Dasyurus maculatusspotted-tailed quoll

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Geographic Range

Spotted-tail quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) are found in Australia. Their distribution in Australia ranges from southeastern Queensland to eastern New South Wales, Victoria, southeastern South Australia, and Tasmania. Within these geographical ranges, two subspecies of spotted-tailed quolls exist: D. maculatus maculatus and the D. maculatus gracilis. Spotted-tail quolls from the subspecies D. m. maculatus are rarely found in southeastern Queensland and almost extirpated from southeastern South Australia, but most commonly found in Victoria and New South Wales from the coast to the snowlines. Spotted-tail quolls from the other subspecies, D. m. maculatus, are most commonly reported in Tasmania. They occur in Northern Queensland from sea level to the Wet Tropics Area and higher altitude areas. (Jones, et al., 2001)

Habitat

Spotted-tail quolls have been found in dry and wet sclerophyll forests, riparian forests, rainforests, woodlands, and open pastures. Dry sclerophyll are typically multi-aged tree stands with hard-leafed dominated under stories consisting of shrubs, sedges, and bracken ferns. Wet sclerophyll are the areas between dry sclerophyll forests and rainforest. They also had tendencies to use gullies and riparian flats to avoid mid-slopes as well as having more availability to prey. Spotted-tail quolls from the subspecies D. m. maculatus require a lot of ground cover for denning sites as well as rock out cropping for denning. Rocky outcrops are more preferential for denning than wooden den sites. (Belcher and Darrant, 2003; Belcher and Darrant, 2005; Forest Education Foundation, 2010)

  • Range elevation
    sea level to 1,500 m
    to ft

Physical Description

Male spotted-tail quolls are typically larger than the females in mass and overall size. Males will measure 38 to 76 cm from head to body length and 37 to 55 cm in tail length and average about 3.5 kg. Females measure 35 to 45 cm from head to body length and 34 to 42 cm in tail length and average about 1.8 kg. Spotted-tail quolls are the largest native carnivorous marsupial as well as the largest Dasyurid. It can be distinguished between the other quoll species by their spotted pattern. Spotted-tail quolls have a red-brown body with bold white spots all over their body including their tail. It is the only quoll to have spots on their tails. ("Quolls of Australia", 2004; Jones, et al., 2001)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    1.8 to 7 kg
    3.96 to 15.42 lb
  • Average mass
    1.8 to 3.5 kg
    lb
  • Range length
    69 to 113 cm
    27.17 to 44.49 in
  • Average length
    75 cm
    29.53 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    3.142 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

When the female is ready to mate, with a short estrous period of only 3 to 4 days, the female will leave her scent at the commonly shared latrines for males to sense. When a male finds her, they will embark on a series of vocalizations. The male will follow the female around and as she occasionally lifts her hind quarters to allow the male to sniff. When she does this, she will start to vocalize and the male will be silent during those times. When copulation occurs, the male will brace himself on top of the female by holding the back of her neck with his teeth and stroking her sides and palpitating her abdomen. Occasionally the male will release his hold on the back of the females neck. The female will typically receive lacerations to the back of her neck as well as a swollen neck. On rare occasions, the female is killed. During copulation, the female will lower her head and halfway close her eyes. Throughout copulation, the female spotted-tail quoll will vocalize frequently. Copulation can last for several hours to a maximum of 24 hours. ("Quolls of Australia", 2004; Jones, et al., 2001; Ruibal, et al., 2010)

Spotted-tail quolls copulate during the months of April and July, which are Australia's winter months. Once fertilization occurs, the gestation period will last 21 days. When the female gives birth, offspring measure on average about 7 mm in length, are under developed and will further develop in her pouch for 12 weeks. On average litter size is 5 offspring. After the 12 week period, the offspring will start eating food the female brings into the pouch. At 18 to 21 weeks, the offspring are all completely independent and self-supporting. Spotted-tail quolls reach sexual maturity by 12 months. ("Quolls of Australia", 2004; Hesterman, et al., 2008; Jones, et al., 2001)

  • Breeding interval
    Spotted-tail quolls breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season of spotted-tail quolls is between April and July.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 6
  • Average number of offspring
    5
  • Average number of offspring
    3
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    21 days
  • Average gestation period
    21 days
    AnAge
  • Range weaning age
    18 to 21 weeks
  • Average weaning age
    18 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    18 weeks
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    340 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    340 days
    AnAge

Once spotted-tail quolls reach sexual maturity and are capable of mating, the female becomes responsible for all natal care until the offspring are independent. Males perform no natal care. While females carry offspring in their pouch, they will walk with their hind quarters elevated so the belly does not touch the ground. This reduces pressure on her offspring. At about four weeks after offspring are born, females will start preparing the den site by gathering grasses, sedges, and other soft materials. After the offspring permanently leave the pouch, mothers will rarely leave the den. Offspring and their mother will call to each other for location and for the offspring to curl up to her warmth. Beyond 100 days, females spend less time with their offspring and start to develop aggression towards them until they are fully independent of her. (Belcher and Darrant, 2003; Jones, et al., 2001)

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

Lifespan/Longevity

Spotted-tail quolls in the wild have a life span ranging from 2 years in smaller Quolls to 4 to 5 years in larger Quolls. In captivity, spotted-tail quolls live slightly shorter lives ranging 3 to 4 years on average. The longest living spotted-tail quoll lived 6 years and 3 months in captivity. ("Quolls of Australia", 2004; Jones, et al., 2001)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 6 years 3 months years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 4 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 5 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 4 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 4 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    4.0 years
    Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Behavior

