Isoodon macrourusnorthern brown bandicoot

Geographic Range

Isoodon macrourus (northern brown bandicoots) are located along the coastal regions of northern and eastern Australia, ranging from Sydney in New South Wales to Cape York in Queensland, as well as from the wet-dry tropics of the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia. They can also be found on the neighboring island of Papua New Guinea. (Baker, et al., 2007; Gordon, 1995)


The variety of habitats in which northern brown bandicoots reside include grassland, heath and Eucalyptus forest, as well as areas consisting of rich alluvial soils and rather dense ground cover to prevent being seen by predators. Northern brown bandicoots prefer areas once largely disturbed by forest removal, as well as previously burned areas, five years following intense fires. (Fitzgibbon, et al., 2011; Friend and Taylor, 1985; Gordon, 1974; Gordon, 1995; Gordon and Hulbert, 1989)

These resilient generalists are also capable of surviving in heavily disturbed urban landscapes, with home ranges largely consisting of dominant tall vegetation. Corridors (less than 15 m wide and at least 17 m long), located in moderately dense vegetation, are used to commute between riparian habitat areas that are usually found along creek sides. (Fitzgibbon, et al., 2007; Fitzgibbon, et al., 2011)

Physical Description

Northern brown bandicoot pelage consists of brown-black speckled fur with a white ventral side. The ears are round and small, the rostrum short, and the body type similar to that of a rodent. These marsupials are syndactylous with polyprotodont dentition and have a dental formula of 5/3, 1/1, 3/3, 4/4 = 24, with the third premolar replaced during development. The skeleton of newborn northern brown bandicoots is entirely cartilaginous. Ossification is shown first in the maxilla, mandible and the long bones of the forelimbs and takes around 33 days postpartum for the skeleton to be fully ossified. The tympanic bulla is rather prominent, likely an adaptation to inhabiting arid and semi-arid environments. Northern brown bandicoots have a zygomatic width ranging from 17.32 to 42.81 mm, and begin to develop a sagittal crest during adulthood. (Flores, et al., 2013; Fosse and Risnes, 1972; Gemmell, et al., 1988; Gordon, 1995; Nowak, 2005; Pope, 2000)

The weight of an adult male ranges from 500 to 3100 g with an average of 2100 g, while mature female bandicoots weigh anywhere from 500 to 1700 g with an average of 1000 g, showing strong sexual dimorphism. The combined head and body length of male and female range from 300 to 470 mm and 300 to 410 mm, respectively. Tail lengths range from 90 to 215 mm and 80 to 185 mm, for males and females respectively. Northern brown bandicoots have a basal metabolic rate of 0.315 ± 0.02 mL Oxygen per gram per hour, occurring at 35°C. (Gordon, 1995; Larcombe, et al., 2008)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    500 to 3100 g
    17.62 to 109.25 oz
  • Average mass
    2600 g
    91.63 oz
  • Range length
    380 to 685 mm
    14.96 to 26.97 in
  • Average length
    525 mm
    20.67 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    3.202 W


Northern brown bandicoots display a polygynandrous mating system, where males utilize their greater home ranges to mate with a higher amount of female bandicoots in a promiscuous social structure. Adult male and female northern brown bandicoots appear together infrequently, typically for mating. Male bandicoots will follow females, with the intention of mating, until the female accepts the male for copulation. (Gordon, 1974; Gordon, 1995)

The initiation and duration of breeding observed in northern brown bandicoots varies greatly between and within regions. In the wet-dry tropics of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, breeding is very opportunistic, occurring after significant periods of rainfall when soil-dwelling invertebrate populations are high. Breeding in this region occurs between the months of August and April. In the temperate-subtropical portion of their geographical range, both seasonal and non-seasonal breeding have been observed. No evidence of seasonal breeding has been observed near Brisbane, Australia so northern brown bandicoots appear to breed year-round in this region. However, Gemmell (1982) observed 98% of births (n=83) between the months of July and March, in the same region. Similarly breeding appeared to be seasonal in the New South Wales region, occurring between July and April. In the Australian Wet Tropics of the Queensland region, seasonal breeding was observed and was related to day length in the late dry season. Male testes volume is greatest in the early wet season, young are present in the pouches of mature females between the late-dry and late-wet seasons, and reproduction does not occur during the early-dry season in the Australian wet tropics. The variation in the onset of breeding suggests that breeding could be triggered by more than one factor throughout the species geographical range. (Friend, 1990; Gemmell, 1982; Gordon, 1971; Gordon, 1974; Hall, 1983; Vernes and Pope, 2009)

