Spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus)

Also known as: spotted-tailed dasyure, spotted-tailed native cat, tiger cat, tiger quoll
  
French: Chat Marsupial À Queue Tachetée
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderDasyuromorphia
FamilyDasyuridae
GenusDasyurus (1)
SizeMale weight: 3 - 7 kg (2)
Female weight: 1.6 - 4 kg (2)
Male head/body length: 45 - 51 cm (2)
Male tail length: 39 - 49 cm (2)
Female tail length: 34 - 44 cm (2)
Female head/body length: 40.5 - 43 cm (2)

The spotted-tailed quoll is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).

The spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) is a well-adapted carnivore and one of the most ferocious animals in the Australian bush (3). It has a physically strong body and strong teeth for slicing meat off its mammalian prey and crushing invertebrates (2). Of the six species of quolls, the spotted-tailed quoll is the largest, with males growing to almost a meter from head to tail (4). Quolls communicate using a variety of hisses, cries and screams, and the spotted-tailed quoll's cries sound like the noise of a circular saw (2). Despite its fierce behaviour, the spotted-tailed quoll is an attractive species. Superficially they resemble mongooses, and vary in appearance from reddish-brown to dark brown with distinctive white spots on the body and tail (2) (5). They have short legs and a wide gape, making them slower runners than most other quolls (5). Males are larger than females but look similar in appearance (2).

The spotted-tailed quoll is native to Australia and Tasmania, where it is rare (5) (6). Two subspecies have been described, the smaller one (D.m. gracilis) is found in northern Queensland and the larger subspecies (D.m. maculates) occurs from southern Queensland to Tasmania (5).

Spotted-tailed quolls favour rainforest, closed canopy Eucalyptus forest, creek and river forest habitats but will also venture into adjoining woodlands and open pastureland in search of food (6). Den sites include caves, crevices and dens (4).

As might be expected this species is a capable hunter, on the ground and in the trees, and preys on small to medium-sized mammals including posssums, bandicoots, pademelons, rats and gliders. It feeds on reptiles, birds and insects too, and is also known to be an opportunistic carrion feeder (5) (6). This carnivorous marsupial kills its prey with a bite on or around the head, using its strong teeth and jaws (2).

This species is largely solitary and nocturnal, hunting at night, and resting underground or in hollow log dens during the day, though it does sometimes forage and bask in the sun during daylight hours (2) (5). It is not a territorial mammal though females may maintain an exclusive area while rearing her offspring (2). Home ranges are usually 500 hectares, which may overlap with others. Some research suggests individuals may even share dens, and therefore may not be as solitary as commonly assumed (6). Mating occurs between June and August (2) (5). During this period, unmated females come into heat for about three days every three weeks. Copulation lasts up to eight hours, with the male grasping and licking the female’s neck while she remains crouched with closed eyes and a lowered head (3). The gestation period is only 21 days, after which the female gives birth to an average of five young, which suckle in her pouch from September to October (3) (6). They are then kept in a nest from November to January, protected by the female; the male has little contact with the offspring (3). After 18 weeks the young quolls are independent and reach maturity at the age of one year (3) (4).

It has been said that the spotted-tailed quoll is naturally rare because it is a specialist mammal, requiring specific habitat and food sources, and because it competes for food with the eastern quoll, Tasmanian devil and introduced cats (2). It is also threatened by predation from introduced species such as foxes, feral cats, domestic cats and dogs (4). However, over the last 20 years, forest clearance has spread and become a serious threat to the spotted-tailed quoll with South-east Queensland losing 70 percent of its forest habitat during this short time (1). This species is especially sensitive as it is dependent on forest for its prey and shelter, and disappears if 50 percent of the canopy is removed (2). As the forests are increasingly opened up for logging this quoll may become so thinly distributed that it may be unable to survive (3).

Following dramatic population losses, the spotted-tail quoll has been classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List (1). In Tasmania this species is fully protected and the population has been increasing slowly (4) (5). However, the populations on mainland Australia are so fragmented and small that they may be too small to survive. This species’ recovery in Australia depends on a nationally coordinated approach, with habitat loss, predator control and captive breeding projects all needing to be addressed (2).

For more information on the spotted-tailed quoll, visit:

Authenticated (31/08/07) by Dr Menna Jones, Research Fellow, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania.
http://fcms.its.utas.edu.au/scieng/zoo/pagedetails.asp?lpersonId=1321

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2003)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Strahan, R. (1983) The Complete Book of Australian Mammals. Cornstalk Publishing, Australia.
  4. Animal Diversity Web (October, 2003)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/dasyurus/d._maculatus$narrative.html
  5. Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (October, 2003)
    http://www.dpiwe.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/WebPages/BHAN-5373RD?open
  6. Quoll Seekers (October, 2003)
    http://www.quollseekers.com/STQ%20facts.htm