Spotted-tail quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) are found in Australia. Their distribution in Australia ranges from southeastern Queensland to eastern New South Wales, Victoria, southeastern South Australia, and Tasmania. Within these geographical ranges, two subspecies of spotted-tailed quolls exist: D. maculatus maculatus and the D. maculatus gracilis. Spotted-tail quolls from the subspecies D. m. maculatus are rarely found in southeastern Queensland and almost extirpated from southeastern South Australia, but most commonly found in Victoria and New South Wales from the coast to the snowlines. Spotted-tail quolls from the other subspecies, D. m. maculatus, are most commonly reported in Tasmania. They occur in Northern Queensland from sea level to the Wet Tropics Area and higher altitude areas.
Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )
The subspecies Dasyurus maculatus maculatus was formerly distributed in south-eastern Queensland (as far north as Bundaberg and as far west as Chinchilla), eastern New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania (including some of the Bass Strait Islands (Maxwell et al. 1996). Maxwell et al. (1996) report that in south-east Queensland it has undergone a range contraction indicated to be in excess of 30% over the last 25 years and is now rare in most areas. Remaining populations are concentrated in the Blackall and Conondale Ranges, southern Darling Downs (Stanthorpe to Wallangarra), Main Range (Goomburra to Spicers Gap), Lamington Plateau and McPherson/Border Ranges (Springbrook to Mount Lindsay). This species is still extant in the Australian Capital Territory and eastern New South Wales, patchily distributed as far west as Warrumbungles National Park with a number of localized areas where reasonably abundant, mostly in wet forests. Most abundant populations believed to be in north-eastern New South Wales, where most commonly encountered on the north coast and ranges from the Hunter Valley, Taree, Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour and gorges and escarpments of the New England Tableland (Maxwell et al. 1996). In Victoria, it is now patchily distributed through the Eastern Highlands, East Gippsland, the Otway Range and the Mount Eccles - Lake Condah area. Records of the species since 1970 are concentrated in the upper Snowy River valley, the Otway Range, Mount Eccles National Park, the Rodger River - Errinundra Plateau area and around the Gippsland Lakes (Mansergh 1995). There is a recent (1991) record from the Murray Mallee near Swan Hill, however, no population has been located. In Tasmania Spotted-tailed Quoll is absent from islands and absent or rare in the central midlands and parts of the central east coast cleared for agriculture. Records (339) during the past 30 years show it is more frequently recorded in wet forests or scrub in the north-east highlands and in the west of the State (Rounsevell et al. 1991). It is extinct in South Australia.
The subspecies D. m. gracilis formerly occurred throughout the latitudinal range of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of north Queensland. It is now apparently extinct from the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands, and there are few sightings south of 17o45'S. This represents a decline in extent of occurrence of approximately 20% (Maxwell et al. 1996).
Male spotted-tail quolls are typically larger than the females in mass and overall size. Males will measure 38 to 76 cm from head to body length and 37 to 55 cm in tail length and average about 3.5 kg. Females measure 35 to 45 cm from head to body length and 34 to 42 cm in tail length and average about 1.8 kg. Spotted-tail quolls are the largest native carnivorous marsupial as well as the largest Dasyurid. It can be distinguished between the other quoll species by their spotted pattern. Spotted-tail quolls have a red-brown body with bold white spots all over their body including their tail. It is the only quoll to have spots on their tails.
Range mass: 1.8 to 7 kg.
Average mass: 1.8 to 3.5 kg.
Range length: 69 to 113 cm.
Average length: 75 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Average basal metabolic rate: 3.142 W.
Spotted-tail quolls have been found in dry and wet sclerophyll forests, riparian forests, rainforests, woodlands, and open pastures. Dry sclerophyll are typically multi-aged tree stands with hard-leafed dominated under stories consisting of shrubs, sedges, and bracken ferns. Wet sclerophyll are the areas between dry sclerophyll forests and rainforest. They also had tendencies to use gullies and riparian flats to avoid mid-slopes as well as having more availability to prey. Spotted-tail quolls from the subspecies D. m. maculatus require a lot of ground cover for denning sites as well as rock out cropping for denning. Rocky outcrops are more preferential for denning than wooden den sites.
