Thylogale stigmaticared-legged pademelon

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Geographic Range

Thylogale stigmatica, or red-legged pademelon, is found in Australia and New Guinea. In Australia, they can be found between the tip of Cape York to the southern portion of Tamworth. In New Guinea, they are located in the southern Fly River area. (Strahan and National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife (Project), 1983; Strahan, 1995; Gould, 1978; Johnson and Vernes, 1994; Strahan and National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife (Project), 1983; Strahan, 1995)

Habitat

On the eastern coast of Australia, pademelons can be found in rainforests, wet sclerophyll forests, and dry vine scrub forests. Northern populations use the grassy forest edge and inner portions of the forest. Pademelons in the southern regions of their habitat rarely venture beyond the forest edge. Thylogale stigmatica is also located in the lowland rainforests and low mixed savanna thickets near swamps in the southern Fly River area of New Guinea. (Cronin, 2000; Gould, 1978; Strahan, 1995)

Physical Description

Red-legged pademelons have thick, soft fur and a short stout tail. They also have round ears, a naked nose, and red-brown markings on their cheeks, thighs and forearms. Pademelons that live in dark forest regions have dark grey-brown coats and cream colored bellies. Populations that live in open areas have pale grey-brown coats and pale grey bellies. Their hindfeet have no first digit, while the second and third digits are fused (a condition called syndactyly, common to all members of the family Macropodidae). The fourth digit is long. (Cronin, 2000; David and Diane, 2005a; Strahan and National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife (Project), 1983; Strahan, 1995)

Pademelons are small when compared to other species in Macropodidae; their average height is 0.762 m. Males have head and body lengths ranging from 470 to 536 mm. Their tails vary from 372 to 473 mm. A male’s weight ranges from 3.7 to 6.8 kg. (Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995)

Female pademelons are smaller than males with head and body lengths ranging from 386 to 520 mm. Their tails can be between 301 to 445 mm. Females weigh between 2.5 to 4.2 kg. (Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    2.5 to 6.8 kg
    5.51 to 14.98 lb
  • Range length
    386 to 536 mm
    15.20 to 21.10 in

Reproduction

Thylogale stigmatica is polygynous, and as a result of its solitary behavior, mating is one of the few times they can be found together in the wild. When males begin the courtship ritual, they make soft clucking sounds to let their intentions be known. Females that reject a courting male make harsh rasping sounds. ("A Guide to the Use of Australian Native Mammals in Biomedical Research Section 4: Care of Individual Species", 1995; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; David and Diane, 2005b; Strahan, 1995)

When fighting over a female, two males hold their heads back to protect their eyes while standing upright on their hindlegs. The object of the fight is to swing their claws at each other and knock the opponent off balance. When a male has accomplished this, he kicks the opponent in the abdomen. The fighting can often lead to loss of fur. (David and Diane, 2005b)

Red-legged pademelons give birth year round in captivity. In the wild, births usually occur between October and June and result in one young. Postpartum mating usually occurs 2 to 12 hours after giving birth. As the young reaches the blastocyst phase of development, embryonic diapause occurs. (Austad, 2006; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; Johnson and Vernes, 1994; Strahan, 1995)

The estrus cycle generally lasts 31 days and is followed by a gestation period of 28 to 30 days. When the young is born, the infant climbs into the pouch of the mother pademelon with its well-developed forelimbs, as is true of all marsupials. The infant stays in the pouch for 184 days. (Austad, 2006; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; Johnson and Vernes, 1994)

While it is in the pouch, an infant's sex is distinguishable even after 21 to 28 days. Vibrissae appear 56 to 70 days after birth. The pinnae become erect after 105 to 126 days, and teat detachment occurs 91 to 126 days after birth. The hair becomes visible after 133 to 147 days, and the eyes open after 112 to 126 days. Emergence from the pouch is measured by the condition of the feet of the pademelon, which become dirty once it leaves the pouch. Emergence occurs between 133 to 182 days after birth. (Johnson and Vernes, 1994; Strahan, 1995)

After leaving the pouch, the young only uses one teat, leaving the other for its sibling. Mothers produce two types of milk while lactating. Weaning generally occurs between 44 to 111 days after the young permanently leaves the pouch. Sexual maturity is reached 307 to 412 days (females) and 451 to 522 days (males) after leaving the pouch. (Johnson and Vernes, 1994; Strahan, 1995)

  • Breeding interval
    The peak season for breeding occurs in the spring but can occur year round.
  • Breeding season
    Mating can be observed from October to June.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 1
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    28 to 30 days
  • Range weaning age
    44 to 111 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    307 to 412 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    451 to 522 days

