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Fauna
About Australia overview

Introduction
1. Bandicoot
2. Dingo
3. Echidna
4. Kangaroo
5. Koala
6. Platypus
7. Wombat
BIRDS
8. Black Swan
9. Emu
10.Gang-gang
11.Kookaburra
12.Lyrebird
13.Cockatoo

BANDICOOT

Bandicoot

The Bandicoot is a small marsupial and almost every area of Australia has its species. Once abundant in the backyards of suburban homes, unfortunately like many other native mammals, many species have been declining in numbers for a variety of reasons.

The bandicoot ranges in length from about 6 to 22 in (15 to 56cm) and weighs under 2 lb (.9kg) depending on the species. Its fur is coarse and may be orange, greyish or brown in colour with soft fur underneath. In some species the fur is striped. Its head is long and narrow with a long snout, and they have sharp teeth.

The bandicoot has features which characterise the carnivorous marsupials and the herbivorous marsupials; firstly, the presence of many incisor teeth, as in the flesh and insect-eating marsupials, and secondly, the second and third toes have grown together, as in the herb-eating marsupial, the kangaroo.

The bandicoot is quadrupedal and its large hind legs are longer than the forelegs, and are used for hopping. The hind feet have a long central toe and a somewhat smaller outer one. The second and third toes are joined together with only the claws free. They have three long central claws on the forefeet for collecting food, much of which is obtained by digging.

All species are nocturnal and hide during the day in their nest, a hollow log or crevice. The shallow nest is lined with sticks, leaves and grass. Their nests are not permanent and have no defined entrance to the nest.

Their diet consists mainly of insects, worms, plants, but they also eat lizards and some small mammals, such as mice. They dig little conical pits looking for beetle larvae. Whilst this habit makes them unpopular in suburban gardens because of the damage to the gardens, they provide a useful service by eating insects, snails and mice. They also feed on fruit and underground bulbs.

Some species harbour dog ticks. They also carry fleas, lice and mites.

Bandicoots are solitary animals except when mating. They are territorial and can be aggressive towards other males that approach them. During an attack, it kicks at its prey furiously with its hind legs, often resulting in stripping off patches of skin and fur. When the prey is exhausted, the bandicoot pummels the animal with its forefeet. It uses its teeth only as a last resort.

The female, who is smaller than the male of her species, usually bears two young, which are carried about in her well-developed pouch. The pouch contains from four to eight teats, depending on the species, and opens towards the rear (appropriate for an animal that digs a lot). In cooler areas such as Tasmania there may be two or three litters of three to eight young each breeding season, which lasts from May to February. In the warmer states of New South Wales and Queensland the breeding season is continuous.

The common gestation period is about 12.5 days, the shortest known for any mammal. The average litter is two to four, and is about 0.25 grams in weight. Bandicoots are born with their eyes shut. The eyes open at about 44 or 48 days after birth. They spend their first nine to ten weeks in their mother's pouch. They grow quickly and are weaned at the age of about 11 weeks.

At birth the young is about half an inch long with well developed fore-limbs. The fore-feet have three claws each which aids the climb into the pouch and the nails are shed after the little creature has settled itself there. The young attach firmly to the teats in the pouch but they can be removed. The young bandicoots remain fused to the teat for about five weeks. Hair appears when the animal is about six weeks old and a week later their bodies are covered with a fine smooth coat. At nine weeks the coat is almost like that of an adult.

There are two main types - the long-nosed and short-nosed. There are also a few rare species such as the rabbit-eared bandicoots. Bandicoots are one of the few native mammals to have remained abundant close to the major cities of Australia. In suburban Sydney it is the long-nosed species that can be seen.

Long-nosed Bandicoot is the most common and is found from rainforest to wet and dry woodland along the eastern coast as far north as Cairns. They are a slender, medium-sized marsupial. It has a long pointed snout and pointed ears. Its fur is coarse and grey-brown with some white on its belly and limbs. Sometimes long-nosed bandicoots shelter in dense undergrowth or in drainpipes or other man-made objects.

The long-nosed bandicoot breeds throughout the year and the female gives birth to an average of two or three young.

Short-nosed Bandicoot, the most widely distributed, more stoutly built and have shorter and more rounded ears and coarser hair than the long-nosed species. They are now almost extinct along the New South Wales coast. They still exist along the southern coast, up the Queensland coast to Cape York Peninsula, and in Tasmania.

Bilby, or Rabbit-eared Bandicoot, so named because of their long rabbit-like ears and their habit of building and living in long burrows. They are the only bandicoots that burrow, going down as much as 5 feet or more, and are most active at night. They use their burrows for shelter during the day.

They eat small mammals, insects and lizards. fungi, bulbs, and some fruit.

Unlike other bandicoots, which have short bristly hair and short rat-like tails, bilbies have soft fur and longer and stouter tails with black hair at the base and a white crested tip.

The Bilby is an endangered species.

Back to Australian Fauna page.



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