Female northern brown bandicoots become sexually mature at around 4 months of age. This age of maturation was assessed by observing the presence of elongated teats or suckling young. Typically, 100 days following the age at sexual maturity for female bandicoots, males reach sexual maturity with the development of darkly pigmented scrotums and testes greater than 20 mm long. Bandicoots are unique from other marsupials as they have a chorioallontoic placenta similar to that found in eutherians. The gestation period of I. macrourus is the shortest of all mammals, at around 12.5 days. Adult females are polyoestrous, and can produce an average of 4.7 litters per year, at 50 to 60 day intervals. Litter sizes range from 1 to 7 offspring with an average of 3.38 offspring per litter, each weighing about 0.2 g at birth. Reproductive senescence has been observed in I. macrourus, showing declines in annual fecundity in their 3rd year of rearing young. However, a strong positive relationship between adult female mass and fecundity in their 3rd and final year of reproduction suggests that large bandicoots do not experience reproductive senescence. At around 55 days of age, young have the ability to independently maintain endothermy and at this time they leave the pouch. Weaning of young northern brown bandicoots begins around 55 to 60 days of age. Post-weaning, young northern brown bandicoots forage independently. (Fitzgibbon, 2015; Fitzgibbon, et al., 2011; Flynn, 1923; Friend, 1990; Gemmell, 1987; Gemmell and Hendrikz, 1993; Gemmell and Johnston, 1985; Gordon, 1971; Gordon, 1974; Gordon, 1995; Lyne, 1974; Price-Rees, et al., 2012)

  • Breeding interval
    Average of 4.7 times per year, typically at 50 to 60 day intervals.
  • Breeding season
    Year-round, or between the months of August and April, July and March or July and April, depending on the region.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 7
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    12.5 days
  • Average gestation period
    12 days
  • Range weaning age
    55 to 60 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    120 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    122 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    220 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    200 days

Adult female bandicoots show minimal maternal care for individual young, while mature males show little to no paternal care for offspring. On nights prior to weaning, young remain in nests while their mother forages at night. Foraging is done independently by young I. macrourus post-weaning. (Gordon, 1971; Gordon, 1974; Hall, 1983)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • 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


Northern brown bandicoots live on average 2 to 3 years in the wild, with a slightly shorter lifespan in captivity, as reported in the majority of studies on I. macrourus. (Gemmell, 1990)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 3 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    2 (high) years


As a nocturnal species, northern brown bandicoots sleep during the day at rest sites composed of well established nests. A typical nest consists of a 40 cm long patch of gathered vegetation, with enough room hollowed out for a single bandicoot to occupy at one time. These nests, situated above 5 to 8 cm deep grooves in the ground, are supported on all sides by tightly packed plant material except for a single spot of loose vegetation used for passing in and out of the nest. Soil can be found smeared over the nests as a repellent during wet periods. Northern brown bandicoots tend to change nests at a rather high rate, using at least two different nests simultaneously. (Gordon, 1974)

Northern brown bandicoots are extremely vigilant and are very mobile when active. Movement patterns during activity are rather variable over consecutive nights. Males exhibit a patrolling pattern throughout the majority of its home range, while female bandicoots do not, resulting in greater home ranges for males. However, this sex specific behaviour is said to be too infrequent to resemble territoriality and more likely stems from wanting to become more familiar with the habitat. Foraging is done in a smaller portion of the home range of I. macrourus, termed the core area. Contact with other bandicoots can arouse individuals to a higher level of activity, likely due to an interest in the other individual, while excessive contact can lead to a decrease in activity due to negative experiences. Typically, northern brown bandicoots spend most of their time in solitude. (Fitzgibbon, et al., 2011; Gordon, 1974; Gordon, 1995)

Home Range

Northern brown bandicoots observed in urban settings have relatively small home ranges with an average of 0.015 +/- 0.002 km^2, revealed in one study by Fitzgibbon, Wilson and Goldizen (2011) through the use of radio tracking. The home range has been listed in another study as 0.01 to 0.06 km^2. (Fitzgibbon, et al., 2011; Gordon, 1995)

Communication and Perception

Relatively little information is known about the communication among individual I. macrourus and with other species. However, adaptations such as an elongated rostrum and scent glands provide ways for identification between northern brown bandicoots as well as to communicate territorial behavior. After aggressive encounters with other bandicoots, a scent gland located behind the ear is used to mark the surrounding area. (Gordon, 1995)

Food Habits

Northern brown bandicoots are omnivorous marsupials with the most insectivorous diet of the family Peramelidae. Soil-dwelling and terrestrial invertebrates are the primary food source, while secondary food sources include vertebrates, such as lizards and birds, plant matter, such as leaves, stems, roots, seeds and fruits, as well as fungi. This diet can help to explain the sporadic free ranging movement of northern brown bandicoots, most likely an adaptation to foraging for foods that are found in small quantities and are spread over many different areas. Hindgut fermentation is found in northern brown bandicoots, noted by the higher diversity of bacteria profiles in the caecum, proximal colon and distal colon, compared to the bacteria profiles in the small intestine. The bacterial profiles found within the gastrointestinal tract of I. macrourus are dominated by Clostridium and Ruminococcus species. (Gordon, 1974; Gott, 1996; Harrison, 1963; Norman, 1998; O'Hara, et al., 2016; Sandars, 1952; Young and Hume, 2005)

