Overview

Distribution

Range Description

This species is endemic to southern Australia, where it ranges from Western Australia to southwestern Victoria. There are recent records of the species from New South Wales. It is present on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
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Western pygmy possums are found only on the Australian continent, more specifically in the southwestern, southern, and southeastern portions of Australia. Cercartetus concinnus has been found in only 50 locations within the New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia areas of the continent.

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Western pygmy possums are small, nocturnal marsupials. Adults average 80 mm in body length, with an 86 mm long tail to aid them when moving through foliage. The average weight of an adult is only 13 grams. They are fawn or reddish-brown on the dorsal side, and are white ventrally with a finely-scaled naked tail. These pygmy possums have a noticeably whiskered and short, pointed snout, very large eyes which are well adapted for seeing at night, and thin rounded ears. For comparison, western pygmy possums are no larger than a typical kiwi fruit.

Average mass: 13 g.

Average length: 80 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Foster, A. 2006. "Rare bonus in search for Western Pygmy-possum" (On-line). Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. Accessed October 25, 2006 at www.fnpw.com.au/enews2/PygmyPossum.htm.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This nocturnal and mainly arboreal species is generally found in mallee heath and in dry sclerophyll forest with an undergrowth of shrubs (Carthew et al. 2008). Animals usually spend the day in a leaf-lined nest. The species breeds throughout the year. Females can give birth to up to three litters consecutively of six young, but that is under ideal conditions (Carthew et al. 2008).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Western pygmy possums are terrestrial mammals that reside in temperate forests in Australia. These pygmy possums are arboreal and tend to nest during the day in a tree hollow filled with leaves, but can also nest on the ground in clumps of twigs. They prefer habitats with a dense shrubby understory that provides shelter and food. They are most abundant in the woodlands of southwest Western Australia, and can also be found in some bushlands. While small remnants of bushland can provide suitable habitat, they may not be large enough to support viable populations of western pygmy possums in the long term. Structurally diverse habitats are necessary for nesting and traveling. Western pygmy possums prefer to travel using clumps of twigs or leaf litter as cover, indicating that diverse ground cover should be a focus of conservation efforts.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

  • Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW). 2005. "New South Wales Department of Conservation" (On-line). Western Pygmy-possum - profile. Accessed October 25, 2006 at http://threatenedspecies.environment.nsw.gov.au/tsprofile/profile.
  • Pestell, A. 2006. "Patterns of capture, genetic structure, and diet of western pygmy possums, Cercartetus concinnus Gould (Marsupialia: Burramyidae) in Innes National Park, South Australia" (On-line pdf). Sustainable Environments Research Group: Honours theses. Accessed October 25, 2006 at www.unisa.edu.au/serg/documents/Pestell%20Thesis.pdf.
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Trophic Strategy

Based on their general biology and morphology it was initially thought that western pygmy possums were primarily insectivorous. A study done by Horner in 1994 found an abundance of Banksia pollen in the feces of western pygmy possums, with no invertebrate remains present. However, soft-bodied invertebrates, like pupae and larvae, are usually assumed to be totally digestible and would not be found in any scat samples. These possums are currently considered nectarivorous, but may also be insectivorous. They have also been found to prey on small lizards (Smith 1995).

Animal Foods: reptiles; insects

Plant Foods: nectar

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore ); herbivore (Nectarivore )

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Associations

Western pygmy possums serve as prey for small to medium-sized nocturnal predators in Australia. They may also serve a role in pollinating plants through their nectarivory.

Ecosystem Impact: pollinates

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Western pygmy possums are small and are likely to fall prey to a number of small to medium sized nocturnal predators, such as introduced, domestic cats and snakes. Their nocturnality and arboreality is likely to protect them from some predation.

Known Predators:

  • domestic cats (Felis silvestris)
  • snakes (Serpentes)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Like other pygmy possums, western pygmy possums have keen senses of vision, hearing, taste, and touch. They probably use chemical cues to communicate reproductive state.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

No information was found on longevity in western pygmy possums.

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Reproduction

Little information on mating systems in western pygmy possums is available in the literature.

Western pygmy possums can breed year-round when conditions are favorable. However, females can employ delayed implantation if it is necessary to delay reproduction until environmental conditions are more suitable for reproduction (Pestell 2005). Females typically enter torpor to escape poor environmental conditions, such as low temperatures or decreased food resources, and implantation of the embryo occurs when conditions are again favorable.

Female western pygmy possums differ from other members of the Burramyidae family in that they have six teats in their forward-facing pouch, rather than four (Pestell 2005). Breeding can occur anytime throughout the year. A typical female may give birth to 2 or 3 litters of up to 6 young in a year. The young typically remain in the pouch for their first 25 days, after which they are transferred to a nest.

Breeding interval: Females can breed 2 to 3 times a year.

Breeding season: Western pygmy possums can breed throughout the year if conditions are favorable.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 6.

Average time to independence: 25 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; delayed implantation

Female western pygmy possums care for and protect their young until they reach independence, but little is known about the details of parental investment and development in these possums.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Menon, S. 1996. Slumber down under. Discover magazine, 17: 48.
  • Pestell, A. 2006. "Patterns of capture, genetic structure, and diet of western pygmy possums, Cercartetus concinnus Gould (Marsupialia: Burramyidae) in Innes National Park, South Australia" (On-line pdf). Sustainable Environments Research Group: Honours theses. Accessed October 25, 2006 at www.unisa.edu.au/serg/documents/Pestell%20Thesis.pdf.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Burbidge, A., Morris, K., Ellis, M., van Weenen, J. & Menkhorst, P.

Reviewer/s
Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its relatively wide distribution, presumed large population, occurrence in a number of protected areas, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.

History
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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Western pygmy possums are listed as endangered under Schedule 1 of the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. However, they are listed as common but limited throughout the rest of their range in southern Australia.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
It is an abundant species within suitable habitat (Carthew et al. 2008). It has a large population overall, although there are no estimates. The population likely fluctuates with climatic conditions.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no known major threats to this species. Although it is preyed upon by domestic and feral cats, it has a high reproductive rate and is adapted to heavy predation. The species is locally threatened in parts of its range by clearance of suitable scrub habitat through rural or urban development.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is present in many protected areas.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known adverse effects of western pygmy possums on humans.

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Western pygmy possums are important members of the native ecosystems in which they live.

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Wikipedia

Southwestern Pygmy Possum

The Southwestern Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus concinnus), commonly known as the Western Pygmy Possum or the Mundarda, is a small marsupial found in Australia. It has a patchy distribution which includes southwestern Western Australia as well as wheatbelt areas of South Australia, Kangaroo Island and Victoria south to Edenhope. It is also found on in far south-western New South Wales. [3]

The Southwestern Pygmy Possum is one of the most unusual members of its four-strong genus, as unlike its grey relatives, it is coloured a bright cinnamon colour. It is nocturnal and feeds on invertebrates and nectar.[3]

References

  1. ^ Groves, C. (2005). Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M, eds. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 44-45. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3. 
  2. ^ Burbidge, A., Morris, K., Ellis, M., van Weenen, J. & Menkhorst, P. (2008). Cercartetus concinnus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ a b Menkhorst, Peter (2001). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press. p. 88. 
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