Long-nosed rat-kangaroo, Wallaby rat
After dragging a fleeing animal from its shelter, Charles Darwin described the Long-nosed potoroo as “an animal, as big as a rabbit, but with the figure of a kangaroo”. This small kangaroo is one of the most ancient species of its family. Belonging to an ancient branch in the evolution of kangaroos, patoroos have undergone little changes during 10 million years, becoming a living fossil. The pointed nose and grey-brown fur make this animal quite similar to bandicoot. However, when the Long-nosed potoroo hops away, tucking its front feet into its chest, its association with kangaroos becomes obvious.
Populations of Long-nosed potoroos occur on Tasmania, some of the Bass Strait islands as well as south-eastern coast of Australia, from Queensland to south-eastern South Australia. In order to find shelter from predators, potoroos usually live in areas with dense ground cover. They favor habitats with a variety of vegetation communities, including coastal heath and coastal woodland, dry and wet sclerophyll forests and rainforest.
Long-nosed potoroos are generally solitary. They socialize only when mating or rearing their offspring. In addition, there have been observed loose feeding groups, consisting of several males and females. These potoroos do not display territorial behavior. Home ranges of these animals often: while home range of one male can overlap with these of multiple females, each female has exclusive home range in order to have access to the male at any time of year. As nocturnal animals, Long-nosed potoroos spend their daytime hours sheltering in dense vegetation. They come out of their shelters during the night to find food. However, during the winter (particularly on cloudy days), they are known to emerge from their shelters by day. When foraging, potoroos usually make short hops on the forest floor and dig small hollows in the ground to find food. Living in dense vegetation, Long-nosed potoroos create a system of tracks through the undergrowth, which serve as reliable protection from predators.
Long-nosed potoroos are polygynandrous (promiscuous): this is when both males and females have multiple mates. They breed all year round with peak periods, occurring in early spring and early summer. Gestation period in this species is the longest among all marsupials - 38 days. Female gives birth to a single baby, which climbs into the pouch of its mother, living there for about 4 months. Weaning occurs by 5 - 6 months of age, while sexual maturity is reached at one year old.
These animals presently suffer from logging and resulting changes in fire regimes. Long-nosed potoroo face loss of their natural habitat and predation by cats, dogs, foxes and other introduced predators.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Long-nosed potoroo is estimated at 75,000 mature individuals. This species is classified as Near Threatened (NT), its numbers are currently decreasing.
As herbivores, these potoroos help prevent fires by grazing undergrowth as well as turning the leaf litter over. Due to feeding upon fungi, Long-nosed potoroos serve as key dispersers of its spores, thus helping maintain health of the local ecosystem. Fungi, found at the roots of various Eucalypts and Acacias, are highly beneficial for trees, allowing them to absorb more water and nutrients and can help seedlings survive.