Range elevation: sea level to 1,500 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Other Habitat Features: urban ; riparian
Habitat and Ecology
The optimum habitat for D. m. gracilis appears to be upland (>900 m asl) notophyll vine forest. Occurs in lower abundances in progressively more marginal habitat - in lower altitude notophyll and mesophyll habitats (Maxwell et al. 1996). Occasionally it occurs as a transient in wet and dry sclerophyll forest and in modified habitats (e.g., pastures.
Spotted-tail quolls are meat specialists. They eat greater gliders, European rabbits, long-nosed bandicoots, northern brown bandicoots, red-necked pademelons, common ringtail possums, and cucuses. Though infrequently, during the summer months, spotted-tail quolls consume insects (Coleoptera and Cicadidae), reptiles and birds. During the winter months, smaller spotted-tail quolls consume more insects than mammal prey relative to larger individuals.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; carrion ; insects
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Insectivore , Scavenger )
Spotted-tail quolls have no known ecosystem roles.
Spotted-tail quolls are able to hide in smaller, narrow den sites or cavities. As well as being terrestrial, spotted-tail quolls are known to climb trees in escape from predators. If they feel threatened, they will lower their ears, crouch down low to the ground, and make a screeching noise to warn off predators.
- feral cats (Felis species)
- red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
- feral dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
- humans (Homo sapiens)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
To display territoriality, many males and females will leave their scents at common latrines used by many quolls as well as leave their scents during mating season to let males know that they are sexually mature. During mating, females will make a soft cooing noise through the duration of copulation. When the mother has her offspring, she will call to them using specific kinds of clucks and the offspring will respond. If in a defensive position, spotted-tail quolls will growl and make high pitched screeching noises to warn off enemies.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Spotted-tail quolls in the wild have a life span ranging from 2 years in smaller Quolls to 4 to 5 years in larger Quolls. In captivity, spotted-tail quolls live slightly shorter lives ranging 3 to 4 years on average. The longest living spotted-tail quoll lived 6 years and 3 months in captivity.
Status: captivity: 3 to 6 years 3 months years.
Status: captivity: 3 to 4 years.
Status: wild: 2 to 5 years.
Status: wild: 2 to 4 years.
Status: captivity: 3 to 4 years.
Status: captivity: 4.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
When the female is ready to mate, with a short estrous period of only 3 to 4 days, the female will leave her scent at the commonly shared latrines for males to sense. When a male finds her, they will embark on a series of vocalizations. The male will follow the female around and as she occasionally lifts her hind quarters to allow the male to sniff. When she does this, she will start to vocalize and the male will be silent during those times. When copulation occurs, the male will brace himself on top of the female by holding the back of her neck with his teeth and stroking her sides and palpitating her abdomen. Occasionally the male will release his hold on the back of the females neck. The female will typically receive lacerations to the back of her neck as well as a swollen neck. On rare occasions, the female is killed. During copulation, the female will lower her head and halfway close her eyes. Throughout copulation, the female spotted-tail quoll will vocalize frequently. Copulation can last for several hours to a maximum of 24 hours.
Mating System: polygynous
Spotted-tail quolls copulate during the months of April and July, which are Australia's winter months. Once fertilization occurs, the gestation period will last 21 days. When the female gives birth, offspring measure on average about 7 mm in length, are under developed and will further develop in her pouch for 12 weeks. On average litter size is 5 offspring. After the 12 week period, the offspring will start eating food the female brings into the pouch. At 18 to 21 weeks, the offspring are all completely independent and self-supporting. Spotted-tail quolls reach sexual maturity by 12 months.
Breeding interval: Spotted-tail quolls breed once yearly.
Breeding season: The breeding season of spotted-tail quolls is between April and July.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 6.
