The common planigale is a nocturnal marsupial, sheltering during the day in a saucer-shaped nest lined with dry grass, eucalypt leaves or shredded bark (2) (3). An avid predator at night, it hunts for insects and small vertebrates to feed on (3). Its main diet consists of insects, spiders, small lizards and small rodents such as Leggadina species. Astonishingly, the common planigale is able to catch and kill grasshoppers practically its own size, and although terrestrial, it is also a capable climber (2).
This marsupial has demonstrated an ability to adapt to the invasion of the toxic cane toad (Bufo marinus) across northern Australia. This toad is thought to be the cause of many population declines of native predators in the area. The common planigale uses chemical cues to distinguish and therefore avoid this toxic prey, or kills and eats it snout-first in order to avoid the toad’s toxic glands (5).
To attract a mate, the female common planigale produces a courtship call of repetitive clicks, described as ‘tstitts’. The male may then respond with a similar call, initiating a duet (6). Females are able to give birth to more than one litter each year. The gestation period of the common planigale is 19 to 20 days, and its litter size ranges from 4 to 12 young, averaging at 8 (2). Repeated reproduction throughout the year and efficient dispersal of individuals may contribute to this species’ ability to survive in environments that are not habitable all year round (6).
The common planigale is well adapted to live in soil cracks due to its unusually flattened skull and body. Survival of this species in harsh environments is ensured by its low energy requirements and its behavioural adaptations to reduce energy and water expenditure, such as basking and short-term hibernation. The common planigale’s insectivorous diet is also advantageous to its survival, due to the high water content of insects (7).