IUCN threat status:

Extinct (EX)

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Pig-footed bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus)

The pig-footed bandicoot was placed in the bandicoot family Peramelidae, as the subfamily Chaeropodinae by McKenna and Bell (Wikipedia). Molecular evidence, as well as its distinct form, mean that it is now believed to be the sister group of the rest of the Peramelmorphia and has been assigned its own family Chaeropodidae (Wikipedia).

The bandicoot had a body length of about 23-26 cm, with a tail length of about 10-15 cm. It weighed up to 200 g (ASDP). It had a compact body and pointed head, long nose and long "rabbity" ears. It had long, thin legs and was syndactylus, its forefeet having two functional toes with hoof-like nails, resembling those of a pig or deer. On its hindfeet, the second and third toes were fused; only the fourth was used in locomotion. There were about 46-48 teeth inside its long jaws.The incisors were flattened and polyprotodont; the cheek teeth were selenodont. The bandicoot had coarse, pale orange-brown fur on the dorsal side of its body and lighter fawn on its underside. Its orange-brown tail ended in a black tuft.

The bandicoot lived in various habitats from Western Australia, through South Australia and the southern part of the Northern Territory, to south-western New South Wales and western Victoria (ADW). Habitats included arid and semi-arid sand dunes and plains in the central deserts and grassy plains in Victoria. In other areas, it favoured semi-arid and arid areas such as open sclerophyll and desert woodland, shrubland, mallee, heath and grassland.

The bandicoot was nocturnal (ASDP) and sheltered by the day in a grassy nest (ASDP). It used tactile and chemical perception channels (ADW). Its vision was poor, but its senses of smell and hearing were acute.

The tooth and intestinal structures imply a more herbivorous diet than most bandicoots (ADW). Aborigines say it ate termites and ants and may have been partial to flesh (ADW). Captives ate grass, lettuce, roots, and grasshoppers, confirming a more herbivorous, rather than omnivorous diet (ADW). Predators included feral cats, red foxes, dingoes and wedge-tailed eagles (ASDP).

The female had 8 teats, but did not carry more than 4 young per litter. Her well developed pouch opened posteriorly. The gestation period was around 12 days from conception to paturation. Birth probably lasted under 10 minutes, with the young weighing about 0.5 g. Every suckling had its own teat and received the same amount of milk. Towards the end of the pouch period, the young are left in the nest and about 8-10 days later they go foraging or hunting with their mother (ADW). Another mating probably occurred about 50 days after parturation, shortly after the weaning of the first litter.

Australian natives enjoyed the meat as a delicacy and used the tail tuft as an ornament. They burned small grass areas, which soon regenerated, providing a fresh supply of food and shelter for bandicoots (ADW, Wikipedia). They said it was rare before European settlers arrived (Wikipedia). The species seems to have collapsed rapidly when Europeans began settling Australia and stopped burning small grass areas, completely changing the bandicoot's habitat (ADW, ASDP, IUCN, Wikipedia). Livestock ranching and the intense grazing of sheep and cattle throughout these habitats altered plant composition important to the bandicoot; disease or destruction of habitat by sheep may have played a role (ADW, Wikipedia). Europeans later introduced rabbits, which competed with bandicoots and destroyed their habitat, while foxes and cats were predators,furthering the bandicoot's decline (ADW, ASDP, IUCN); the fox and rabbit hadn't arrived in south-west Western Australia when the bandicoot disappeared from that area, but feral cats were common (Wikipedia). The bandicoot was in serious decline when it came to scientific notice in the mid 19th century (Wikipedia). Local people obtained two specimens for Gerard Krefft in 1857, but Krefft ate one of them (Wikipedia). Only a few specimens were collected in the second part of the 19th century, mostly from northwestern Victoria, but also from arid country in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. By the start of the 20th century, it had become extinct in Victoria and the south-west of Western Australia. The last reliably dated museum specimen was from 1901 (ADW, IUCN, Wikipedia). There are unconfirmed reports of sightings in central Australia during the 1920s (ADW). By 1945 the species vanished from South Australia and was said to be limited to "a slight foothold in central Australia" (Wikipedia).The Pintupi people say that the bandicoot survived in the central Great Sandy and northern Gibson Deserts until the 1950's (ADW, IUCN, Wikipedia). The bandicoot is listed as Extinct as it has not been located since the last specimen was collected in 1901 and there are no indications that it still persists (IUCN). It is listed on CITES Appendix I.


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