Pig-footed bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus)

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Pig-footed bandicoot, mounted specimen
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Pig-footed bandicoot fact file

Pig-footed bandicoot description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderPeramelemorphia
FamilyChaeropodidae
GenusChaeropus (1)

Thought to now be extinct, the pig-footed bandicoot was a small, ground-dwelling marsupial (2) (5). It had a short, stiff coat that was orange-brown on the upperparts and light brown below (2) (3), with dark bars over the back, which may have acted as disruptive camouflage, making it more difficult for predators to spot (2). It had a long, pointed muzzle, and long legs (2) (6), with only two functioning digits on each front foot, hence the name ‘pig-footed’ (2). The bandicoot body was well adpated for digging, with the long muzzle and strong forelegs capable of easily moving soil and stones for efficient foraging. In common with many animals that live in open habitats, the pig-footed bandicoot had long, rabbit-like ears, up to six centimetres in length, which probably helped to detect predators over long distances (2).The pig-footed bandicoot had the longest tail out of all the bandicoots, being over half the size of its head and body length (2). The female pig-footed bandicoot possessed a pouch that opened to the rear and had eight nipples (2).

French
Bandicoot À Pied De Porc, Bandicoot À Pieds De Cochon Sans Queue, Bandicoot Pieds De Cochon, Péramèle Anoure.
Spanish
Cangurito Piedecerdo.
Size
Head-body length: 25 – 50 cm (2)
Tail length: 10 – 13.9 cm (2)
Weight
200 g (3)
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Pig-footed bandicoot biology

Using its sharp front claws, the pig-footed bandicoot dug shallow, oval holes in which a nest created from twigs and grass was built. Unlike other long-nosed bandicoot species (those in the genus Perameles), its diet was thought to have been mainly herbivorous, due to the caecum (the part of the body used to break down the cellulose in plants) being much larger than that of other long-nosed bandicoots (2). The locomotion of the pig-footed bandicoot was also different from other bandicoots; when running it used the forelegs to propel itself forward while dragging the hindquarters behind. Bandicoots in general are sometimes found resting in hollow logs, under stones or on grassy banks (2).

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Pig-footed bandicoot range

Early records show that the pig-footed bandicoot probably occurred in Western Australia and New South Wales during the late Pleistocene era, after which the species must have spread as more recent records reported the species to have occurred throughout most of Australia including South Australia, western New South Wales, Victoria, southern Northern Territory, and a small part of southern Western Australia (7).

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Pig-footed bandicoot habitat

Fossil records indicate that the pig-footed bandicoot probably inhabited semi-arid areas, foraging on dry, open plains and in shrub-like woodland (7).

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Pig-footed bandicoot status

The pig-footed bandicoot is classified as Extinct (EX) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Extinct

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Pig-footed bandicoot threats

Originally abundant in southern Australia, numbers of the pig-footed bandicoot were determined to be declining by the mid-19th century, and it was last seen in 1926 (9) (10). Out of all the marsupial groups, the Australian bandicoots and bilbies have endured one of the greatest declines. All species living in arid and semi-arid areas have either become extinct or have been reduced to only a few small populations (2).

The main threats to the pig-footed bandicoot were invasive species and habitat alteration, both of which continue to pose a great threat to many remaining extant marsupials. Invasive species are thought to have caused approximately three-quarters of vertebrate extinctions since European colonization in Australia (11). Habitat loss has occurred due to land being used for cattle and sheep grazing, and changes in burning regimes (frequency and extent of bushfires) since European settlement (2).

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Pig-footed bandicoot conservation

The pig-footed bandicoot is presumed extinct, therefore no conservation management plans are in place for this species (3). However, there is a policy for the protection of arid and semi-arid land, enforced by the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1991, which will help protect other species inhabiting these areas today (12).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To learn about wildlife conservation in Australia see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Cellulose
The primary structural component of green plants.
Extant
Still existing (not extinct).
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Herbivorous
Having a diet that comprises only vegetable matter.
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.
Pleistocene era
From about 2.5 million to 12,000 years before present.
Vertebrate
An animal with a backbone, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Gordon, G. and Hulbert, A.J. (1989) Fauna of Australia: Mammalia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  3. Pavey, C. (2006) Threatened Species of the Northern Territory: Pig-footed Bandicoot. Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, Palmerston.
  4. CITES (April, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org
  5. Westerman, M., Springer, M.S., Dixon, J. and Krajewski, C. (1999) Molecular relationships of the extinct pig-footed bandicoot Chaeropus ecaudatus (Marsupialia: Perameloidea) using 12S rRNA sequences. Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 6: 271-288.
  6.  Shimer, H.W. (1903) Adaptations to aquatic, arboreal, fossorial and cursorial habits in mammals. III. Fossorial adaptations. The American Naturalist, 37: 819-825.
  7.  Muirhead, J. and Godthelp, H. (1838) Fossil bandicoots of the Chillagoe (northeastern Queensland) and the first known specimens of the pig-footed bandicoot Chaeropus. Australian Mammology, 19: 73-76.
  8.  Dixon, J.M. (1988) Notes on the diet of three mammals presumed to be extinct: the pig-footed bandicoot, the lesser bilby and the desert rat kangaroo. The Victorian Naturalist, 105: 208-211.
  9.  King, F.W. (1988) Extant unless proven extinct: the international legal precedent. Conservation Biology, 2: 395-397.
  10. Tyndale-Biscoe, C.H. (2001) Australasian marsupials-to cherish and to hold. Reproduction Fertility and Development, 13: 477-485.
  11. Invasive Species Council (2009) Invasive species: One of the Top Three Threats to Australian Biodiversity. Invasive Species Council, Australia. Available at:
    http://www.invasives.org.au/documents/file/backgrounders/Bgrnder-invasivespeciesthreats.pdf
  12. Australian Conservation Foundation: Arid Lands Policy (April, 2010)
    http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=401
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Image credit

Pig-footed bandicoot, mounted specimen  
Pig-footed bandicoot, mounted specimen

© Eric Woods / www.flpa-images.co.uk

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