Average number of offspring: 5.
Average gestation period: 21 days.
Range weaning age: 18 to 21 weeks.
Average weaning age: 18 weeks.
Average time to independence: 18 weeks.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous ; post-partum estrous
Average gestation period: 21 days.
Average number of offspring: 3.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 340 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 340 days.
Once spotted-tail quolls reach sexual maturity and are capable of mating, the female becomes responsible for all natal care until the offspring are independent. Males perform no natal care. While females carry offspring in their pouch, they will walk with their hind quarters elevated so the belly does not touch the ground. This reduces pressure on her offspring. At about four weeks after offspring are born, females will start preparing the den site by gathering grasses, sedges, and other soft materials. After the offspring permanently leave the pouch, mothers will rarely leave the den. Offspring and their mother will call to each other for location and for the offspring to curl up to her warmth. Beyond 100 days, females spend less time with their offspring and start to develop aggression towards them until they are fully independent of her.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Spotted-tail quolls are near threatened, because of the loss of habitats due to urbanization and fragmentation. With fragmentation decreased habitat availability, spotted-tail quolls are overlapping in territories and competing with other animals that require the similar habitats. Also, with the introduction of red fox and the native feral cats, spotted-tail quolls fall prey to these predators. Another significant threat is the 1080 poisoning for dingoes. Spotted-tail quolls will take baited traps of meat with the poisoning. There are a number of investigations studying the effects of 1080 poisoning on this species.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
There is some evidence of a decline in distribution or in numbers in remaining suitable habitat (e.g., in the Otway Range), and the species is mostly uncommon (although it is present in good numbers in some areas, such as the Marengo and Chaelundi Forests).
D. m. gracilis is susceptible to factors which increase juvenile and/or adult mortality, or which otherwise decrease breeding success. Such factors may include habitat clearance, logging, introduced species including cane toad, and direct killing at chicken pens, at houses, and on roads (Maxwell et al. 1996).
Population trends should be conducted using repetitive density estimates in a range of habitats across its distribution. Suveys are particularly needed in central and southern New South Wales to complement forest surveys in north-eastern areas. Cage trapping and hair tubing have proved fairly successful in detecting the species if more than one sampling period per site is undertaken. Additional studies should investigate the effects of competition from other predators including feral cats, foxes and dingoes/wild dogs. Habitat use and further study of dietary requirements are also a priority. In Tasmania, monitoring of population densities should be conducted in relation to forestry practices.
Management actions required for D. m. maculatus (Maxwell et al. 1996) include: determining the critical threatening processes and taking remedial actions; minimising habitat loss, establishing broad wildlife corridors between conservation areas and implement these in all land use plans; feral predator control in significant areas; minimising non-target kills from 1080 baiting in known habitat areas.
There have been several management actions completed or underway for D. m. maculatus (Maxwell et al. 1996). For Victoria, an Action Statement was prepared under Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. A study of diet and some home range estimates and bait take behaviour was completed (Belcher 1995). Experimental baiting trials are under way (commenced 1995 by DNRE Orbost). For Tasmania, a three-year study of diet, fine-scale habitat use and competition with the two sympatric dasyurid carnivores D. viverrinus and Sarcophilus harrisii was completed (Jones 1995; Jones and Rose 1996).
Maxwell et al. (1996) define recovery objectives for D. m. gracilis as being the identification of current distribution and limiting factors, and to conserve remaining populations. Much of the habitat of this subspecies is secure from large-scale disturbances as it lies within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. A three-year field study of the life-history strategy, ranging behaviour, feeding ecology, distribution and abundance, and conservation status of the species in north Queensland is in the report stage (Burnett 2000). A management profile for the species in State Forests in north Queensland has been prepared (Burnett 1995) and a report on the conservation status of the species has been presented to QDE (Burnett 1993) (Maxwell et al. 1996).
