Hypsiprymnodon moschatusmusky rat kangaroo

Geographic Range

Hypsiprymnodon moschatus live in the Austrailian tropical rainforest. They occupy about 320km of the coast in norteastern Queensland.


They live in the dense vegetation surrounding lakes and streams in the rainforest. They sleep in their nests, but little else is known due to their reclusive nature.

Physical Description

Their body is 208-341mm long and their tail is 65-123mm long. They are a rich brown or rusty grey color and mostly covered by short velvety underfur. The underside is a creamy tan color, paler than the back. The tail is scaly and naked like that of an opossum. The ears are naked as well and are thin, round, and dark in color. The claws are small, weak, and unequal in length. Females have four mammae and a well developed pouch. The forelimbs and hindlimbs are more similar in size than in other Macropods. The dentition is adapted for a general diet, and the dental formula is (i 3/1,c 0-1/10, pm 2/2, m 4/4) X 2 = 32 or 34. Throughout early life, molariform teeth migrate to make room for late erupting molars. This fourth molar doesn't erupt until very late in life.

  • Average mass
    500 g
    17.62 oz


Breeding takes place betweeen February and July (the rainy season). Usually two young are born and they leave the pouch after 21 weeks. For several more weeks the young reside in nests. Females are sexually mature at slightly more than one year.

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


Hypsiprymnodon moschatus are solitary animals but feed in pairs or trios. They are truly diurnal. Unlike most macropods, they run on all four limbs instead of hopping on the rear two. They use their tail to gather nesting material such as dried grass ferns and lichens. They sleep in these nests, which are frequently built in a clump of Lawyer Vine or between the plank butresses of a large tree. They are extremely shy and quick animals, which makes observation difficult. One account has H. moschatus sunbathing spread eagle on a fallen log. Others claim that they are good climbers and spend some time in trees.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Musky rat kangaroos are different from other rat-kangaroos in that they are primarily insectivorous. They also eat worms, tuberous roots and palm berries. The animal sits on its haunches while eating and finds food by turning over debris and digging. They are solitary, but have sometimes been seen in feeding aggregations of two or three.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

H. moschatus rarely come into contact with humans and have no economic impact on them.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative


Conservation Status

They are relatively common in their range so there is no special status for H. moschatus. Most of their living area falls within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area so it seems that populations are pretty secure.

Other Comments

Not only are they the smallest macropodids, but they are also morphologically the most primitive. Hypsiprymnodon moschatus is considered to represent the earliest evolutionary stage linking an ancestral arboreal opossum to the kangaroos. They are one of the very few truly diurnal macropodids in Australia. They are unique in that they have a well developed first digit on their hind foot. It is clawless and nonopposable to the other digits, but in all other genera the first digit is completely absent. Their scaly tail is also unique and different from other species within the family. Their name comes from a musky scent that is given off by both sexes.


Laurel Dougherty (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


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.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


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


uses touch to communicate


Grizmeck Encyclopedia Mammals, vol.1. 1990. McGraw Hill,NY

Cohen, Martin. 1997. http://www.peg .aps.org/~tasd/gogreen.html