Petrogale lateralisblack-footed rock wallaby

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Geographic Range

Although Petrogale lateralis is often reffered to as the "West Australian Rock Wallaby", its distribution is clearly not confined to this region. P. lateralis populations can be found in northern South Australia, the southern parts of the Northern Territory, as well as Western Australia. (Pearson 1992; Strahan 1995)

Habitat

Members of this species, like other rock wallabies, live on rock piles, cliffs, and rocky hills. Their highly specialized feet allow them to move swiftly and safely on steep rocky terrain. They camp near caves or cliffs where they can take shelter, and they are often found in very arid areas where water is scarce. (Strahan 1995; Pearson 1992; Taylor 1995)

Physical Description

Like all rock wallabies,P lateralis has thick and padded hind feet with granulated soles that provide traction on rocky terrain. Also, unlike other macropods, in the rock wallaby the claw of the fourth toe extends barely (if at all) past the large toe pad. Petrogale lateralis has a thick and soft grey-brown coat. Its face is dark and grey with a light stripe on the cheek. The various sub-species of P. lateralis differ in body markings and size. In most sub-species, females are70-85% the weight of males the same age. (Strahan 1995; Jones 1923; Taylor 1984)

  • Range mass
    3.1 to 7 kg
    6.83 to 15.42 lb

Reproduction

Very little information is available for P. lateralis; the following account is based primarily on other wallaby species. All rock-wallaby species breed continually. The gestation period and oestrus cycle of Petrogalespecies, are both about 30 days. As with other marsupials, the new born rock wallabies are very undeveloped and suckle inside their mother's pouch. Unlike other kangaroos and wallabies, young rock wallabies that have left the pouch but are not yet weaned are often left in a sheltered area while their mother goes off to feed. This may be because of the treacherous terrain in which the rock wallabies live.

(Strahan 1995; Taylor 1984)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge

Behavior

Petrogale lateralis live in groups of between ten and a few hundred members. They are fairly inactive during the hottest hours of the day, but they do bask in the sun to warm themselves in the morning after a cold evening and sometimes also in the early evening. Little information is available on the social system in P. lateralis populations. (Taylor 1984; Strahan 1995)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Petrogale lateralis feeds mainly on grass and herbs. The large forestomach of macropods is well suited for the microbial fermentation of cellulose. Petrogale lateralis does not need to drink much water to survive and sometimes lives in areas where no permanent water source is available. These wallabies seek shelter in caves during the hottest hours of the days to minimize their loss of water. They are most active during early evening when they leave their shelter to feed on plants. (Strahan 1995; Taylor 1984)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This species lives primarily in remote areas and has little effect on the lives of most people in Australia. They were used as a food source by early explorers and Aboriginals, but today P. lateralis are not widely hunted. (Pearson 1992)

Conservation Status

The number and size of P. lateralis populations has never been accurately determined, but it is now believed that their distribution is diminishing. Reports written by past explorers and Aboriginals have suggested that large groups of P. lateralis once existed in several regions where none are currently observed. There has been some speculation that their decline has been caused by competition from other herbivores, changes in fire patterns since aboriginals have left certain areas, or increased predation by introduced predators such as the fox. (Pearson 1992; Strahan 1995)

Contributors

Joshua Seinfeld (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

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.

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

Jones, F. W. 1923. The Mammals of South Australia. R. E. E. Rogers, Government Printer, Adelaide.

Pearson, D. J. 1992. Past and Present Distribution and Abundance of the Black-footed Rock-wallaby in the Wharburton Region of Western Australia. Wildlife Research. vol. 19 (6) pp. 605-622.

Strahan, R. 1995. The Mammals of Australia. Imago Productions, Singapore.

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