Management actions required for D. m. gracilis include continued monitoring of quoll populations; additional survey work in order to locate other quoll populations and to test more rigorously for population distributional limits; experimental removal of cane toads from roads within the optimum habitat of D. m. gracilis and monitoring of effects if any on quoll populations; community extension work in areas where quolls have been, and continue to be, displaced (Maxwell et al. 1996).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Spotted-tail quolls have no known negative economic importance for humans.
Spotted-tail quolls have no known positive economic importance for humans.
The tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), also known as the spotted-tail quoll, the spotted quoll, the spotted-tailed dasyure or (erroneously) the tiger cat, is a carnivorous marsupial of the quoll genus Dasyurus native to Australia. With males and females weighing around 3.5 and 1.8 kg, respectively, it is mainland Australia's largest, and the world's longest (the biggest is the Tasmanian devil) living carnivorous marsupial, and it is considered an apex predator. Two subspecies are recognised; the nominate is found in wet forests of southeastern Australia and Tasmania, and a northern subspecies, D. m. gracilis, is found in a small area of northern Queensland and is endangered.
The tiger quoll is a member of the family Dasyuridae, which includes most carnivorous marsupial mammals. This quoll was first described in 1792 by Robert Kerr, the Scottish writer and naturalist, who placed it in the genus Didelphis, which includes several species of American opossum. The species name, maculatus, indicates this species is spotted.
Two subspecies are recognised:
- D. m. maculatus, found from southern Queensland south to Tasmania
- D. m. gracilis, found in an isolated population in northeastern Queensland, where it is classified as endangered by the Department of Environment and Heritage
The tiger quoll is the largest of the quolls. Males and females of D. m. maculatus weigh on average 3.5 and 1.8 kg, respectively, and males and females of D. m. gracilis weigh on average 1.60 and 1.15 kg, respectively. The next-largest species, the western quoll, weighs on average 1.31 kg for males and 0.89 kg for females. The tiger quoll has relatively short legs, but its tail is as long as its body and head combined. It has a thick head and neck and a slightly rounded and elongated snout. It has five toes on each foot, both front and hind, and the hind feet have well-developed halluces. Its long pink foot pads are ridged, an adaptation for its arboreal lifestyle. This makes up for the fact that its tail is not prehensile. The tiger quoll has a reddish-brown pelage with white spots, and colourations do not change seasonally. It is the only quoll species with spots on its tail in addition to its body. Its fur and skin are covered in orange-brown-coloured oil. The underside is typically grayish or creamy white. The average length of D. m. maculatus is 930 mm for males and 811 mm for females, respectively. For D. m. gracilis, the average length of males and females, respectively, is 801 and 742 mm.
Range and ecology
The tiger quoll is found in eastern Australia where more than 600 mm of rain fall per year. Historically, the quoll was present throughout southeastern Queensland, though eastern New South Wales, Victoria, southeastern South Australia, and Tasmania. European settlement has severely decimated and fragmented the quoll's mainland distribution. Tiger quolls are rare in southeastern Queensland and mainly restricted to national parks. In Victoria, quoll populations have declined by nearly 50%. The range decline was not as severe in New South Wales, but they are still rare. The quoll was probably never very numerous in South Australia. In Tasmania, the tiger quoll mostly frequents the northern and western areas where rains are seasonal. Tiger quolls were once native to Flinders and King Islands, but were extirpated since the 20th century, so are not present on Tasmanian offshore islands.