After emerging from the pouch, the mother protects and teaches the infant what and where to forage. Even after pademelons leave the pouch, suckling of milk from the mother occurs to supplement the diet. The role of father pademelons in the caring and raising of the young is unknown. ("A Guide to the Use of Australian Native Mammals in Biomedical Research Section 4: Care of Individual Species", 1995; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The maximum life span recorded is 9.7 years in the wild. (Austad, 2006)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    9.7 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    9.7 years
    AnAge

Behavior

Red-legged pademelons are usually shy and solitary but associate in loosely organized groups. They are active all day, but are least active from midday to early afternoon and midnight. (Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995)

As pademelons feed in the forest, they are equally spaced (30-50 m). The spacing and area of feeding is controlled by a dominant pademelon. When feeding on the edge of the forest and frightened, they use cleared paths that have been made to quickly make an escape into the forest for cover. (Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005b; Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005b; Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995)

Although they commonly feed in the forest alone, pademelons gather at night when feeding on the forest edge. They can also been seen together during the winter as they group in basking spots to keep warm. (Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005b; Strahan, 1995; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005b; Strahan, 1995)

When foraging, they keep their noses to the ground slowly moving in a quadrupedal fashion. When resting, the tail is between the hindlegs as the animals sit on the base of their tails and lean against a rock or tree. When pademelons sleep, the same resting stance is used except that the head is leaned forward to rest on the tail or on the ground beside them. When resting or sleeping they can be found in depressions made in the ground. ("Australian Wildlife Short Notes on a range of animals", 2004; Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995; "Australian Wildlife Short Notes on a range of animals", 2004; Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995)

  • Range territory size
    10,000 to 40,000 m^2

Home Range

The home range of pademelons is separated into two regions: the inner portion of the forest during the day and the forest edge during the night. Their home range is between 10,000 to 40,000 square meters, with the diurnal range being larger than the nocturnal range. Within the diurnal and nocturnal ranges, red-legged pademelons move slowly, but when traveling between the two regions, they moves swiftly. Overall, they are more active in the forest during the early morning and late afternoon when searching for favored food items like dicots. The nocturnal region of their habitat is associated with more sedentary behavior and intensive grazing. While grazing at night, pademelons do not stray more than 70 meters from the forest edge. If frightened, they use the runways they have cleared to quickly move into the forest to take cover. (Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995; Vernes, et al., 1995)

Communication and Perception

Red-legged pademelons communicate mainly through sound. The soft clucking sound used by a mother to call her young is similar to the sound that is made by a male trying to court a female. When frightened, they give an alarm thump, which is created with their hindfeet to alert surrounding pademelons. It is at this time that they use the pre-made runways in the forest to quickly retreat. (Strahan and National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife (Project), 1983; Strahan, 1995)

Food Habits

The diet of red-legged pademelons is primarily composed of fallen leaves and fruits. They have also been known to eat fresh leaves. Some of the leaves they consume are known to be poisonous. To combat this, they use an enzyme called GST. One of the favorite foods of T. stigmatica is the Moreton bay fig (Fiscus macrophylla). Other fruits that make up part of their diet are the Burdekin plum in the northern region and berries. Some plants that make up their diet are dicotyledonous plants, Fishborne ferns, and king orchids. During nocturnal grazing, they consume grasses like Paspalum notatum and Cyrtococum oxyphylum. They have also been known to eat the bark of trees, fungus, and cicadas. (Billiards, et al., 1999; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005a; Cronin, 2000; David and Diane, 2005c; Strahan and National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife (Project), 1983; Strahan, 1995)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers
  • Other Foods
  • fungus

Predation

The main predators of T. stigmatica are dingos (Canis lupus dingo), tiger quolls (Dasyurus maculatus), amethystine pythons (Morelia amethistina), and domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). The rate of predation increases following a forest fire, when there is less forest cover. (David and Diane, 2005c; David and Diane, 2005a; Strahan, 1995; Vernes, 2000)

They detect predators by spreading out when foraging. Each pademelon can watch for predators in its vicinity. If a predator is seen, a warning to others in the area is spread by a thumping sound made with the hind legs. (Cronin, 2000; Strahan, 1995)

Ecosystem Roles

The dingo’s main diet is composed of red-legged pademelons when they are available. Thylogale stigmatica has the potential to damage or kill young saplings when eating or stepping on them. There has also been a case of crops being eaten. ("A Guide to the Use of Australian Native Mammals in Biomedical Research Section 4: Care of Individual Species", 1995; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005b; Fischer, 2005; Strahan, 1995)

Pademelons are subject to various parasites such as coccidiosis (infects the intestines), ticks, and toxoplasmosis (believed to come from cats). ("A Guide to the Use of Australian Native Mammals in Biomedical Research Section 4: Care of Individual Species", 1995; Fischer, 2005)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • coccidia (coccidiosis)
  • ticks (Acari)
  • toxoplasma (toxoplasmosis)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pademelons, along with many other species of Macropodidae in Australia, are important members of the ecosystems in which they live and are important ecotourism attractions. (Higginbottom, et al., 2004)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Pademelons may eat crops very rarely. (Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005b; Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005b)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Clearing of the red-legged pademelons' habitat is cause for concern, but at this time there are enough parks and reserves to keep T. stigmatica off of conservation lists and keep their status secure. (Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005b; Strahan, 1995; Vernes, 2000)

