Animal Info - Julia Creek Dunnart

Sminthopsis douglasi

Status: Endangered


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, Diet, Behavior)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Julia Creek Dunnart (42 Kb JPEG); Related Dunnart (Sminthopsis sp.) Species (72 Kb JPEG) (Terrambiente)

Dunnarts are small insectivorous marsupials found in Australia. The Julia Creek dunnart weighs 40 - 70 g (1.4 - 2.5 oz). It is mainly found in Mitchell grass on the cracking brown soils of the downs country of northwestern Queensland. The region where it occurs has extensive natural grasslands and savanna woodlands with an annual rainfall of 450 mm (18 in). In addition to insects, dunnarts occasionally eat small vertebrates such as lizards and mice. The Julia Creek dunnart is nocturnal. It probably rests in the maze of underground cavities provided by the grass-covered soils of the region where it is found. A female Julia Creek dunnart can have up to 8 young in a single litter.

The Julia Creek dunnart was first documented by Western science in 1931 but not recognized as a full species until 1979. Only 4 specimens had been collected between 1931 and 1972, near Julia Creek and Richmond. However, in 1991 and 1992 additional specimens were found, including three live specimens in the downs country of northwest Queensland, which doubled the known range (to more than 200 km (124 mi) in the north-south direction) and increased the number of locations from 3 to 11.

It is not known whether a decline in the Julia Creek dunnart has occurred. Its apparent rarity may be due more to a lack of surveys than to actual rarity.


Tidbits

*** The Julia Creek dunnart was discovered in 1931 but not recognized as a full species until 1979.

*** It is possible that its apparent rarity may be due more to a lack of surveys than actual rarity. It is found in an area where there have been few biological surveys.

*** The Julia Creek dunnart appears to be the largest species of dunnart.

*** A 1-day old Julia Creek dunnart in its mother's pouch is approximately 4 mm (1/6") long and weighs 15 mg (0.0005 oz). The newborn breathes through its skin. (Latrobe Univ. 1999a)

*** Additional specimens obtained in 1991 and 1992 doubled the known geographic range in Australia.


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Julia Creek Dunnart Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Australia (IUCN 2004).

History of Distribution:

The Julia Creek dunnart was first documented by Western science in 1931 but not recognized as a full species until 1979. It was known only from the Cloncurry River area in northcentral Queensland, Australia. Only 4 specimens had been collected between 1931 and 1972, near Julia Creek and Richmond. However, in 1991 and 1992 additional specimens were found, including three live specimens in the downs country of northwest Queensland, which doubled the known range (to more than 200 km (124 mi) in the north-south direction) and increased the number of locations from 3 to 11.

Distribution Map (4 Kb GIF) (Maxwell et al. 1996)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

It is not known whether a decline in the Julia Creek dunnart has occurred. Its apparent rarity may be due more to a lack of surveys than to actual rarity.


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

Female Julia Creek dunnarts weigh 40 - 60 g (1.4 - 2.1 oz); males weigh 50 - 70 g (1.8 - 2.5 oz).

Habitat:

The Julia Creek dunnart is mainly found in Mitchell grass on the cracking brown soils of the downs country of northwestern Queensland. The region where it occurs has extensive natural grasslands and savanna woodlands with an annual rainfall of 450 mm (18 in).

Age to Maturity:

Females: 17 - 27 weeks (captivity); males: 28 - 31 weeks (captivity).

Gestation Period:

About 12 days.

Birth Season:

Breeding may occur throughout the year. (Strahan 1995)

Birth Rate:

Up to 8 young in a single litter.

Diet:

Dunnarts eat mostly insects, but they occasionally eat small vertebrates such as lizards and mice.

Behavior:

The Julia Creek dunnart is nocturnal. It probably rests in the maze of underground cavities provided by the grass-covered, cracking brown soils of the region where it is found, similarly to other local rodents and marsupials. However, the cracks close up during the rainy season.


References

Burbidge & McKenzie 1989, Burton & Pearson 1987, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Kennedy 1992, Maxwell et al. 1996, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Oryx 1993b, Strahan 1995, Terrambiente


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Last modified: June 2, 2005;

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