Eastern Pygmy Possum
The Eastern pygmy possum is a marsupial living in south-eastern Australia. It is a dull gray color above and white below, and has a long prehensile tail which has thick fur at its base that thins out towards the tip, big, almost hairless ears that point forward, long whiskers, and thin rings of dark fur around its eyes.
Eastern pygmy possums inhabit the coast of southeastern Australian, from eastern South Australia to the south of Queensland, as well as Tasmania. They occur in shrubby vegetation in a wide range of habitats, from open shrubland or heathland to sclerophyll or rainforest.
Habits and lifestyle
An Eastern pygmy possum is nocturnal, and, although this species is thought to be solitary, they have been known to share nests and to gather in groups numbering two or more adults. The home ranges of males are 0.24 to 1.7 hectares (0.59 to 4.20 acres), and they overlap with each other, as well as with the smaller ranges of females - 0.18 to 0.61 hectares (0.44 to 1.51 acres). Males often travel further than females, though both are rather sedentary. These possums are skillful climbers and leapers. In winter, in order to conserve energy, for extended periods they remain torpid, with the stored fat in their tail as a source of energy.
Diet and nutrition
Eastern pygmy possums are usually polygynous, which means that one male gets exclusive mating rights with multiple females. There are two different breeding seasons. On the mainland of Australia breeding is from spring to autumn, and on Tasmania the season is from late winter until spring. A female of this species has a well-developed pouch, usually giving birth to four young, though larger litters can be produced. Gestation is for about 30 days, and then the young stay in the pouch for 33 to 37 days. At 60 to 65 days old they are weaned, and they remain with their mother at least for ten more days, until they are about 10 grams (0.35 oz). They reach their full adult size at about five months, but can breed as early as three months old.
Spring-Autumn on mainland; late winter-spring on Tasmania
The logging and grazing industries of Tasmania are a serious threat to the Eastern pygmy possum. Clear-cutting and regeneration currently drive these animals from areas they previously inhabited.
According to IUCN, the Eastern pygmy is common and relatively widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC), but its numbers today are decreasing.
The Eastern pygmy helps in the pollination of certain flowers.
Fun facts for kids
- The Eastern pygmy possum hardly ever makes a noise but it will hiss loudly when provoked or disturbed.
- Usually a sedentary species, this possum has been reported as traveling as far as 500 meters to get a particular bark for its nest.
- The Eastern pygmy possum is often called a dormouse because it resembles the European dormouse.
- Possums are adaptable and versatile. They are capable climbers and swimmers. They climb trees using their sharp claws, mouth and tail.
- Possums have 50 teeth, more than any other mammal.
- Possums make smacking noises in order to attract each other. Possum young hiss and sneeze when distressed or facing danger.
- Possums do not have strong hearing or good eyesight but do have a keen sense of smell.
- When threatened, a possum will lie motionless or flop on its side with its eyes closed or staring in one direction and can stay like this for up to 6 hours.