Other Comments

The name Thylogale stigmatica means "prickled (pattern) pouched-weasel". The name pademelon comes from the Aboriginal word "paddymalla" which means small kangaroo from the forest. (Strahan, 1995)

Although humans clear away the forest area the pademelons live in, the cleared area becomes grassy. These areas are used during nocturnal feeding by pademelons. (Fostercare of Australians Unique Native Animals, 2004; Strahan, 1995)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Waseem Anani (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, 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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

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

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates

ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

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.

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

forest

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

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

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

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

rainforest

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.

saltatorial

specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

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.

solitary

lives alone

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.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

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.

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

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

Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council. A Guide to the Use of Australian Native Mammals in Biomedical Research Section 4: Care of Individual Species. EA9. Australia: Australian Government National Health and Medical Reseach Council. 1995. Accessed March 08, 2006 at http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/ea9syn.htm.

BASDATA Pty Ltd. 2004. "Australian Wildlife Short Notes on a range of animals" (On-line). Australian Wildlife. Accessed March 08, 2006 at http://www.australianwildlife.com.au/Notes.htm.

Agar, N., P. Spencer. 1993. Levels of Glycolytic Enzymes and Metabolites in the Red Blood Cells of the Red-legged Pademelon, Thylogale Stigmatica (Macropodidae: Marsupialia). Comp. Biochem. Physiol., 105B/1: 199-202.

Austad, S. 2006. "Ageing, longevity, and life history of Thylogale stigmatica" (On-line). Accessed April 15, 2006 at http://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Thylogale_stigmatica.

Billiards, S., J. King, N. Agar. 1999. Comparative Erthrocyte Metabolism in Three Species of Marsupials from Western Australia. Comparative Haematology International, 9: 86-91.

Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005. "! Red-legged Pademelon ! Tropical Rainforest, Far North Queensland Australia" (On-line). Accessed March 01, 2006 at http://rainforest-australia.com/pademelon.htm.

Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, 2005. "Red-legged Pademelon - Thylogale stigmatica" (On-line). Pademelon. Accessed March 15, 2006 at http://www.wildlife-australia.com/pademelon.htm.

Cronin, L. 2000. Australian mammals: key guide. Annandale, NSW: Envirobook.

David, A., A. Diane. 2005. "Males Fighting" (On-line). Accessed March 08, 2006 at http://www.anhs.com.au/males_fighting.htm.

David, A., A. Diane. 2005. "Red-legged Pademelon (joey) - Thylogale stigmatica" (On-line). Accessed March 08, 2006 at http://www.anhs.com.au/pademelon.htm.

David, A., A. Diane. 2005. "Red-legged Pademelon - Thylogale stigmatica" (On-line). Accessed March 15, 2006 at http://www.anhs.com.au/pademelon_3.htm.

Fischer, N. 2005. "TAGS INC. Australia - Tick Identification (Australia)" (On-line). Accessed March 16, 2006 at http://www.tickalert.org.au/identifi.htm.

Fostercare of Australians Unique Native Animals, 2004. "Red Legged Pademelons" (On-line). Accessed March 15, 2006 at http://www.fauna.com.au/marsupials/redleggedpademelon.php.

Gould, J. 1978. Gould's mammals: selections from John Gould's Mammals of Australia. London: David & Charles.

Higginbottom, K., C. Northrope, B. Hill, L. Fredline. 2004. The Role of Kangaroos In Australian Tourism. Australian Mammalogy, 26: 23-32.

Johnson, P., K. Vernes. 1994. Reproduction in the Red-legged Pademelon, Thylogale stigmatica Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), and Age Estimation and Development of Pouch Young. Wildlife Research, 21: 553-558.

Maxwell, S., A. Burbidge, K. Morris. 2004. "Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Montremes" (On-line). Accessed March 18, 2006 at http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/action/marsupials/10.html.

Strahan, R. 1995. The mammals of Australia. Chatswood, N.S.W.: Reed Books.

Strahan, R., National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife (Project). 1983. The Australian Museum complete book of Australian mammals : the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife. London: Angus and Robertson.

Taylor, M. 1984. The Oxford guide to mammals of Australia. New York: Oxford University Press.

Vernes, K. 2000. Immediate effects of fire on survivorship of the norther bettong (Bettongia tropica): an endangered Australian marsupial. Biological Conservation, 96: 305-309.

Vernes, K., H. Marsh, J. Winter. 1995. Home-range Characteristics and Movement Patterns of the Red-legged Pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica) in a Fragmented Tropical Rainforest. Wildlife Research, 22: 699-708.