Petrogale persephoneProserpine rock wallaby

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Geographic Range

Proserpine rock-wallabies, Petrogale persephone, are found in fragmented habitats along north-east to central coastal Queensland, Australia. There is also an isolated population on Gloucester Island. In 1998, this species was introduced to Hayman Island (Johnson, Nolan, and Schaper 2003). Its habitat includes portions of Conway National Park, Gloucester Island National Park, Drylander National Park, and Conway Range (Nolan and Johnson 2001). (Burnett and Winter, 2011; Johnson, et al., 2003; Nolan and Johnson, 2001; Nolan, 1997)

Habitat

Proserpine rock-wallabies live in elevated rocky outcrops within semi-deciduous microphyll-notophyll vine forests. They often prefer foothills near open woodland (Johnson, Nolan, and Schaper 2003; Johnson and Delean 1999; Nolan 1997). During the dry season, they moves closer to the forest edge to graze on grasses (Nolan and Johnson 2001). During the day, this species is occasionally active at elevations above 140 m (Nolan, 1997; Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012).

Proserpine rock-wallabies occupy areas with diverse rock types and choose their habitat based on a variety of factors. Favorable locations contain boulders larger than 0.6 m in diameter, which are used for shelter (Pott 1997).

Many similar species are found in the same region, and habitat preference is commonly used as a factor in identification (Sharman, Close, and Maynes 1990). (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012; Johnson and Delean, 1999; Johnson, et al., 2003; Nolan and Johnson, 2001; Nolan, 1997; Pott, 1997; Sharman, et al., 1990)

Physical Description

Like many rock wallabies, Proserpine rock-wallabies are dark grey in color and occasionally have a mauve tinge. Their underside is a light cream color. All four paws are black. The tail is dark dorsally with a tuft on end. A white tip on the tail is common and often used in identification; however, not every member of this species displays this trait (Norlan 1997). The back paws have fleshy pads and short, stout, hooked nails for climbing rocks.

Of the eleven species of rock-wallabies found in Australia, P. persephone is the third largest (Johnson and Delean 1999; Nolan and Johnson 2001). This species is slightly sexually dimorphic with males weighing 4.3 to 9.6 kg and females weighing 3.6 to 7.4 kg (Johnson, Nolan, and Schaper 2003). The head and body length of an adult averages at 520 to 640 mm (Nolan 1997).

Hybridization is common within the genus Petrogale, increasing difficulty of species identification (Close and Bell 1997; Sharman, Close, and Maynes 1990). (Close and Bell, 1997; Johnson and Delean, 1999; Johnson, et al., 2003; Nolan and Johnson, 2001; Nolan, 1997; Queensland Government, 2012; Sharman, et al., 1990)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    3.6 to 9.6 kg
    7.93 to 21.15 lb
  • Range length
    520 to 640 mm
    20.47 to 25.20 in

Reproduction

Little is known about the mating system of Proserpine rock-wallabies.

In favorable conditions, Proserpine rock-wallabies can breed year round. Estrus lasts 33 to 38 days and gestation lasts 30 to 34 days. Like similar marsupials, Proserpine rock-wallabies exhibit embryonic diapause. A female can become pregnant immediately after giving birth. The embryo freezes in development as a blastocyst in response to the lactation hormone prolactin. The young stays within its mother's pouch for 203 to 215 days and is fully weaned 105 to 139 days after leaving the pouch. During weaning, prolactin decreases in the mother, activating the embryonic development of the next young. This cycle allows a mother to give birth a day after the previous joey leaves the pouch permanently. There is equal sex allocation in this species. Males become sexually mature at 24.8 to 25.2 months of age, and females become sexually mature at 20.5 to 25.1 months (Johnson and Delean 1999).

Hybridization is common within the genus Petrogale. These hybrids were first discovered in 1976 and are still recorded on occasion. Fertility is slightly diminished in hybrids, but both male and female hybrids are fertile (Close and Bell 1997). (Johnson and Delean, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Proserpine rock-wallabies breed approximately once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Proserpine rock-wallabies breed year round.
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Range gestation period
    30 to 34 days
  • Range weaning age
    308 to 354 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    20.5 to 25.1 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    24.8 to 25.2 months

Young Proserpine rock-wallabies are born underdeveloped and remain within their mother's pouch for 203 to 215 days. Mothers lactate until offspring are fully weaned, 105 to 139 days after leaving the pouch. (Johnson and Delean, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Proserpine rock-wallabies can live 10 years in the wild. (Queensland Government, 2012)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 (high) years

