Broad-faced potoroo (Potorous platyops)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderDiprodontia
FamilyPotoroidae
GenusPotorous (1)
SizeAverage head-body length: 243 mm (2)
Tail length: 183 mm (3)
Average weight: 800 g (2)

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

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

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).

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).

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).

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

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

  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.