Trichosurus arnhemensisnorthern brushtail possum

Geographic Range

Trichosurus arnhemensis is closely related to Trichosurus vulpecula, with its most distinguishing feature being its geographic range. It is found in the Northern Territory of Australia, as well as in the extreme northern part of Western Australia. It is also found on Barrow Island (Nowak, 1999).


The Northern Brushtail Possum is able to live in a variety of habitats, including residential areas, forests, and areas without trees that offer caves and burrows for shelter. The most common of these is wooded areas.

Physical Description

The body length is between 35 cm and 55 cm. The tail adds an additional 25 cm to 40 cm. Females weigh between 1500 g to 3500 g and males weigh between 2000 g and 4500 g. The coat is typically grey in color; however, it can also be reddish brown, copper, or chocolate brown. The fur is shorter and less dense than that of the closely related T. vulpecula (Kerle, 1991). The tail is prehensile and covered with fur. The underside is hairless. The tail of the T. arnhemensis is less hairy and thinner than the tail of T. vulpecula (Kerle, 1991). The ears are long and oval.

  • Range mass
    1500 to 4500 g
    52.86 to 158.59 oz
  • Range length
    35 to 55 cm
    13.78 to 21.65 in


Gestation lasts between 17 and 18 days. The pouch period lasts 4 to 5 months. There is generally one offspring per birth. Weaning takes between 6 and 7 months. Individuals reach sexual maturity around age 1 and breed continuously throughout the year. Conception takes place before fully weaning the pouch young. If the pouch young is lost, the female returns to estrus in about 10 days (Nowak, 1999).

  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    17 to 18 days
  • Range weaning age
    6 to 7 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years


The expected lifespan is 11 to 13 years.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    11 to 13 years


T. arnhemensis is a nocturnal and solitary species. It is arboreal and most commonly nests in tree hollows. This species is an expert climber because of its moist palms and soles, which lead to strong adhesion (Ganslosser, 1990).

Males may occupy a territory of up to 10 acres and females, up to 5 acres (Ganslosser, 1990). T. arnhemensis has been known to partake in den sharing and to have a certain amount of tolerance for other individuals (Kerle, 1991)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

T. arnhemensis eats a variety of foods. The most common are leaves, buds, flowers, and fruits. It has been documented that, occasionally, birds are eaten (Nowak, 1999).

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit
  • flowers


Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The Northern Brushtail Possums negatively affect the human populations that they live around in a number of different ways. They often damage flowers, fruit trees, and buildings. They also adversely affect regenerating forests. These animals are also known to carry diseases that are harmful to humans and livestock (Nowak, 1999).

Conservation Status

Trichosurus arnhemensis is considered a lower risk, near threatened species by the IUCN.


Krista Milich (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Bret Weinstein (editor), 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.

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


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.


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


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.


active during the night

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


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


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


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

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


Ganslosser, U., R. Etter-Ganslosser. 1990. Phalangers. Pp. 305-311 in Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals Vol. 1. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co..

Kerle, J., G. McKay, G. Sharman. 1991. A systematic Analysis of the Brushtail Possum, Trichosurus vulpecula. Austrailian Journal of Zoology, 39: 313-331.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World 6th ed. Vol. 1. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.