Behavior

Proserpine rock-wallabies are generally nocturnal and rest in their rocky shelters during the day. These rock shelters offer protection from predators and high temperatures. Proserpine rock-wallabies are cautious and remain near their rock shelters when foraging. In cool weather, they sun themselves. Four to 8 individuals share the same rock pile, though as many as 35 individuals have been observed inhabiting one rock pile. Individuals move between colonies when habitat connects rock shelters. Proserpine rock-wallabies occasionally graze in groups of 2 to 6 individuals (Queensland Government, 2012; Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012). (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012; Queensland Government, 2012; Winkel, 1997)

Home Range

Home range of Proserpine rock-wallabies during the dry season is estimated to be 13.6 ha for males and 12.4 ha for females. During the wet season, home range is estimated to be 20.1 ha for males and 9.7 ha for females. Individual home ranges overlapped by 14% on average in one study (Winkel, 1997; Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012). (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012; Johnson, et al., 2003; Winkel, 1997)

Communication and Perception

Little is known regarding communication or perception in this species.

Food Habits

Proserpine rock-wallabies forage at the edge of forest habitat. They are generalist opportunistic feeders and obtain approximately 60% of their diet from ground dwelling plants, but eat any easily accessible plants, flowers, or seeds. Diet varies from wet to dry season. In one population (Winkle 1997), grass made up 54% of the diet during the wet season, and 52% in the dry season. Trees made up 34% in the wet season and 32% in the dry season. Fungi made up 1% of diet during both wet and dry seasons, and forbs made up less than 1% during both wet and dry seasons. Shrubs increased from 7% in the dry season to 8% in the wet season, and vines dramatically increased from 0.7% in the wet season to 8% in the dry season (Winkel 1997). Beach scrub is a common food source for the population living on Gloucester Island (Johnson, Nolan, and Schaper 2003). Introduced toxic plants pose a possible danger due to the opportunistic nature of Proserpine rock-wallabies. (Johnson, et al., 2003; Winkel, 1997)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • Other Foods
  • fungus

Predation

Dingos (Canis lupusdingo), carpet pythons (Morelia spilota), and goannas (Varanus varius) are native predators of Proserpine rock-wallabies (Winkel 1997).

When first introduced to Hayman Island, many Proserpine rock-wallabies were found dead with wounds consistent with eagle attacks. Suspected predators were wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax) and white breasted sea eagles (Halioeetus leucogaster). A 3-month gradual release of Proserpine rock-wallabies slowly exposed wallabies to the new environment and predators while keeping them protected and helped condition wallabies to avoid eagles (Johnson, Nolan, and Schaper 2003).

Many Proserpine rock-wallabies are hit by cars, and populations are reduced by human encroachment on habitat. (Johnson, et al., 2003; Winkel, 1997)

Ecosystem Roles

Proserpine rock-wallabies are a primary consumer, opportunistically feeding on plants. Feral goats (Capra hircus) may compete with this species for food on Hayman Island. Eradication attempts have been made to eliminate these goats, which have been successful (Johnson, Nolan, and Schaper 2003).

Proserpine rock-wallabies host a variety of parasites. Haemaphysalis petrogalis and Heterodoxus spp. exclusively parasitize rock-wallabies. Thaddeua serrata, Globocephaloides macropodis, Hypodontus macropi, Eimeria petrogale, and Eimeria sharmani may also pose a risk to Proserpine rock-wallabies (Begg et al. 1995). Feral cats and dogs and roadkill may pass parasites and thus disease to Proserpine rock-wallabies, including toxoplasmosis via Toxoplasma gondii and hydatidosis via Echinococcus granulosis (Johnson, Nolan, and Schaper 2003). (Begg, et al., 1995; Johnson, et al., 2003)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Echinococcus granulosis
  • Haemaphysalis petgrogalis
  • Heterodoxus
  • Thaddeua serrata
  • Globocephaloides macropodis
  • Hypodontus macropi
  • Eimeria petrogale
  • Eimeria sharmani

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Positive impacts of Proserpine rock-wallabies on humans are unknown.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Proserpine rock-wallabies on humans.

Conservation Status

Though discovered in 1976, Petrogale persephone was not officially described until 1982 (Maynes 1982). In 1991, a recovery plan began, leading to the creation of a Recovery Team in 1993 (Davidson 2001; Nolan 1997). The Marsupial and Monotreme Action Plan listed Proserpine rock-wallabies as vulnerable in 1992 (Kennedy 1992). This speices was listed as endangered in Queensland by the Nature Conservation Act in 1992, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Animals in 1994, and by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in 1999. The Department of Environment and Resource Management considers it to be a critical priority (Nolan 1997; Queensland Government 2012).

