Long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus)
|Size||Head-body length: 26 - 41 cm (9)|
Tail length: 20 - 26 cm (9)
|Weight||0.66 - 1.64 kg (9) (2)|
The long-nosed potoroo is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
In the words of Charles Darwin, who dragged a fleeing specimen from its refuge, the long-nosed potoroo “is an animal, as big as a rabbit, but with the figure of a kangaroo” (3). Indeed, this compact marsupial belongs to a family sometimes referred to as the rat-kangaroos (4). The soft, loose fur is grey to brown above and light grey below, while the partially prehensile tail is sometimes tipped with white (4) (5) (6). The ears are short and rounded, and as its name suggests, this species has a long, tapering nose, with a naked tip (5). In adult specimens, the nose length is greater than the rear foot length, unlike the related long-footed potoroo, which has a longer rear foot than nose length. The hind-limbs are well developed and heavily muscled like those of a kangaroo, while the short but muscular fore-limbs bear small paws, with forward-pointing spatulate claws used for digging (2) (5).
The long-nosed potoroo is found on the south-eastern coast of Australia from Queensland to south-eastern South Australia, with populations also on Tasmania and some of the Bass Strait islands (1) (6).
The long-nosed potoroo inhabits a range of vegetation communities, from coastal heath, to coastal woodland, dry and wet sclerophyll forests and rainforest. The long-nosed potoroo generally requires areas of dense ground cover that provide shelter from predators (1) (6).
Typically hiding by day in dense vegetation, the long-nosed potoroo emerges under the cover of night to forage. It covers the forest floor with short hops, digging small foraging pits in the ground in search of underground fungal fruiting bodies, or truffles, that it thrives on (5) (6). Truffles live on the roots of woody trees and shrubs, enhancing the plant hosts’ ability to uptake nutrients through a symbiotic relationship known as a mycorrhiza (literally meaning “fungus-roots”). Spores held within ingested truffles pass through the gut of the potoroo and back out into the environment via faecal pellets. Thus, in spreading the fungal spores in its faeces, the long-nosed potoroo, like other rat-kangaroos, is considered a critical link in the forest’s ecological web (7). Although considered to be mycophagous by preference, the long-nosed potoroo also feeds on roots, tubers, insects, larvae, and other soft-bodied animals (6) (8). In addition, during the winter months, and especially on overcast days, it may forage during daylight hours (5) (6) (8). Individuals normally occupy small home ranges of two to ten hectares, and tend to be solitary, except during the breeding season (5) (6).
Breeding takes place year round, but peaks in early spring and late summer, with females capable of two reproductive bouts each year. A single young is born 38 days after mating, the longest gestation period known for any marsupial (1) (5) (6). After birth, the developing young crawls into its mother’s pouch, where it attaches itself to a teat and remains for the next four months. The young become independent after another five to six weeks, sexually mature at 12 months, and normally live for four to five years in the wild (1) (9) (5).
Major threats to the long-nosed potoroo include habitat loss, predation by introduced cats, dogs and foxes, and inappropriate fire and logging regimes. As a consequence this species is classified as a threatened species by National and State government in Australia (1) (6).
The long-nosed potoroo occurs in several protected areas across its range, as well as timber production forest and on private property (1). Owing to its status as a threatened species in Australia, a national recovery plan is in preparation, and in New South Wales a number of priority actions have been drawn up (1) (6). These include wide ranging measures such as the control of introduced predators, implementation of appropriate fire regimes, re-vegetation work and the protection of suitable extant habitat (6).
To find out more about the conservation of the long-nosed potoroo see:
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water New South Wales:
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Mycophagous: feeding on fungus.
- Mycorrhiza: mutually beneficial relationship between plants and the fungi that that live on their roots. The plant supplies the fungi with carbohydrate food, while the fungi enhance the plant’s uptake of nutrients and moisture from the soil.
- Sclerophyll forests: a typically Australian vegetation type comprising plants with hard, short and often spiky leaves. Dry sclerophyll forests have a 10 - 30 metre eucalypt canopy with a hard-leaved understorey, while wet sclerophyll forests have a 30+ metre eucalypt canopy with a soft-leaved understorey.
- Spores: Microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction. They comprise a single or group of unspecialised cells and do not contain an embryo, as do seeds.
IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
- van Dyk, S. and Strahan, R. (2008) The Mammals of Australia: Third Edition. Reed New Holland, Sydney.
- 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.
- Nicholas, F.W. and Nicholas, J.M. (1989) Charles Darwin in Australia. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
- Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
- Cronin, L. (2008) Cronin’s Key Guide: Australian Mammals. Allen and Unwin, Australia.
Department of Environment and Conservation NSW (April, 2009)
- Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Maser, C., Claridge, A.W. and Trappe, J.M. (2008) Trees, Truffles, and Beasts: How Forests Function. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.