Friday, June 17, 2011

"Time to musk up!"

Strange and primitive little mammals wander the forests of Queensland's wet tropics. I think my favourite of these is the Musky Rat-kangaroo, Hypsiprymnodon moschatus, which occurs in northern Australia and also New Guinea.

These little guys are about a foot long, quadrupedal (they move like rabbits) and (unusually amongst small macropods) diurnal. They're also adorable.

musky rat kangaroo1This species is considered so different to other macropods it sits in it's own family; the Hypsiprymnodontidae, all other members of which are extinct (notably, during the pleistocene, carnivorous megafauna from this family occurred in the genus Ekaltadeta) - I once heard it described as being a living version of the type of animal that was to kangaroos what Eohippus is to horses. That's probably not too bad an analogy - a small timid little creature that contains the raw materials of something bigger, faster and more successful.

They eat fallen fruit and small invertebrates and generally fulfill that small terrestrial mammal niche that all forests have. They are also beloved of Ameythystine Pythons.


One of the really cool things about seeing a lot of these guys in the forest is that apparently they disappear pretty quickly when cats are around so you know if you're seeing them you're in pretty untouched habitat. Of course cooler still is that you get to watch these curious, snuffling, shuffling little characters go about their business.

1 comment:

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