Little northern native cat, Satanellus, North Australian native cat, Njanmak (in the indigenous Mayali language)
This tiny marsupial is the size of a small cat. First described in 1842, the Northern quoll was named ‘hallucatus', meaning ‘notable first digit’ due to hind feet of the animal, exhibiting short ‘thumbs’, which help the quolls in climbing and grasping objects. Being the smallest of all 4 Australian species of its genus, this animal is also the most aggressive quoll.
These marsupials are endemic to the northern Australian coast, found from the Pilbara region (Western Australia) through the Northern Territory to south-eastern Queensland. Typical habitat of Northern quolls is rocky slops and open eucalyptus forests of lowland savannah.
These animals are nocturnal to crepuscular with increased periods of activity, occurring at night and twilight. Northern quolls spend their daytime hours in their shelters, usually located in tree hollows, timber piles or rock crevices. They have perfectly adapted to both terrestrial and arboreal lifestyle. Northern quolls are generally solitary animals, socializing only when mating and, sometimes, when foraging. Each individual has its own territory, scent marking it and informing conspecifics of its presence. When encountering each other, adult quolls communicate through hissing sound. In addition, Northern quolls can be very aggressive when disturbed.
Northern quolls have a polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system, where both males and females have multiple mates. They mate from late May to August, after which males show complete die-off, so that females have to raise future offspring alone. Gestation period lasts for 21 - 25 days, yielding 6 - 7 babies per litter on average. However, there have been recorded big litters of up to 17 young. Northern quolls lack a pouch. When giving birth, females develop marginal ridges around their stomach, which cover the newborn baby. By 2 months old, young quolls begin coming out of their rudimentary pouch for short period of time, until complete weaning at 4 months old. The female occasionally leaves the weaned offspring in a nursery den in order to forage during the nighttime hours. Then she moves her young back to the rockier areas. Sexual maturity is reached at 11 months old.
The biggest threat to these animals is predation by feral cats. Another notable threat is the continuous fires and grazing, destructing the natural habitat of Northern quolles and leaving many individuals without their shelters. Some quolls are poisoned due to ingesting cane toads. As a matter of fact, the increased popularity of cane toads throughout Northern Australia during the last few decades has caused a considerable population decline in some parts of these animals' range. And finally, Northern quolls suffer from loss of their natural habitat as a result of agricultural and urban development.
According to IUCN, the Northern quoll is locally common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN), and its numbers are decreasing.
Due to feeding upon small mammals, Northern quolls control population numbers of these species, thus benefiting the local ecosystem.