Dasycercus cristicaudamulgara

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Geographic Range

This species inhabits the arid region from the Pilbara in northwestern Australia to southwestern Queensland.

Habitat

Mulgaras inhabit the arid, sandy regions of Australia. They lives in burrows that they dig on the flats between low sand-dunes or on the slopes of high dunes. The complexity of the burrow varies. Burrows in central Australia usually have only one entrance with two or three side tunnels and numerous pop-holes, while those in Queensland have more than one entrance and deeper branching tunnels.

Physical Description

Head and body length varies from 125 to 220 mm, and tail length is 70 to 130mm. The upper parts of this mammal vary from buffy to bright red brown, and the underparts are usually white or creamy. The pelage is close and soft, and it consists principally of underfur with few guard hairs. The tail is usually thickened for about 2/3 of its length and near the body is densely covered with coarse, chestnut hairs. In the middle, the hairs are coarse and black, and they increase in length toward the tip to form a distinct dorsal crest. This animal is compactly built, with short limbs, a broad head, short ears, and a pointed muzzle. The pouch area consists of only slightly developed lateral skin folds.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    115 g
    4.05 oz
    AnAge
  • Range length
    125 to 200 mm
    4.92 to 7.87 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.26 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

Little is known about mating in mulgaras.

Little is known about breeding in the wild, but the breeding season begins in mid May and lasts about six weeks. Gestation is approximately 30 days and the litter size is six to eight. The young first detach from the nipples at about 55 days and are independent at four months. Individuals of both sexes have been known to come into breeding condition each year for six years, suggesting that they are fairly long-lived animals.

  • Breeding interval
    Mulgaras breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from mid May to July.
  • Average number of offspring
    6 to 8
  • Average number of offspring
    7
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    30 days
  • Average gestation period
    38 days
    AnAge
  • Average time to independence
    4 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    315 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    315 days
    AnAge

Females nurse their young in the pouch and care for them until they reach independence.

Lifespan/Longevity

Mulgaras are known to live for at least six years in the wild. Some may live longer but mortality is probably highest in young mulgaras.

Behavior

Mulgaras are terrestrial, but they are capable of climbing. They also seem to be both diurnal and nocturnal, with most foraging occurring at night. A mulgara avoids exposure to heat during the hot part of the day by remaining in its burrow. However, it basks in the sun whenever the opportunity arises. When sunning, the body is flattened against the substrate, and the tail twitches sporadically. In captivity, mulgaras can be kept in pairs, and they generally do not fight among themselves, appearing quite solicitous of each other. A pair of adults received by the National Zoological Park was alive and well after six years.

Communication and Perception

Mulgaras have keen vision, smell, touch, and acoustic senses. Little is known about how they communicate, but they probably use this full suite of senses in communication, including touch, body postures, chemical cues, and vocalizations.

Food Habits

The diet of mulgaras includes insects, other arthropods, and small vertebrates. Mulgaras are able to consume 25% of their own weight in food and can subsist without drinking water or even eating succulent plants, because it is able to extract sufficient water from a diet of lean meat or mice. A mulgara attacks a mouse and other small vertebrates with lightening speed. It then devours the animal methodically from head to tail, inverting the skin in a remarkably neat fashion. It also is skillfull at dislodging insects from crevices by means of its tiny forepaws.

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Predation

Mulgaras seek refuge from predators in their burrows and by being vigilant. The primary predators of mulgaras may be large snakes, dingos, and humans.

Ecosystem Roles

Mulgaras are important predators of small mammals and arthropods in the ecosystems in which they live.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Mulgaras are important members of the ecosystems in which they live.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative effects of mulgaras on humans.

Conservation Status

Mulgaras ae considered threatened and vulnerable under the EPBC act in Australia. They are very rare in Queensland and South Australia. Their decline may be associated with habitat disturbances caused by the European introduction of livestock, pets, and rabbits. On the other hand, they are common in Northern Territory.

Contributors

Wojtek Nocon (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Nowak, Ronald M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World; 5th ed, vol.1. John Hopkins University Press.

Strahan, Ronald. 1995. The Mammals of Australia. Reed Books, Australia.

Taylor, Mary J. 1984. The Oxford Guide to Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press.