Broad-faced potoroo (Potorous platyops)

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Broad-faced potoroo museum specimen
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Broad-faced potoroo fact file

Broad-faced potoroo description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderDiprodontia
FamilyPotoroidae
GenusPotorous (1)

Last recorded alive in 1875, the enigmatic broad-faced potoroo was possibly an early victim of the expansion of European settlers into the western half of the Australian continent (4) (5). A member of the Potoroidae family, otherwise known as the “rat-kangaroos”, this diminutive marsupial had well developed hind-limbs, like those of a kangaroo, and short but muscular fore-limbs bearing small paws (2) (6). As alluded to in its name, the muzzle of the broad-faced potoroo was much shorter and wider than those of its extant relatives (4) (6).The coat colour was variable, with the hair on the back being grey at the base, passing into yellow-brown, then white, and tipped with black, while the underparts were dusky white (3).

Size
Average head-body length: 243 mm (2)
Tail length: 183 mm (3)
Average weight: 800 g (2)
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Broad-faced potoroo biology

In the time between the broad-faced potoroo’s discovery in 1844 and its final disappearance in 1875, only 12 specimens were ever collected (1) (5). Consequently, almost nothing is known about the biology of this species. Nonetheless, given that all the modern potoroids are at least partially omnivorous, there is a high probability the broad-faced potoroo was as well (2).

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Broad-faced potoroo range

The broad-faced potoroo was endemic to Australia, where it ranged from coastal South Australia to south-west Western Australia (1) (4).

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Broad-faced potoroo habitat

While the extant potoroos are known to inhabit dense grassland and low, thick scrub (4), very little is known about the specific requirements of the broad-faced potoroo, other than that it is not believed to have occurred in forested areas (1).

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Broad-faced potoroo status

Classified as Extinct (EX) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Extinct

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Broad-faced potoroo threats

Despite extensive surveys, the broad-faced potoroo has not been recorded in more than 125 years, and is thus believed to be extinct (1). The cause of its extinction is unknown, but it is thought to have likely been brought about by the arrival of feral cats, in possible conjunction with disease and the cessation of burning by local Aboriginal people (1) (5). There is also speculation that the species may have been already rare at the time of European human settlement of the Australian continent (3).

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Broad-faced potoroo conservation

The broad-faced potoroo is classified as Extinct (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Authentication

Authenticated (07/12/09) by Dr Andrew Claridge, Department of Environment and Climate Change, Parks and Wildlife Group, New South Wales, Australia.
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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Extant
Still occurring, not extinct.
Marsupial
A diverse group of mammals characterised by their reproduction, in which gestation is very short, and the female typically has a pouch (marsupium) in which the young are raised. When born, the tiny young crawls to the mother’s teats, where it attaches and stays for a variable amount of time, whilst it continues to develop. Marsupials also differ from placental mammals in their dentition.
Omnivorous
Feeding on both plants and animals.
Potoroids
Members of the Potoroidae family, includes bettongs, potoroos, and the musky rat-kangaroo.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Seebeck, J.H. and Rose, R.W. (1989) Potoroidae. In: Walton, D.W. and Richardson, B.J. (Eds) Fauna of Australia, Vol 1B. Mammalia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  3. van Dyk, S. and Strahan, R. (2008) The Mammals of Australia: Third Edition. Reed New Holland, Sydney.
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  5. Flannery, T. and Schouten, P. (2002) A Gap in Nature. Random House, London.
  6. Claridge, A., Seebeck, J. and Rose, R. (2007) Bettongs, Potoroos and the Musky rat-kangaroo. Australian Natural History Series. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
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Image credit

Broad-faced potoroo museum specimen  
Broad-faced potoroo museum specimen

© Thomas Wesener

Thomas Wesener
twesener@uni-bonn.de

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