Honey Possum

Honey Possum

Tait, Noolbenger

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Tarsipes rostratus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
1-2 yrs
WEIGHT
7-16 g
LENGTH
6.5-9 cm

This marsupial is one of the smallest possums in the world with a prominent snout and a long tongue, allowing the animal to take in nectar and pollen. The animal has a rather unusual appearance. The toes of the Honey possum are equipped with sharp claws, helping the animal stick to leaves and bark of trees. As a matter of fact, floral abundance and diversity is an important life condition for the Honey possum: the animal wouldn't survive without enough amount of nectar. Both hind and front feet of the animal are perfectly designed for climbing trees as well as moving through the undergrowth at high speed.

Distibution

This marsupial is endemic to the south-western tip of Western Australia. They can often be found in coastal-sand plain heathlands with a wide variety of plant communities, meanwhile favoring banksia woodlands with abundance of flowering plants.

Honey Possum habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Honey possums are social animals, forming small groups, which consist of 10 or more individuals. Home ranges of honey possums are small, often overlapping with each other. Meanwhile, breeding females have isolated home ranges in order to keep away from conspecifics while having their offspring. Although normally being nocturnal or crepuscular, these possums are known to emerge from their shelters to feed during the daytime hours, if the weather is cool. At other times, they mainly sleep by day in their shelters, which are typically rock crannies, cavities in trees, hollows inside of grass trees or abandoned bird nests. Honey possums are excellent climbers as well as fast runners, when on the ground. When the weather gets cold or food is scarce, they may undergo periods of hibernation, during which their metabolic rate and body temperature lower.

Diet and Nutrition

In spite of the common name of this species, Honey possums do not feed upon honey. As herbivorous (nectarivorous) animals, they consume nectar and pollen of flowering plants. These marsupials especially favor flowers of the genus Banksia, which have large heads, rich with nectar and blooming year-round.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
May-June, September-October
PREGNANCY DURATION
28 days
BABY CARRYING
2-4 joyes
INDEPENDENT AGE
11 weeks
BABY NAME
joey

Honey possums are polyandrous, which means that one female mates with two or more males. In general, breeding occurs from May to June and from September to October. Gestation period in this species lasts for 28 days, yielding 2 - 4 young, which remain in the pouch of their mother for 60 days. By the end of this period, young possums have open eyes and are covered with fur, which means that they are ready to come out of the pouch. Once they emerge, the mother leaves her offspring in a secluded place such as a hollow in a tree, in order to forage and feed herself. Within a few days, young possums are able to travel with their mother by clinging onto her back. After a short while, they become too heavy to be carried by their mother, and the female stops nursing her offspring at about 11 weeks. Then the young disperse and begin making their own homes, reaching sexual maturity by 6 months old.

Population

Population threats

Although there no notable threats to the population of this species, honey possums are exposed to bushfires, which could result in loss of their natural habitat. In addition, predators such as foxes or feral cats may cause population decline of these animals. Living in humid habitat, honey possums are affected by water mold, leading to plant pathogens and thus decreasing the amount of available food.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Honey possum is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, this species is currently classified as Least Concern (LC), and its numbers are stable.

Ecological niche

Honey possums play a big role in the ecosystem they live in. Due to feeding upon nectar of various flowering plants, they serve as pollinators for these species. Honey possums are key pollinators for their favorite flower - nodding banksia, which grows on the southern coast of Western Australia. They also serve as prey for local predators (barn owls, red foxes, feral cats).

Fun Facts for Kids

  • As a matter of fact, Honey possums do not eat honey. Moreover, these animals are only distantly related to possums.
  • This enduring animal is the only survived species of lineage.
  • Honey possums are record holders among mammals for smallest newborns.
  • A newborn Honey possum is as little in size of a rice grain, weighing only 0.005 g.
  • When it gets cold, these animals gather in groups, huddling together in order to conserve heat.
  • This animal consumes about a small green pea of pollen and as much as 1.5 teaspoons of nectar per day.
  • When threatened, a Honey possum flees to a shelter, remaining there very silently. When this animal is scared, its heart beats as much as 4 times faster than that of a human.
  • These fast and excellent runners are able to run as much as 500 meters during the night, which is a huge distance for such tiny animals.

References

1. Honey Possum Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_possum
2. Honey Possum on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/40583/0

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