Introducing- The Long-nosed Potoroo

General information

The long-nosed potoroo, Potorous tridactylus apicalis (‘three-toed potoroo’) is the most widespread of the small marsupials known as the potoroos.

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 Bettongs, Potoroos and Musky Rat-Kangaroo are collectively known as the Rat-kangaroos. In fact, they form two families, the Potoroidae, which includes all the potoroos and bettongs, and, the Hypsiprimnodontidae, whose sole living representative is the Musky Rat-kangaroo. They are observationally distinguished from the kangaroos and wallabies by their diminutive body size but the largest species, the Rufous Bettong, eclipses the smallest Rock-wallabies, the Monjon and Narbelek. In general, they retain more ‘primitive’ ancestral characteristics with a partly prehensile tail to entrap grasses and sticks for nesting and a simpler stomach (and consequently richer diet). The forelimbs and hindlimbs are more similar in size than the gross differences in the kangaroos and wallabies, and so bounding as well as hopping is a mode of progress. Perhaps possum-kangaroo is more accurate but the first European observers were more familiar with rats than possums.

Cradle Mountain is a good place to spot these animals

 

The Potoroos are in the critical weight range (<5.5 kg) that have suffered range contraction and extinction following the introduction of European farming practices and invasive species like foxes and cats. One species, the Broad-faced Potoroo (Potorous platyops) from the southern coasts of Western and South Australia quickly became extinct and was last collected from the wild in 1875. Gilbert’s Potoroo also from Western Australia was thought to have suffered the same fate but was rediscovered in 1994. Equally surprising was the late discovery of a new species, the Long-footed Potoroo, in Victoria in 1967. The only widespread species, first described to Europeans from Botany Bay in 1789, is the Long-nosed Potoroo which is found in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Best place to see

Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania

Range of the Long-nosed Poteroo- Geographic distribution of the Long-nosed Potoroo represented by coverage of 1:250,000 map sheets of Australia (see www.ga.gov.au for Australian maps). From http://www.rootourism.com/fsheet59.htm

Range of the Long-nosed Poteroo- Geographic distribution of the Long-nosed Potoroo represented by coverage of 1:250,000 map sheets of Australia (see www.ga.gov.au for Australian maps). From http://www.rootourism.com/fsheet59.htm

Cradle Mountain forms the northern end of the National Park which is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The vegetation is a diverse mix of cool temperate rainforest, alpine heathland, button-grass and stands of Antarctic Beech and Pines. The Park is one of the most popular natural areas in Tasmania and so is well-supplied with facilities, walking tracks and accommodation. It is about 1.5 hour drive from Devonport and 2.5 h drive from Launceston. The Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre is open daily from 0800 to 1700 h and provides information on the Park’s attractions and accommodation. The Park is note for its marsupial carnivore fauna of Eastern and Spotted-tailed Quolls and the Tasmanian Devil.

 

Dove Lake is easily accessible and a good spot for rootourismIdentification

Males to 1.6 kg (average 1.2 kg) and females to 1.4 kg (average 1.0 kg). The overall back colour is a grizzled dark grey-brown. The grizzled appearance arises from the longer hairs having grey bases with a broad white band and a black tip.  The underfur is dense and blue-grey with a grey or rufous tip.  The common name is derived from the long narrow face which is grey and the ‘extended’ nose. The black naked skin of the nose tip (nares) extends backwards along the muzzle in a narrow band for about 1 cm. The ears are short and rounded ears with dark brown backs.  The chin, chest and abdomen are white to grey-white arising from dual-tone hairs with a blue-grey base and a white tip.  The hands and feet are grey or brown-grey.  The tail is relatively naked from a grey base through a brown body to a black tip. The presence of a white tail tip is a function of latitude – very rare in southern Queensland, but common in Tasmania (almost 80% have a white tail tip). The claws of the fore-feet are very long and slender.


Featured image by Peripitus via Wikimedia

This fact sheet was provided by RooTourism at www.rootourism.com. Thanks!