Spilocuscus maculatusshort-tailed spotted cuscus

Geographic Range

This species is found in New Guinea and in Australia, where it is limited to the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.


P. maculatus occurs mainly in rainforests from sea-level to over 820 m. It also lives in mangroves, riparian forests and open forest.

Physical Description

Head body length for four speciemens ranged from 348-442 mm. Tail length for the same four animals was 315-430 mm. Males are grey spotted with white dorsal and ventral surfaces. Juvenile males may not have spots. Females are usually uniformly grey but may have a white rump. The fur is dense and wooly and almost hides the short ears. The snout is short. There is a red rim around the eyes. The skin is yellowish-pink. This species can be distinguished from P. orientalis by the lack of a mid-dorsal stripe, the small ears and the skin color.

  • Range mass
    1.5 to 3.6 kg
    3.30 to 7.93 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    6.27 W


Not much is known of the reproductive habits of this species, but there seems to be an extended breeding season. As many as three young have been observed in the pouch of a single female, but only one young is typical.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    13 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    243 days



Males are aggressive and cannot be kept together in captivity.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Phalanger maculatus seems to be an herbivore, though it has been observed eating fruit and flowers. The large canine teeth have been argued to suggest at least some carnivory and captive animals do eat chicken and canned dog food.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Extensively hunted for meat in New Guinea.

Conservation Status

This species is sparse but widespread throughout its limited range in Australia and is common in New Guinea.

Other Comments

This species, like other large phalangerids, is almost completely arboreal and has strong hands and feet adapted for grasping branches.


David L. Fox (author), 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.


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.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


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.


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


uses touch to communicate


Strahan, Ronald (ed.). 1983. The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals. Angus and Robertson Publishers.