In urban settings, northern brown bandicoots can also be found foraging in residential yards for such pet food and compost material. (Fitzgibbon and Jones, 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • Other Foods
  • fungus


Predators of northern brown bandicoots, native to the Australian biogeographic region, include goannas (Varanus varius), dingos (Canis lupus dingo), spotted-tail quolls (Dasyurus maculatus), various snakes and nocturnal birds of prey like the powerful owl (Ninox strenua). Introduced species known to prey on northern brown bandicoots include the European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) as well as domestic and feral cats (Felis catus). (Brown and Triggs, 1990; Fitzgibbon, et al., 2011; Low, 1993; May and Norton, 1996; McRae and Smith, 1987)

Ecosystem Roles

Northern brown bandicoots consume large quantities of insects every day and are preyes on by many different species such as the goannas (Varanus varius), dingos (Canis lupus dingo), spotted-tail quolls (Dasyurus maculatus), a variety of snakes and nocturnal birds of prey such as powerful owls (Ninox strenua), and European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). (Brown and Triggs, 1990; Fitzgibbon, et al., 2011; Low, 1993; May and Norton, 1996; McRae and Smith, 1987)

Due to their soil-foraging nature, peramelids have been known to host a variety of different parasites including Filostrongylus peramelis, Marsupostrongylus bronchialis, Armillifer arborealis, Breinlia (B.) mackerrasae, Breinlia (B.) sp., Cercopithifilaria johnstoni, Cercopithifilaria pearsoni, Sprattia spearei, Toxoplasma, Klossiella, Eimeria, Chryptosporidium, Hepatozoon, Giardia, and the bacteria Coxiella. Other than these notable associations between species, quite little is known on how I. macrourus impact their surrounding ecosystem. (Adams and Thompson, 2002; Bain, et al., 1983; Bennett and Hobbs, 2011; Bennett, et al., 2006; Bennett, et al., 2007; Bennett, et al., 2011; Bettiol, et al., 1996; Chabaud and Bain, 1976; Mackerras, 1954; Mackerras, 1955; Mackerras and Sandars, 1955; Obendorf and Munday, 1990; Riley, et al., 1985; Spratt, 1979; Spratt, 1984; Spratt, 2002; Spratt, 2011; Spratt and Varughese, 1975; Walker and McMillan, 1974; Warburton and Travouillon, 2016; Warren, et al., 2003; Wicks, et al., 2006)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Coxiella
  • Clostridium
  • Ruminococcus
  • Filostrongylus peramelis
  • Marsupostrongylus bronchialis
  • Armillifer arborealis
  • Breinlia (B.) mackerrasae
  • Breinlia (B.) sp.
  • Cercopithifilaria johnstoni
  • Cercopithifilaria pearsoni
  • Sprattia spearei
  • Toxoplasma
  • Klossiella
  • Eimeria
  • Chryptosporidium
  • Hepatozoon
  • Giardia

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Northern brown bandicoots have been described as a “suitable species for study” in regards to their impressive reproductive performance. Their remarkably short gestation period and polyoestrous reproductive behaviour provides for an ideal specimen in future reproductive studies. (Merchant, 1990)

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Since northern brown bandicoots have been known to forage in residential yards for food, these bandicoots can be considered as pests to residents within their home range. In addition, frequent bandicoot-vehicle collisions have been recorded, increasing the hazards of driving on roads located within the home range of I. macrourus. (Fitzgibbon and Jones, 2006; Fitzgibbon, et al., 2007; Taylor and Goldingay, 2014)

Northern brown bandicoots may serve as a reservoir for zoonotic parasites such as Toxoplasma, Eimeria, Chryptosporidium, Giardia, and disease causing bacteria such as Coxiella, Clostridium, and Ruminococcus. (Adams and Thompson, 2002; Bennett and Hobbs, 2011; Bennett, et al., 2006; Bennett, et al., 2007; Bennett, et al., 2011; Bettiol, et al., 1996; Obendorf and Munday, 1990; O'Hara, et al., 2016; Warburton and Travouillon, 2016; Warren, et al., 2003; Wicks, et al., 2006)

Conservation Status

The abundance and distribution of northern brown bandicoots has been dramatically affected by the process of urbanization through the altering of bandicoot habitat and increases in predation and resource competition from introduced species. However, northern brown bandicoots have been considered to be Australia’s most common bandicoot species. The resilient generalist species, they are capable of surviving in heavily disturbed urban landscapes; yet increases in predator abundance, habitat loss, large amounts of vehicle traffic, and seasonal burnings are contributing to the decline in I. macrourus populations. (Fitzgibbon and Jones, 2006; Fitzgibbon, et al., 2007; Gordon, 1995)


Troy Szaura (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


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.


an animal that mainly eats meat

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


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


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

scent marks

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

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


lives alone


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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.


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.


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


uses sight to communicate


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


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