Eastern Bettong

Eastern Bettong

Southern bettong, Tasmanian bettong, Tasmanian rat kangaroo

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Bettongia gaimardi
Population size
20-50 Thou
Life Span
3-12 yrs
WEIGHT
1-2 kg
LENGTH
31-33 cm

An Eastern bettong can be described as a ‘tiny kangaroo’, having the distinctive hind limbs, ideal for hopping, along with short forelimbs. They are brown-gray on top, with white or light bellies. Their tail is as long as their head and body, usually with a white tip. Their tail is usually to provide balance (as with a kangaroo), but can grip very light items.

Distibution

Once found also in the south-east of the Australian mainland, this species now is confined to Tasmania. It lives in terrestrial, temperate habitats such as grassy woodlands, grasslands, dry eucalyptus forests, as well as sclerophyll forests (i.e., forests that have plants with short, hard, and usually spiky leaves).

Eastern Bettong habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries
Regions

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

The Eastern bettong is a nocturnal animal. It builds several nests within its territory and sometimes uses 5 or 6 nests at one time. Eastern bettongs often use their forelimbs when digging for fungi, foraging for other food sources, and when moving slowly, but they rely mostly on their larger back legs for fast movements such as when escaping from predators. Male and female are both territorial. They are generally solitary creatures except when it is the mating season or in the case of females with their young before they are weaned. Males in captivity establish dominance hierarchies when housed together.

Diet and Nutrition

Eastern bettongs are mycophagous. They eat, amongst other things: seeds, bulbs, roots and insects, especially enjoying underground fungi, which may comprise as much as 80% of the diet.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
Year-round
PREGNANCY DURATION
21 days
BABY CARRYING
1 joey
INDEPENDENT AGE
5-6 months
BABY NAME
joey

Eastern bettongs are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. Breeding occurs at any time of the year both in the wild and in captivity, though in the wild reproduction may be affected by environmental conditions. Gestation lasts for 21 days and usually one young is born. Due to the relatively short time young are in the pouch, this species can produce as many as three young per year. A female carries each offspring initially in utero and then in her pouch, protecting and nursing it until it becomes independent. Young are in the pouch for about 3.5 months, with weaning occurring at 5 - 6 months. These animals are mature when they are about 12 months old.

Population

Population threats

The main threat to the Eastern bettong on the Australian subcontinent is thought to be the introduced red fox. Another threat was competition and habitat loss due to introduced rabbits and other herbivores that had been introduced, and also land clearance and changes to fire regimes. Feral cats also may be predators of this species, and may transmit diseases the eastern bettong cannot defend against. Although this animal is still common throughout Tasmania, most of its habitat is on private land prone to agricultural development, forestry operations, excessive grazing of livestock and use of poisons against wallabies.

Population number

The Eastern bettong is currently quite widespread and locally abundant in Tasmania, but with a fragmented distribution. According to the IUCN Red List resource, the number of mature individuals is around 20, 000-50, 0000. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List with unknown population trend.

Ecological niche

Eastern bettongs construct a grass nests and dig for fungi, therefore helping to aerate the soil, as well as having some effect on plant communities. They may also affect predator populations, as items of prey.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The bettong travels as far as 1.5 km from its nest to feeding areas.
  • An Eastern bettong can curl its tail around a bunch of nesting material, enabling it to easily transport this material home to build its nest.
  • Eastern bettongs get most of their water requirements from their food.
  • These animals hop like a kangaroo when they are moving fast, but they travel on all fours when moving slowly, such as when they are foraging.
  • Adult females make a “tsk-tsk” sound to call their young to return to the pouch.

References

1. Eastern Bettong Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_bettong
2. Eastern Bettong on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/2783/0

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