubers and fungi with its strong foreclaws. Its habitat includes temperate forests and scrubs as well as arid shrublands and grasslands.

The brush-tailed bettong formerly ranged over all of southwest Western Australia, most of South Australia, the northwest corner of Victoria and across the central portion of New South Wales. It was abundant in the mid-19th century. By the 1920's it was extinct over much of its range. As of 1992 it was reported only from four small areas of Western Australia. In South Australia, a number of populations had been established through introduction of captive-bred animals. As of 1996 it occurred in six sites in Western Australia and on three islands and two mainland sites in South Australia, following the reintroduction program and the controlling of foxes.

Its decline seems to have been caused by a number of factors. These include the impact of introduced grazing animals, clearing for agriculture, fox predation, and possibly changed fire regimes.



Tidbits

*** The brush-tailed bettong has an unusual diet for a mammal. Although it may eat bulbs, tubers, seeds, insects and resin, the bulk of its nutrients are derived from underground fungi, which can only be digested indirectly. In a portion of its stomach, the fungi are consumed by bacteria. These bacteria produce the nutrients that are digested in the rest of the stomach and small intestine.

*** It is able to use its tail, curled around in a prehensile manner, to carry bundles of nesting material.


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

  • 1960's: Insufficiently Known
  • 1980's - 1994: Endangered
  • 1996 - 2004: Lower Risk - conservation dependent (IUCN 2004)

Countries Where the Brush-tailed Bettong Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Australia (IUCN 2004).

History of Distribution:

The brush-tailed bettong formerly ranged from Shark Bay in Western Australia south and east, covering all of southwest Western Australia, most of South Australia except the far southeast and northeast portions of the state, the northwest corner of Victoria and across the central portion of New South Wales, almost to the Queensland border. Also the Great Sandy, Tanami, Gibson, and Great Victoria Deserts. It was abundant in the mid-19th century. By the 1920's it was extinct over much of its range. As of 1966 it occurred only in southwestern Australia, and was considered probably to be secure at the time. By the late 1980's it was reported only from three small areas of Western Australia: the Perup and Dryandra Forests and the Tuttanning Reserve. As of 1992 it occurred in these three areas and also in the State Forest north of Collie in Western Australia. In South Australia, a number of populations had been established through introduction of captive-bred animals. As of 1996 it occurred in six sites in Western Australia and on three islands and two mainland sites in South Australia, following the reintroduction program and the controlling of foxes.


Threats and Reasons for Decline:

Its decline seems to have been caused by a number of factors. These include the impact of introduced grazing animals, clearing for agriculture, fox predation, and possibly changed fire regimes.


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

The brush-tailed bettong weighs 1.1 - 1.6 kg (2.4 - 3.5 lb).

Habitat:

In South Australia - currently semi-arid scrublands and grasslands. Western Australia - open eucalypt forest with an understory of tussock grass, low woody scrub and occasional bare patches of ground in medium rainfall areas. Formerly its habitat included temperate forests and scrubs and also arid shrublands and grasslands. It appears to be particularly adapted to habitats that are subject to frequent fires.

The brush-tailed bettong lives in the Southwest Australia Biodiversity Hotspot (Cons. Intl. 2005).  

Age to Maturity:

Females can produce young when only 6 months old.

Gestation Period:

Undelayed gestation is about 21 days. (But see Birth Rate below.)

Birth Season:

It breeds throughout the year.

Birth Rate:

In common with many other kangaroos, the brush-tailed bettong mates shortly after giving birth and can keep embryos in embryonic diapause until they are needed. A single young spends 90 days in the pouch. There is an interval of about 100 days between each birth.

Early Development:

A single young spends 90 days in the pouch. The weaned young share the nest and accompany the mother until they are displaced when a new infant leaves the pouch.

Maximum Age:

8 years and 9 months (in captivity).

Diet:

The brush-tailed bettong does not consume either green material or water. Indeed, while it may eat bulbs, tubers, seeds, insects and resin, the bulk of its nutrients are derived from underground fungi, which can only be digested indirectly. In a portion of its stomach, the fungi are consumed by bacteria. These bacteria produce the nutrients that are digested in the rest of the stomach and small intestine.

Social Organization:

The brush-tailed bettong is not gregarious.

Density and Range:

The brush-tailed bettong has a home range averaging 23 hectares (58 acres) for females and 35 hectares (88 acres) for males.


References

Burbidge & McKenzie 1989, Burton & Pearson 1987, Cons. Intl. 2005, Curry-Lindahl 1972, Earth Sanct., Flannery 1990, IUCN 1968, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Kennedy 1992, Milamba Aust., Mus. Vict., Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Oryx 1980, Oryx 1997b


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Last modified: March 7, 2005;

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