There are many threats to Proserpine rock-wallabies. Residential development and tourism utilize prime habitat of this species. The five main populations of Proserpine rock-wallabies are separated by unsuitable habitat, preventing gene flow. Predation, parasites, and disease transmitted by feral and domestic cats and dogs as well as roadkill also threatens this species. Proserpine rock-wallabies are frequently hit by cars. Because P. persephone is an opportunistic feeder, there is a danger of consuming introduced toxic plants, such as pink periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). Misidentification of other species and hybrids may lead to inaccurate estimates of population size.

Conservation efforts are ongoing. Addition of wildlife reflectors on roads known to be roadkill zones has decreased road fatalities. Acquisition of habitat for National Parks and protection of current habitats should help recovery efforts. Additional preservation goals include increasing community awareness, releasing captively bred Proserpine rock-wallabies, and minimizing fatalities in existing populations (Nolan and Johnson 2001). (Burnett and Winter, 2011; Kennedy, 1992; Maynes, 1982; Nolan and Johnson, 2001; Nolan, 1997; Queensland Government, 2012)

Contributors

Morgan Lantz (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Glossary

Australian

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

World Map

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

embryonic diapause

At about the time a female gives birth (e.g. in most kangaroo species), she also becomes receptive and mates. Embryos produced at this mating develop only as far as a hollow ball of cells (the blastocyst) and then become quiescent, entering a state of suspended animation or embryonic diapause. The hormonal signal (prolactin) which blocks further development of the blastocyst is produced in response to the sucking stimulus from the young in the pouch. When sucking decreases as the young begins to eat other food and to leave the pouch, or if the young is lost from the pouch, the quiescent blastocyst resumes development, the embryo is born, and the cycle begins again. (Macdonald 1984)

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

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

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

saltatorial

specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

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

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.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

Begg, M., I. Beveridge, N. Chilton, P. Johnson, M. O'Callaghan. 1995. Parasites of the proserpine rock wallaby, Petrogale persephone (Marsupialia: Macropodidae). Australian Mammalogy, 18(1): 45-53.

Burnett, S., J. Winter. 2011. "Pertrogale persephone" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed March 29, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/16747/0.

Close, R., J. Bell. 1997. Fertile Hybrids in Two Genera of Wallabies: Petrogale and Thylogale. The Journal of Heredity, 88(5): 393-397.

Davidson, C. 1991. Recovery Plan for the Proserpine Rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone. Canberra: Unpublished report to the Endangered Species Program, Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012. "Petrogale persephone" (On-line). Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Accessed August 13, 2012 at http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=226.

Johnson, P., J. Delean. 1999. Reproduction in the Proserpine rock-wallaby, Petrogale persephone Maynes (Marsupialla: Macropodidea), in captivity, with age estimation and development of pouch young. Wildlife Research, 26(5): 631-639.

Johnson, P., B. Nolan, D. Schaper. 2003. Introduction of the Proserpine Rock-Wallaby Petrogale persephone from Mainland Queensland to Nearby Hayman Island. Australian Mammalogy, 25: 61-71.

Kennedy, M. 1992. Australian marsupials and monotremes: An Action Plan for their conservation. IUNC:Gland, Switzerland, 5: 47-58.

Maynes, G. 1982. A new species of rock wallaby Petrogale persophone (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) from Proserpine Central Queensland Australia. Australian Mammalogy, 5(1-2): 48-58.

Nolan, B., P. Johnson. 2001. Recovery plan for the Proserpine rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone. Canberra, Brisbane: Environment Australia, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Nolan, B. 1997. An update of the proserpine Rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone recovery plan. Australian Mammalogy, 19(2): 309-313.

Pott, E. 1997. Geological survey report, Recovery Plan, Petrogale persephone. Brisbane: Queensland Department of Environment.

Queensland Government, 2012. "Proserpine rock-wallaby" (On-line). The State of Queensland (Department of Environment and Resource Management). Accessed February 02, 2012 at http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/wildlife-ecosystems/wildlife/threatened_plants_and_animals/endangered/proserpine_rockwallaby.html.

Sharman, G., R. Close, G. Maynes. 1990. Chromosome Evolution, Phylogeny and Speciation of Rock Wallabies (Petrogale: Macropodidae). Australian Journal of Zoology, 37(2-4): 351-363.

Winkel, P. 1997. The ecology and management of the Proserpine rock-wallaby (Petrogale persephone). Brisbane: Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage.