Macropus parma, commonly known as Parma wallabies and white-throated wallabies, is native to the Great Dividing Range between the Gibraltar Range and the Watagan Mountains, in Eastern Australia. Within Australia, this species is restricted to New South Wales. They were introduced to Kawau Island, New Zealand in 1965.
Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )
Parma wallabies have a white throat and chest and a white stripe on the cheeks. The gray-brown back and shoulders, with a dark dorsal stripe extending to mid-back, are also defining features. Males are generally larger. Males usually measure 482 to 528 mm, while females range from 447 to 527 mm. Tail length in males is from 489 to 544 mm, and in females tail length is from 405 to 507 mm. Males weigh from 4.1 to 5.9 kg and females weigh from 3.2 to 4.8 kg.
Range mass: 3.2 to 5.9 kg.
Range length: 852 to 1072 mm.
Average basal metabolic rate: 257 kJ/d cm3.O2/g/hr.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Macropus parma is found in the Great Dividing Range between elevations of 0 to 900 m. Habitats occupied are wet, sclerophyll forests with thick undergrowth and grassy openings. Parma wallabies are also occasionally found in dry, eucalypt forests and in other, wet, tropical habitats.
Range elevation: 0 to 900 m.
Average elevation: 300 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Habitat and Ecology
Parma wallabies are herbivores that feed primarily on reedy grasses and herbaceous plant parts.
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Dingos (Canis lupus dingo), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), and humans all use M. parma as prey. Also, M. parma is a small grazer and therefore acts as a predator towards small shrubs and plants in its environment.
Predators include Canis lupus dingo, Vulpes vulpes, and humans, all introduced species in Australia. Native predators are likely to be large snakes and birds of prey, which would prey on young joeys. Parma wallabies have cryptic coloration, which allows them to blend in with reedy grasses in their environment. Their large size as adults would protect them from most native predators.
- dingos (Canis lupus dingo)
- red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
- humans (Homo sapiens)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
Parma wallabies communicate visually, by quivering, tail wagging, and foot stomping as signs of agression. They perceive chemical signs, particularly scent as communication during mating. Parma wallabies also communicate with mates acoustically by clucking, coughing, and hissing as a sign of agression.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
In the wild, the expected lifespan of M. parma is 6 to 8 years. In captivity, their expected lifespan is 11 to 15 years.
Status: wild: 6 to 8 years.
Status: captivity: 11 to 15 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Parma wallabies are generally promiscuous and there is no evidence of mate guarding. Courtship behavior generally begins with sexual confirmation by the male pawing the female’s buttocks. Mounting and copulation follow. Usually, prior to copulation, a male will place the female’s head upon his chest using his forepaws. During these interactions, there are characteristic vocalizations by the male that serve to rouse the female, and hisses by the females that function in warning. There is also evidence that production of olfactory and auditory signals factor into female mate choice.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Parma wallabies breed between March and July, producing one offspring per breeding season. The gestation period is around 35 days. The newborn will remain in the mother’s pouch. Although, after 30 weeks it will be mature enough to leave the pouch, the young will continue to nurse for 10 months. Females reach sexual maturity around 16 months, while males reach maturity between 20-24 months. Starting at sexual maturity, female wallabies are in estrus one day every 30 days. Two days after giving birth there is a post-partum estrous. The newly fertilized embryo develops to the blastocyst stage and then stops (a phenomenon called embryonic diapause). This blastocyst will begin to develop again after the already conceived joey is able to leave the pouch, at around 30 weeks old. At this point the joey is called a “joey-at-heel”. This “joey-at-heel” is still able to put its head inside the pouch to nurse, even after the other offspring has been born and is attached to a nipple in the pouch.
Breeding interval: Parma wallabies breed twice yearly.
Breeding season: Parma wallabies breed between March and July.
Range number of offspring: 1 (high) .
Range gestation period: 34 to 35 days.
Range weaning age: 40 to 44 weeks.
Range time to independence: 40 to 44 weeks.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 16 (high) months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 20 to 24 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; embryonic diapause ; post-partum estrous
Average birth mass: 0.5067 g.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Prior to birth, females will clean their pouch by scrupulously licking it. During birth female wallabies remain still, with their tails tucked between their legs, until the offspring has safely attached to the female teat, within the pouch. After the joey-at-heel leaves the pouch, the mother is able to produce two different types of milk with different, appropriate nutrient levels corresponding with each offspring’s developmental needs. After 44 weeks the joey is completely independent of the female parent. Since Parma wallabies are solitary creatures, the only interactions between males and females are for mating. Males do not assist in caring for young.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Macropus parma is considered near threatened/low risk by most sources. The IUCN lists the species as low risk. However, the Department of Environment and Conservation in New South Wales, acknowledges the species as being near threatened because population numbers are low and because of their restricted range. This species was once thought to be extinct as a result of hunting, however individuals were rediscovered in 1965 on Kawau Island and then in 1967 on the Australian mainland.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Rare(Groombridge 1994)
Date Listed: 12/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Macropus parma , see its USFWS Species Profile
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Macropus parma is considered a nuisance to forestry on Kawau Island, where they were introduced.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
While many kangaroos and wallabies are hunted for meat and fur, Parma wallabies are rare and not frequently hunted.
The Parma wallaby (Macropus parma) was first described by British naturalist John Gould in about 1840. A shy, cryptic creature of the wet sclerophyll forests of southern New South Wales (Australia), it was never common and, even before the end of the 19th century, it was believed to be extinct.
In 1965 workers on Kawau Island (near Auckland) attempting to control a plague of introduced tammar wallabies (a widespread and fairly common species in Australia) were astonished to discover that some of the pests were not tammar wallabies at all, but a miraculously surviving population of Parma wallabies—a species long thought extinct. The extermination effort was put on hold while individuals were captured and sent to institutions in Australia and around the world in the hope that they would breed in captivity and could eventually be reintroduced to their native habitat.
The renewed interest in the Parma wallaby soon produced another surprise: in 1967 it was found that they still existed in the forests near Gosford, New South Wales. Further investigation demonstrated that the Parma wallaby was alive and well, and although not common, was to be found in forests along the Great Dividing Range from near Gosford almost as far north as the Queensland border.
The offspring of the Kawau Island population are smaller than their fully wild relatives, even when provided with ample food: it appears that competition for limited food resources on the island selected for smaller individuals, an incipient example of the phenomenon of insular dwarfism.
The Parma wallaby is the smallest member of the genus Macropus, at between 3.2 and 5.8 kg (7 and 12 LB), less than one tenth the size of the largest surviving member, the red kangaroo. It is about a half metre in length, with a sparsely furred, blackish tail about the same length again. The fur is a reddish or greyish brown above, greyer about the head, and fading to pale grey underneath. Presumably, individuals had been sighted many times during the years when it was "extinct", but mistaken for an especially slender and long-tailed example of the otherwise similar red-legged or red-necked pademelon.
Like the pademelons, it prefers to occupy wet sclerophyll forest with thick undergrowth, and grassy patches, although Parma wallabies are also found occasionally in dry eucalypt forest and even rainforest. It is mainly nocturnal and usually shelters in thick scrub during the day, through which it can travel at speed along the runways it makes. It emerges from cover shortly before dusk to feed on grasses and herbs in forest clearings. The Parma wallaby is largely solitary, with two or at most three animals sometimes coming together to feed in favourable circumstances.
Although the Parma wallaby remains rare, there seems to be no immediate threat to it provided that more habitat destruction does not take place, and the population is thought to be slowly increasing.
- Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 65. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
- Strahan, R., ed. (1983). The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals. North Ryde, NSW, Australia: Angus and Robertson Publishers.