Dasyurus geoffroiiwestern quoll

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Geographic Range

Dasyurus geoffroii are mainly found in the southwest portion of Western Australia in the Jarrah forest, though their range once covered Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia (Johnson et al 1982, Menkhorst et al 1995).

Habitat

The original habitat of western quolls was once quite large, including stretches of desert in the arid part of Central Australia. However due to various causes, D. geoffroii's territory has been reduced to the Jarrah forests in the southwest portion of South Australia. These areas consist of open forest, low open forest, woodland, and open shrub.

(Hyett et al 1980, Mawson 1996, Menkhorst et al 1995)

Physical Description

Dasyurus geoffroii usually sport a brown or black (rarer) coat with white spots along their lean, short-legged bodies. The face is paler than the rest of the fur while the ears are white-rimmed. Western quolls are roughly the size of a cat and have pointed facial features along with large eyes and rounded ears. They measure roughly 36 cm to 46 cm in body length, tail length ranges from 22 to 30 cm. Females are the smaller of the species. (Collins, 1973; Hyett and Shaw, 1980; Massicot, 2000; Mawson, 2000; Ride, 1970)

  • Range mass
    900 to 1300 g
    31.72 to 45.81 oz
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    2.991 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

Western quolls are seasonal breeders, mating between the months of May and July with a peak in June. Nnormal litter size ranges from 2 to 6 young per year, there have been cases where females produce more young than can be nurses. After a gestational period of 16 to 23 days, western quolls remain in their mother's shallow pouch for another seven to fifteen weeks until they outgrow the pouch. At this point they are left in the den while the female forages for food. Dasyurus geoffroii are independent at 18 weeks and weaned at 23 to 24 weeks, both the male and female are sexually mature at one year of age.

(Collins 1973, Hyett et al 1980, Massicot 2000, Mawson 1996, Menkhorst et al 1995, Ride 1970)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
    6
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    16 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    365 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Western quolls are nocturnal and territorial creatures. Home ranges of males are large and probably overlap the territory of several females, however male and female D. geoffroii only meet for mating. The young disperse in November before taking up their own territories. Western quolls do climb trees and often nest in dens left by other animals, in logs, or in stone piles. The presence of D. geoffroii can be detected by bone accumulations beneath rocks and in tree hollows. They are rarely seen due to the reduction in their habitat by humans and numbers of introduced predators, such as foxes, birds of prey, and feral cats.

(Hyett et al 1980, Mawson 1996, Menkhorst et al 1995)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Their diet is rather diverse, ranging from large insects, to small vertebrates, to carrion. In arid habitats they have been found to eat mammals the size of rabbits, lizards, frogs, and invertebrates. In forested habitats they consume insects, freshwater crustaceans, reptiles, parrot-sized birds, and rabbit-sized mammals. In human-settled areas they will raid chicken coops and rubbish bins. Dasyurus geoffroii kills larger prey by biting the back of the head or neck. This carnivore is primarily a ground forager and nocturnal though it does occasionally climb trees.

(Hume 1999, Menkhorst et al 1995, Hyett et al 1980)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Western quolls are important to the aboriginal people of Australia as a symbol in their mythology, as food, and for ceremonial purposes. Dasyurus geoffroii also serve as natural predators of insects, pests, and rabbits that plague some farmers.

(Johnson et al 1982, Ride 1970)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

In rare instances western quoll may take domestic fowl.

Conservation Status

Much of western quoll's habitat has been destroyed through controlled and frequent burns as well as the use of pesticides by surrounding farmers. The introduction of predator species such as foxes, feral cats, and bird of preys by European settlers has also reduced their numbers. The new predators compete with western quoll for food and also prey upon them. There have been successful attempts to breed D. geoffroii in captivity and release them (Perth Zoo). Research on western quoll and their habitat have been conducted in hopes of finding a way to preserve the species in the wild. Various areas have passed acts in an attempt to conserve these marsupials but there are no statistics on their success. (Mawson 1996, Massicot 2000, Murdoch University 1997)

Other Comments

Western quoll have a life span of 5.5 years in captivity and 3-4 years in the wild (Mawson 1996) .

Contributors

York Fei Leung (author), University of California, Irvine, Rudi Berkelhamer (editor), University of California, Irvine.

Glossary

Australian

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

World Map

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.

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.

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.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

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.

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Collins, L. 1973. Monotremes and Marsupials: A Reference for Zoological Insitutions. City of Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Hume, I. 1999. Marsupial Nutrition. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Hyett, J., N. Shaw. 1980. Australian Marsupials: A Field Guide for New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia & Tasmania. Melbourne, Australia: Nelson.

Johnson, K., A. Roff. 1982. The Western Quoll, Dasyurus geoffroii (Dasyuridae Masrupialia) in the Northern Territory: Historical Records from Venerable Sources. Pp. 221-226 in M Archer, ed. Carnivorous Marsupials Vol. 1. Mosman, N.S.W., Australia: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.

Massicot, P. 2000. "Animal Info - Western Native Cat" (On-line). Accessed February 19, 2001 at http://www.animalinfo.org/species/dasygeof.htm.

Mawson, C. 2000. "Chuditch" (On-line). Accessed February 19, 2001 at http://edsitewa.iinet.net.au/perthzoo/chuditch.html.

Menkhorst, P., A. Bennett, S. Henry, L. Lumsden, I. Mansergh. 1995. Mammals of Victoria: Distribution, ecology and conservation. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Murdoch University, 07/30/1997. "Fighting Back From the Edge of Extinction" (On-line). Accessed February 19, 2001 at http://wwwcomm.murdoch.edu.au/synergy/9702/chuditch.html.

Ride, W. 1970. A Guide to the Native Mammals of Australia. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.