Northern Quoll

Northern Quoll

Little northern native cat, Satanellus, North Australian native cat, Njanmak (in the indigenous Mayali language)

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Dasyurus hallucatus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
1-3 yrs
TOP SPEED
24 km/h
WEIGHT
350-1120 g
LENGTH
249-370 mm

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.

Distibution

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.

Northern Quoll habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

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.

Diet and Nutrition

These carnivorous animals primarily consume insects, supplementing their diet with fruits, nectar as well as small reptiles and mammals.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
late May-August
PREGNANCY DURATION
21-25 days
BABY CARRYING
6-7 pups
INDEPENDENT AGE
4 months
BABY NAME
pup

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.

Population

Population threats

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.

Population number

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.

Ecological niche

Due to feeding upon small mammals, Northern quolls control population numbers of these species, thus benefiting the local ecosystem.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The word ‘quoll’ derives from an Aboriginal language. First seeing quolls in 1770, captain Cook heard locals using this name.
  • Coming to Australia, settlers named these marsupials similar to European animals, calling them ‘native cats’ or ‘native martens’.
  • There is an opinion that, in order to increase numbers of quolls’ populations, people should keep these animals as pets.
  • The sharp claws on quolls' feet help them dig the ground, climb as well as hold objects.
  • Quolls are mainly terrestrial, although they are good climbers.
  • Northern quolls have a 'fake' pouch, which is simply a fold of skin on their stomach, emerging after successful mating.

References

1. Northern Quoll Wikipedia artcile - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_quoll
2. Northern Quoll on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/6295/0

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