Tiger quolls live in a variety of habitats, but seem to prefer wet forests such as rainforests and closed eucalypt forest. They are arboreal, but only moderately, as 11% of their travelling is done above ground. Prey items eaten by quolls include insects, crayfish, lizards, snakes, birds, domestic poultry, small mammals, platypus, rabbits, arboreal possums, pademelons, small wallabies, and wombats. They may scavenge larger prey such as kangaroos, feral pigs, cattle, and dingoes. However, the tiger quoll does not scavenge as much as the Tasmanian devil. Much of the prey eaten by the quoll are arboreal. They can climb high into trees and make nocturnal hunts for possums and birds. The flexibility of their diets suggests their prey base is not detrimentally affected by bushfires. When hunting, a quoll stalks its prey, stopping only when its head is up. It then launches its attack, executing a killing bite to the base of the skull or top of the neck, depending on the size of the prey. The quoll will pin small prey down with its fore paws and then deliver the bite. With large prey, it jumps and latches on its back and bites the neck. Quolls, in turn, may be preyed on by Tasmanian devils and masked owls in Tasmania and dingos and dogs in mainland Australia. It may also be preyed on by wedge-tailed eagles and large pythons. Tiger quolls yield to adult devils, but will chase subadults away from carcasses. Quolls also probably compete with introduced carnivores, such as foxes, cats, and wild dogs. Tiger quolls are also hosts to numerous species of endoparasites.
Tiger quolls are generally nocturnal and rest during the day in dens. However, juveniles and females with young in the den can be seen during the day and may leave their dens when it is light out. Quoll dens take the form of underground burrows, caves, rock crevices, tree hollows, hollow logs, or under houses or sheds. Quolls move by walking and bounding gaits. Trails are not particularly important for quoll, although they forage and scent mark along runways and roads. Tiger quolls may live in home ranges that range from 580-875 ha for males and 90-188 for females. Most resident quolls are female, although one population study, both males and females were found to be split between transients and residents. Males have overlapping home ranges, but each has its own core area of at least 128 ha. The home ranges of females may overlap less. Quolls sometimes share dens during the breeding season. After copulation, females act aggressively towards males, especially when close to parturition. For the tiger quoll, olfactory and auditory signals are used more often than visual signals when communicating. Quolls greet each other with nose-to-nose sniffs, and males will sniff the backsides of females to check for estrus. Quolls also mark themselves with mouth and ear secretions. Some populations have communal latrines, while others do not. Rocky creek beds, cliff bases, and roads serve as locations for latrines.
Tiger quolls are generally not vocal, but vocalizations can be heard in any social interaction. Antagonistic or disturbed vocalizations are guttural huffs, coughs, hisses, and piercing screams. "Cp-cp-cp" sounds are produced by females in estrus. Females communicate with their young with "chh-chh" and "echh-echh" calls. The former are made by females and the latter are made by young. “Juveniles vocalize frequently when fighting and their mother will hiss when they clamber over her”. During antagonistic encounters, quolls also threaten each other with open mouths and teeth displays. At this time, the ears are laid back and the eyes are narrowed. Males grasp and bite each other in combat.
Tiger quolls reproduce seasonally. They mate in midwinter (June/July), but females can breed as early as April. The mating behavior of the tiger quoll is unique among the quoll species in that the female vocalizes when in estrus and easily accepts the male's mounting. In addition, the female’s neck swells up. Mating involves the male holding on the female’s sides with his paws and holding on the neck with his mouth. Copulation can last as long as 24 hours. Females give birth with their hindquarters raised and their tails curled. For the time the young is in the pouch, a female rests on her sides. After the young have left the pouch, females stay in nests they have built. For their first 50–60 days of life, the young cannot see, so they rely on vocalizations and touch to find their mother or siblings. It stops when their eyes open after 70 days. Young are not carried on the back, but they do rest on their mother and cling to her when frightened. Young become more independent of their mothers - and the mothers more aggressive towards the young by 100 days.
The tiger quoll is listed by the IUCN on the Red List of Threatened Species with the status "near threatened". The Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage considers the northern subspecies D. m. gracilis as endangered. This species is vulnerable to decline because it requires certain climates and habitats, it tends to live in low densities, it is likely to compete with introduced predators and requires lots of space, and it does not live very long. The biggest threat to the quoll is habitat destruction. Humans may directly contribute to quoll deaths though persecution, motor collisions, and 1080 poisoning. Conservationists are using population monitoring and public education to preserve the species and intend to preserve their habitat and minimise the impacts of 1080 baiting.
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