Wednesday 22 May
Spectacled hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes conspicillatus)
- The scientific name of the spectacled hare-wallaby Lagorchestes means ‘dancing hare’, and it does bear a resemblance to a hare in its movements.
- The spectacled hare-wallaby gets its common name from the orange coloured fur surrounding each eye.
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Spectacled hare-wallaby fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Spectacled hare-wallaby description
The spectacled hare-wallaby is the only member of the Lagorchestes genus that remains widespread; two of the other species are extinct (Lagorchestes leporides and Lagorchestes asomatus) and the rufous hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) has a very restricted distribution (4). A mask of orange-coloured fur around each eye provides the spectacled hare-wallaby with its common name, while the fur on the back and sides is brown with white tips. The underparts have contrasting fluffy, white fur, and a distinctive line of white fur also runs along the hip (5). The scientific name of this species, Lagorchestes, means ‘dancing hare’, and it does indeed resemble a hare in its movements (6).Top
Spectacled hare-wallaby biology
Water loss in hot, arid areas of Australia proves a significant problem for many animals; however, hare-wallabies are well adapted for such harsh environments (3). Being nocturnal, the spectacled hare-wallaby spends the day under grass tussocks, which offers shelter from both heat and predation (8). It also possesses a number of physiological and behavioural adaptations to cope with low water availability, including feeding on plants with high water content, and having highly concentrated urine (3) (8). The diet of the spectacled hare-wallaby consists mainly of herbs and grasses, but it is also known to feed on certain fruits (8).
Female spectacled hare-wallabies can reproduce at one year of age, while males tend to mature at a later age. A single infant, or joey, is born at a time, after a gestation period of 29 to 31 days. The joey is not yet fully developed at birth so, like all marsupials, development of the joey continues for an extra 152 days within the marsupium (pouch) of the female (10).Top
Spectacled hare-wallaby range
The spectacled hare-wallaby is endemic to Australia, where, over the last century, its range has declined (1) (4). Two subspecies of the spectacled hare-wallaby are recognised: Lagorchestes conspicillatus leichardti occurs in parts of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, while Lagorchestes conspicillatus conspicillatus occurs only on Barrow Island, off the coast of Western Australia (1) (4). L. c. conspicillatus previously also occurred on Hermite and Trimouille, but is now extinct on these islands (1) (4). Evidence has also been found of the spectacled hare-wallaby in Papua New Guinea, but information regarding its status there is limited (7).Top
Spectacled hare-wallaby habitat
Within its range the spectacled hare-wallaby inhabits a variety of environments including open forests, woodlands, shrublands and grasslands (8). It requires dense clumps (tussocks) of grass or small mounds (hummocks) of spinifex grass (Triodia angusta), under which it shelters during the heat of the day (8) (9).Top
Spectacled hare-wallaby status
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Spectacled hare-wallaby threats
An array of threats is believed to have contributed to the decline of this species over the last century; many of these threats began with the European settlement in Australia (4). The agricultural industry introduced the threat of grazing competitors and changes in habitat composition. Traditional methods employed in burning land, that once appeared to benefit wallaby populations, were changed, resulting in reduced habitat variety and an increased risk in wild fires. In addition, climate change has resulted in severe drought in certain areas. All of these threats combine to cause a decline in the quality and range of habitat available for the spectacled hare-wallaby, increasing the risk of predation and exposure to heat from the sun (1) (4) (11).
Introduced species have exerted a negative impact on the spectacled hare-wallaby via predation and competition. Firstly, feral cats were believed to be responsible for the species’ extinction on Hermite Island and cats and red foxes are known to predate this species throughout its mainland range (4). Introduced rabbits once competed with the species and encouraged predation by cats and foxes, but as they do not commonly occur within the current distribution of the spectacled hare-wallaby, rabbits may not pose a current threat for this species (4).Top
Spectacled hare-wallaby conservation
Although not currently considered to be at risk of extinction, the spectacled hare-wallaby requires monitoring to ensure populations are not experiencing any declines due to the threats they face. Other conservation measures, particularly the protection and management of habitat, have also been recommended (1). The extinction or rarity of all other Lagorchestes species (1), highlights the importance of implementing conservation measures for the spectacled hare-wallaby, to ensure we do not lose another member of the ‘dancing hares’.Top
Find out more
To find out more about wildlife conservation in Australia see:
Australian Wildlife Conservancy:
Australian Conservation Foundation:
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:
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- 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.
- The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- 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.
- Active at night.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
- Cronin, L. (2008) Cronin’s Key Guide to Australian Mammals. Allen & Unwin, Australia.
- Bakker, H.R. and Bradshaw, S.D. (1989) Rate of water turnover and electrolyte balance of an arid-zone marsupial, the spectacle hare wallaby (Lagorchestes conspicillatus) on Barrow Island. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Physiology, 92(4): 521-529.
- Ingleby, S. (1991) Distribution and status of the spectacled hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes conspicillatus. Wildlife Research, 18: 501-19.
- Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2008)Approved Conservation Advice for Lagorchestes conspicillatus conspicillatus (Spectacled Hare-wallaby (Barrow Island)). Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra, Australia.
- Nowak, R.M (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
- Hitchcock, G. (1997) First record of the spectacled hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes conspicillatus (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), in New Guinea. Science in New Guinea, 23(1), 47-51.
- Ingleby, S. and Westoby, M. (1992) Habitat requirements of the spectacled hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes conspicillatus) in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Wildlife Research, 19: 721-41.
- King, J.M. and Bradshaw, S.D. (2008) Comparative water metabolism of Barrow Island macropodid marsupials: Hormonal versus behavioural-dependent mechanisms of body water conservation. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 155: 378-385.
- Johnson, P.M. (1993) Reproduction of the spectacled hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes conspicillatus Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), in captivity, with age estimation of the pouch young. Wildlife Research, 20: 97-101.
Wildlife Australia (1996) Action Plan for Australian Marsupial and Monotremes. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian Government, Canberra. Available at:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Creative commons material
Any other use