Spotted-tail quolls are mostly a solitary species with females allowing males to overlap in their territories. Males typically have a larger territory than the females, but males territories will overlap with each other. Females typically do not tolerate other females in their territories excluding female offspring. Males are found moving between multiple females territories during breeding season. While spotted-tail quolls are solitary, but individuals share common latrines and denning sites. (Belcher and Darrant, 2003; Jones, et al., 2001)

  • Range territory size
    4,959,000 to 37,617,000 m^2

Home Range

Home ranges of males varies from 1755.4 ha to 3761.7 ha. Home ranges of females are substantially smaller, ranging between 495.9 ha and 1113.0 ha. (Belcher and Darrant, 2003; Jones, et al., 2001)

Communication and Perception

To display territoriality, many males and females will leave their scents at common latrines used by many quolls as well as leave their scents during mating season to let males know that they are sexually mature. During mating, females will make a soft cooing noise through the duration of copulation. When the mother has her offspring, she will call to them using specific kinds of clucks and the offspring will respond. If in a defensive position, spotted-tail quolls will growl and make high pitched screeching noises to warn off enemies. (Belcher and Darrant, 2005; Jones, et al., 2001)

Food Habits

Spotted-tail quolls are meat specialists. They eat greater gliders, European rabbits, long-nosed bandicoots, northern brown bandicoots, red-necked pademelons, common ringtail possums, and cucuses. Though infrequently, during the summer months, spotted-tail quolls consume insects (Coleoptera and Cicadidae), reptiles and birds. During the winter months, smaller spotted-tail quolls consume more insects than mammal prey relative to larger individuals. (Glen and Dickman, 2005; Jones, et al., 2001)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • carrion
  • insects

Predation

Spotted-tail quolls are able to hide in smaller, narrow den sites or cavities. As well as being terrestrial, spotted-tail quolls are known to climb trees in escape from predators. If they feel threatened, they will lower their ears, crouch down low to the ground, and make a screeching noise to warn off predators. (Borsboom, 2008; Burnett and Dickman, 2011; Jones, et al., 2001)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Spotted-tail quolls have no known ecosystem roles.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Spotted-tail quolls have no known positive economic importance for humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Spotted-tail quolls have no known negative economic importance for humans.

Conservation Status

Spotted-tail quolls are near threatened, because of the loss of habitats due to urbanization and fragmentation. With fragmentation decreased habitat availability, spotted-tail quolls are overlapping in territories and competing with other animals that require the similar habitats. Also, with the introduction of red fox and the native feral cats, spotted-tail quolls fall prey to these predators. Another significant threat is the 1080 poisoning for dingoes. Spotted-tail quolls will take baited traps of meat with the poisoning. There are a number of investigations studying the effects of 1080 poisoning on this species. (Belcher and Darrant, 2003; Borsboom, 2008; Burnett and Dickman, 2011; Jones, et al., 2001)

Contributors

Stephanie Verjinski (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Laura Podzikowski (editor), Special Projects.

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.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

carrion

flesh of dead animals.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

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

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

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

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

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

pheromones

chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

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.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scavenger

an animal that mainly eats dead animals

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

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

solitary

lives alone

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

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.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

urban

living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.

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.

References

Australian Government. Quolls of Australia. Department of Environment and Heritage. Canberra: Natural Heritage Trust. 2004. Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/pubs/quolls.pdf.

Belcher, C., J. Darrant. 2005. Den use by the spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus in south-eastern Australia. Australian Mammology, 28: 59-64.

Belcher, C., J. Darrant. 2005. Habitat use by tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Zoology, 269: 183-190.

Belcher, C., J. Darrant. 2003. Home range and spatial organization of the marsupial carnivore, Dasyurus maculatus maculatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in south-eatern Australia. Journal of Zoology, 262: 271-280.

Borsboom, A. 2008. "Spotted-tailed quoll (southern subspecies) Dasyurus maculatus maculatus" (On-line pdf). Queensland Government: Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed February 24, 2012 at http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/register/p02353aa.pdf.

Burnett, S., C. Dickman. 2011. "IUCN RED LIST" (On-line). Dasyurus maculatus. Accessed March 29, 2012 at <www.iucnredlist.org>.

Forest Education Foundation, 2010. "Forest Education Foundation" (On-line). Dry sclerophyll forest. Accessed March 29, 2012 at http://www.forest-education.com/index.php/tasmania/C222/.

Glen, A., C. Dickman. 2005. Diet of spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) in eatern Australia: effects of season, sex and size. Journal of Zoology, 269: 241-248.

Hesterman, H., S. Jones, F. Schwarzenberger. 2008. Pouch appearabce is a reliable indicator of the reproductive status in the Tasmian devil and the spotted -tailed quoll. Journal of Zoology, 275: 130-138.

Jones, M., R. Rose, S. Burnett. 2001. Dasyurus maculatus. Mammalian Species, 676: 1-9. Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/3504395.

Kortner, G., S. Gresser, B. Harden. 2003. Does fox baiting threaten the spotted-tailed quoll, Dasyurus maculatus?. Wildlife Research, 30(2): 111-118.

Ruibal, M., R. Peakall, A. Claridge. 2010. Socio-seasonal changes in scent-marking baits in the carnivorous marsupial Dasyurus maculatus at communal latrines. Australian Journal of Zoology, 58: 317-322.