Overview

Distribution

Northern marsupial moles, Notoryctes caurinus are found in north-central Western Australia in and around the Great Sandy, Little Sandy, Gibson, and Great Victoria deserts. Specimens have been collected from Sturt Creek, Wallal Downs, Balgo Hill Mission, Warburton Range, the Canning Stock Route, Talawanna Track, and Nifty Mine. They have been sighted in other areas in north Western Australia, though their range is limited.

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

  • 2012. "Northern Marsupial Mole, Northwestern Marsupial Mole (Notoryctes caurinus)" (On-line). Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://www.edgeofexistence.org/mammals/species_info.php?id=30.
  • Benshemesh, J. 2004. Recovery Plan for Marsupial Moles Notoryctes typhlops and N. caurinus, 2005-2010. Alice Springs: Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure.
  • Benshemesh, J., A. Burbidge. 2008. "Notoryctes caurinus" (On-line). In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/14878/0.
  • Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012. "Notoryctes caurinus" (On-line). Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=295.
  • Pearson, D., J. Turner. 2000. Marsupial Moles Pop Up in the Great Victoria and Gibson Deserts. Australian Mammalogy, 22: 115-119.
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Range Description

Kakarratul, or Northern Marsupial Mole, has been collected from twelve localities in the Gibson, Little Sandy, and Great Sandy Deserts of Western Australia, Australia. In 2000 specimens were also collected at Wallal Downs on the coast between Broome and Karratha, and at Kunawarritji Community (Benshemesh 2004). Both this species and Notoryctes typhlops have been recorded in the vicinity of Warburton and may be sympatric there (Benshemesh 2004). All specimens north of Warburton and west of the Northern Territory border have been identified as N. caurinus. In addition, both species may be found in the Tanami Desert, however, this is unclear (Benshemesh 2004).

There are very few specimens (around 20), but six of these have been collected in the past decade or so, despite an enormous increase in the number of people visiting its range in four-wheel drive vehicles. Maxwell et al.’s (1996) description of two of the records indicates the importance of chance in obtaining specimens of this fossorial species. An animal was found on Talawanna Track west of Cotton Creek, Western Australia, in October 1995 (Western Australia Museum), having been excavated by a bulldozer about one metre below the surface. Another came from near Nifty Mine in March 1996 after it was found nearly dead on the surface after heavy rain.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Northern marsupial moles are very similar to in appearance to placental moles and have body characteristics comparable to golden moles, gophers, and mole rats. They have short, dense, cream colored fur, a reduced tail, and a tubular body shape. They also have short, strong forelimbs for digging, large flat claws on their third and fourth digits, keratinized skin on their snout, slit-like nostrils, and a pouch that opens to its posterior. Northern marsupial moles lack functional eyes and outer ear pinnae. Differentiating between sexes is difficult, as males have internal testes. Internally, northern marsupial moles have a conical skull that is thin-walled dorsally and anteriorly while strong at the basicranial region. The strengthened vertebral column is flat and and fused at vertebrae 4 and 5.

Northern marsupial moles are smaller but otherwise very similar in appearance to southern marsupial moles (Notoryctes typhlops). They weigh 30 to 70 g (40 g average) and measure 100 to 205 mm (160 mm average) in length.

Range mass: 30 to 70 g.

Average mass: 40 g.

Range length: 100 to 205 mm.

Average length: 160 mm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Kearns-White, R. 1998. Eye Can't Believe It!. Life, 21/11: 44.
  • Ladeveze, S., R. Asher, M. Sanchez-Villagra. 2008. Petrosal anatomy in the fossil mammal Necrolestes : evidence for metatherian affinities and comparisons with the extant marsupial mole. Journal of Anatomy, 213: 686-697.
  • Warburton, N. 2003. The 3-Dimensional Anatomy of the North-Western Marsupial Mole. Records of the Western Australian Museum, 22/1: 1-7.
  • Withers, P., G. Thompson, R. Seymour. 2000. Metabolic Physiology of the North-western Marsupial Mole, Notoryctes caurinus. Australian Journal of Zoology, 48: 241-258.
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Ecology

Habitat

Northern marsupial moles are fossorial and inhabit sand dunes, sandplains, dunefields, inter-dunal flats, and sandy soils along river flats. These habitats allow swift movement through burrow systems underground. Preferred habitat is sometimes associated with spinifex (Triodia basedowii). Although they spend the majority of their time underground, northern marsupial moles do surface occasionally, particularly in wet, cool weather. Because they cannot travel very far above ground, they prefer continuous areas of suitable habitat. Northern marsupial moles generally travel 0.1 to 2.5 m below the surface.

Range depth: 0.1 to 2.5 m.

Habitat Regions: terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This is a fossorial species, living in underground burrow systems within sand dunes, interdunal flats, and in sandy soils along river flats. It occasionally emerges to the surface, especially after rain (Maxwell et al. 1996). It is not able to travel large distances across hard ground, thus continuous areas of suitable habitat are likely important (Benshemesh 2004).

In 1998 a live specimen was captured on the surface at Punmu in Rudall River National Park and kept briefly in captivity. Study of this individual showed that the species has an unusual metabolism and can vary its body temperature as a probable adaptation to its fossorial way of life (Withers et al. 2000).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Northern marsupial moles primarily consume invertebrates found underground. They also consume small salamanders, small lizards, eggs, as well as some seeds and vegetable matter. Specifically they prey on beetles, beetle larvae and pupae, ant eggs, and centipedes.

