Kangaroos are marsupials and belong to the Family Macropodidae (i.e. big feet) that is grouped with the Potoroidae (potoroos, bettongs, rat-kangaroos) and Hypsiprymnodontidae (musky rat-kangaroo) in the Super-Family, Macropodoidea. This comprises around 50 species in Australia and a dozen or more in New Guinea. Some of the smaller species, such as Yellow-footed Rock-Wallabies, Burrowing Bettongs, accompanied Pig-footed and Golden Bandicoots, Bilbies and possibly Hairy-nosed Wombats into extinction with the advent of pastoralism. However, the largest species remain in much of their original range with the grey kangaroos expanding inland as grazing habitat increased and coastal habitat was lost in clearance for agriculture. The defining feature of the kangaroo family is that they are the largest vertebrates to hop (both currently and from what we know from palaeontology).
The Pademelons are small, compact, short-tailed wallabies that typically inhabit wet sclerophyll and rainforests from Tasmania to New Guinea. The genus is equally diverse in New Guinea (4 species) and Australia (3 species) with one of the latter, the Red-legged Pademelon (T. stigmatica), in both regions. The Pademelons occupy an interesting taxonomic position and may have been the ancestors of both Tree-kangaroos and Rock-wallabies a few million years ago. Given the absence of Rock-wallabies from New Guinea but presence of Pademelons in both Australia and New Guinea, Tree-kangaroos likely evolved first, probably in New Guinea, and two species entered the far north through Cape York. Rock-wallabies evolved later in Australia, probably on the east coast where Pademelons are found, and when no suitable habitat breached the Torres Strait or Bass Strait given their absence from Tasmania.
Reddish coloured fur is something of a theme with red-bellied, red-necked and red-legged in the species common names. They emerge from forest cover at night to eat succulent grasses and take some browse. They have remained common over much of their geographic range but the Tasmanian Pademelon was once found in south-eastern South Australia and Victoria. Dense thickets of vegetation are required for shelter and so habitat fragmentation and clearing reduce the viability of populations.
Best place to see
Mt William National Park, Tasmania
Mt William National Park conserves coastal heath and dry sclerophyll woodland in north-eastern Tasmania. The nearest town is Gladstone, 320 km and about 4 hours drive from Hobart and 127 km and under 2 hours drive from Launceston. Access to the park is along short gravel roads from Gladstone (northern section) or St Helens (southern section). The Park has day visitor centres near the campgrounds located at Stumpys Bay in the north and along the coastal drive from Eddystone Point to Deep Creek in the south. Best developed in near campground 4 at Stumpys Bay which has gas barbecues. Fire our allowed except when bans operate but visitors must bring their own firewood. Bore water is supplied in campgrounds but is not recommended from drinking and so potable water should be brought in. Rubbish must be taken out as not collection facilities are provided. Campgrounds have pit-toilets but no power.
The Park has diverse wildlife including the Tasmanian sub-species of Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Red-necked Wallaby. Other mammals include wombats, Tasmanian Devils, Brush-tailed Possums and Echidnas. Bird life is diverse with species from heath, shore and sea given the coastal location. There are large grassy areas from former livestock grazing that have remained open through the foraging of native herbivores. This makes for ideal viewing of macropods, especially around dawn and dusk.
Males to 12 kg (average 7.0 kg) and females to 10 kg (average 3.9 kg).The Tasmanian Pademelon is the largest of the Pademelons and reasonably stocky in appearance. The long fur is thick and soft indicative of the cool temperate climate of Tasmania. The back and sides are grizzled grey-black with some rich dark brown individuals. The head is a uniform olive-grey except for a slight pale yellow line along the upper lip and around the eye sockets. The ears are short and have a black margin with the inner ear and base yellow-brown. The neck and fore quarters are grey-brown. There is a faint yellowish hip stripe in some individuals. The undersides are yellow with a red tinge, and the area around the cloaca is brightly coloured. The arms and legs are grey- brown, the hands and feet are brown. The tail is short (about 2/3 length of body) and grey-brown near the base changing to grey-white towards the end on the underside.
The Tasmanian Pademelon occupies a diversity of habitats provided there are dense, moist thickets for daytime shelter. Thus it is found in wet sclerophyll forest, temperate rainforest, Tea-tree scrub, and dry sclerophyll forest with an open, grassy understorey. It is often in sympatry with Red-necked Wallabies and shares foraging areas at night but is likely to be in thicker cover during the day. Crypsis rather than flight protects it from predators whereas the larger wallaby tends to flee. The use of open grasslands for forages brings the Pademelon into conflict with agriculture and it is poisoned and shot in some areas.
The diet of the Tasmanian Pademelon is primarily short green grasses and broad-leafed herbs (forbs). It will browse on the seedlings of woody plants bringing it into conflict with forestry where tree seedlings are planted out near cover. The graze down grasses and reduce the growth of Eucalypt seedlings but much of this damage is indirect through encouraging more insect damage. The effect is short-term and mainly during the first 15 weeks of planting out seedlings. Damage also lessens the further from cover with less foraging activity as distance from the forest edge increases.
Breeding is continuous but the majority of young are born in April-June. The pouch life is about 7 months so most young exit the pouch permanently in summer or early autumn when grass growth in the cold Tasmanian climate is vigorous. Gestation is about 30 d with a post-partum oestrus and embryonic diapause occurs if the pouch is occupied. Young are weaned at about 14-15 months.
The species is strongly sexually dimorphic with males larger and more muscular in the forelimbs and chest than females. Reproductive behaviour has not been described in detail and presumably males compete amongst themselves for mating opportunities with the sexes intermingling.
Home ranges are relatively large at around 170 ha and individuals may travel up to 2 km in a night through forest. At the forest edge, they rarely emerge more than about 100 m to graze and browse on grassy patches. Aggregations occur at night on these foraging grounds where social interactions take place. Sheltering during the day is likely solitary except for mothers and dependent young-at-foot.
Bulinski J, McArthur C (2003) Identifying factors related to the severity of mammalian browsing damage in eucalypt plantations. Forest Ecology And Management 183, 239-247.
Le Mar K, McArthur C (2005) Comparison of habitat selection by two sympatric macropods, Thylogale billardierii and Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus, in a patchy eucalypt-forestry environment. Austral Ecology 30, 674-683.
Le Mar K, McArthur C, Statham M (2003) Home ranges of sympatric red-necked wallabies, red-bellied pademelons and common brushtail possums in a temperate eucalypt forestry environment. Australian Mammalogy 25, 183-191.
Rose RW, McCartney DJ (1982) Reproduction of the red-bellied pademelon, Thylogale billiardieri (Marsupialia). Australian Wildlife Research 9, 27-32.
Sprent JA, McArthur C (2002) Diet and diet selection of two species in the macropodid browser-grazer continuum: do they eat what they’should’? Australian Journal Of Zoology 50, 183-192.
While GM, McArthur C (2005) Foraging in a risky environment: a comparison of Bennett’s wallabies Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) and red-bellied pademelons Thylogale billiardierii (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) in open habitats. Austral Ecology 30, 756-764.
Featured image by JJ Harrison via Wikimedia
This fact sheet was provided by RooTourism at www.rootourism.com. Thanks!