The marsupial family Dasyuridae includes 61 species divided into 15 genera. Members of this family are found in Australia and New Guinea.

Dasyurids range in size from roughly from 5 or 6 gm to 8 kg. Despite their variation in size, most are similar in shape, with a moderately long body, long pointed head, long and usually fairly well-furred tail, and short to medium-length legs. The tail is not prehensile. The feet are not syndactylous (that is, the second and third toes are not fused), and the animals walk with the entire surface of their feet on the ground ( plantigrade). Arboreal species have a small but mobile hallux on the hind foot, but this toe tends to be reduced or absent in terrestrial species. The hind foot of terrestrial species also tends to be longer than that of arboreal species. Many dasyurids lack a pouch; in these species, the teats are arranged on a circular patch of skin on the abdomen. Some that lack a pouch have folds along the sides of the abdomen that give young some protection. The stomach of dasyurids is a simple sac.

The skull of dasyurids is didelphid-like in appearance, but it include 4 upper and 3 lower incisors on each side of the jaw rather than 5/4 as in didelphids. The canines are well developed and have a sharp edge; the premolars (2 or 3 upper and lower on each side) are blade-like; and the molars (4 upper and lower) are tuberculosectorial, often with sharp cusps for shearing. The palatal vacuities that characterize most marsupials are reduced or absent in some species.

Dasyurids are primarily carnivorous and insectivorous.

Taxonomists divide the family into four subfamilies, the Dasyurinae (quolls, Tasmanian devil, kowari, mulgara, kaluta, dibblers, pseudantechinuses, and parantechinuses), Phascogalinae (phascogales and other antechinuses), Sminthopsinae (dunnarts and kultarr), and Planigalinae (planigales and ningauis). Evidence for the cohesiveness of the entire group, however, is strong.

Technical characters of skull

Literature and references cited

Feldhamer, G. A., L. C. Drickamer, S. H. Vessey, and J. F. Merritt. 1999. Mammalogy. Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. WCB McGraw-Hill, Boston. xii+563pp.

Marshall, L. G. 1984. Monotremes and marsupials. Pp 59-115 in Anderson, S. and J. Knox Jones, eds, Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, NY. xii+686 pp.

Strahan, R. (ed.). 1995. Mammals of Australia. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 756 pp.

Vaughan, T. A. 1986. Mammalogy. Third Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth. vi+576 pp.

Vaughan, T. A., J. M. Ryan, N. J. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. vii+565pp.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 2nd edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. xviii+1206 pp.


Phil Myers (author), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


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.


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


uses touch to communicate