Animal Foods: amphibians; reptiles; eggs; insects

Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore ); omnivore

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Associations

Northern marsupial moles aerate soil and redistribute underground materials. They may also affect populations of undergrad invertebrates that are an important part of their diet.

Ecosystem Impact: soil aeration

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Northern marsupial moles spend most of their time underground, allowing them to avoid predators. However, on the surface their slow, clumsy movements make them vulnerable to predation. Remains of this species have been found in the feces of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), feral cats (Felis catus), and dingos (Canis lupusdingo).

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Northern marsupial moles perceive their environment with their forelimbs and via structures in their inner ear. These structures allow them to sense orientation while underground. They likely sense shifts in sand, which helps them identify prey location. Because of their fossorial lifestyle, they lack functional eyes and tissue has grown over the area where eyes would be.

Communication Channels: tactile ; acoustic

Perception Channels: tactile ; vibrations ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

The lifespan of northern marsupial moles is currently unknown. Individuals of a similar species, Notoryctes typhlops, are expected to live 1.5 years in the wild.

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Reproduction

Little is known about the mating systems of northern marsupial moles.

As they are infrequently observed, little is known about the reproductive habits of northern marsupial moles. Because females have two teats within their pouch, they are thought to have a maximum of 2 offspring per litter. Young move directly to the pouch after birth. Northern marsupial moles breed around November.

Breeding season: Northern marsupial moles breed in November.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

Northern marsupial moles are born underdeveloped and move to the mother's pouch directly after birth. Mothers lactate for an unknown period of time. There is no evidence of paternal investment.

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

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Northern marsupial moles are generally considered endangered, though they are considered "Data Deficient" by the IUCN due to their rareness. This species has been known to science for over a century and to indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The numbers of specimens collected has considerably decreased in recent years, appearing in museums at a rate of 5 to 15 per decade. In addition to predation, changes in fire and grazing regimes threaten northern marsupial moles. Conservation efforts have been implemented since the publication of Joe Benshemesh’s Recovery Plan in 2004, and additional research is underway to determine further conservation efforts.

CITES: no special status

  • Benshemesh, J., K. Johnson. 2003. Biology and Conservation of Marsupial Moles. Pp. 464-475 in M Jones, C Dickman, M Archer, eds. Predators With Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials. Collingwood VIC, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.
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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
DD
Data Deficient

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Benshemesh, J. & Burbidge, A.

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

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Data Deficient because, although it has been recorded over a relatively wide area, there are only very few records, and very little is known about its population numbers and threats.

History
  • 1996
    Endangered
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Population

Population
Population estimates are not available due to the lack of data, which can be attributed to the elusiveness of this species (Benshemesh 2004). There is historical information that indicates that this species was common.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
Little is known about major threats to this species. It is an arid zone Critical Weight Range species (Burbidge and McKenzie 1989); around 90% of such taxa have either become extinct or have declined seriously in range and/or abundance. Operating threatening processes include predation by foxes (which are capable of taking animals on or near the surface) and feral cats. Changed fire regimes in the spinifex-dominated sandy deserts may also be affecting the species. Other potential threats to this species include predation by dingoes, and habitat changes caused by the trampling of cattle and camels (Benshemesh 2004). Climate change may also be a threat to this species in the future, as projected changes in rainfall and temperature would cause changes in biota (Benshemesh 2004).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Maxwell et al. (1996) suggest that the following research actions are proposed for all marsupial moles: undertake GIS and BIOCLIM analysis of Museum records; examine reproductive, dietary and other aspects of all available specimens; develop and implement region-wide community survey for all marsupial moles; undertake field survey of key localities; establish local community-based recording and reporting schemes at key localities.

The Recovery Plan Objectives and Actions for this species are (Benshemesh 2004): 1) Resolve taxonomic issues; 2) Describe the distribution, abundance, and lineages; 3) Determine population trends; 4) Provide preliminary information on threat of fire, introduced predators (foxes and cats), and grazing; 5) Describe activity patterns and behaviour 6) Obtain ecological information from Aboriginal elders; 7) Examine diet, reproduction, and general condition of surfacing animals; 8) Prepare for captive individuals brought to Desert Park; 9) Manage the recovery process with a recovery team; 10) Downlist species from endangered to a lower category of threat.

No management actions can be defined until additional research has been completed (Maxwell et al. 1996; Benshemesh 2004).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known adverse effects of northern marsupial moles on humans.

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Northern marsupial moles have been featured in aboriginal mythology for thousands of years. Their daily movement aerates soil, which may aid agricultural practices. They may also control populations of insects.

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Wikipedia

Northern marsupial mole

The Northern Marsupial Mole or Northwestern Marsupial Mole (Notoryctes caurinus) is a species of marsupial in the Notoryctidae family. It is endemic to Australia. Its natural habitat is hot deserts.[2] The Northern Marsupial Mole is yellow in color. Its diet consists of insect pupae and larvae. It lacks eyes and barely has ears.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). "Order Notoryctemorphia". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b Benshemesh, J. & Burbidge, A. (2008). Notoryctes caurinus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is data deficient
  3. ^ Northern Marsupial Mole
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