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Brief Summary

Comprehensive Description

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Daintree River ringtail possums (Pseudochirulus cinereus) are endemic to wet tropical regions in Australasia. These animals are found in northeastern Queensland, Australia, from Thornton Peak (Daintree) to the Carbine Tableland (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1992) as well as New Guinea, Japan, and the Salawatti Islands (Nowak, 1999).

    Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
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    Daintree River ringtail possums are born with dense, woolly fur (Nowak, 1999) of a light brown color, which remains the same as they become adults (unlike Herbert River ringtail possums which become much darker as adults). They have a dark stripe along the back and head. These possums can be distinguished by a pointed snout with a “roman nose” and a tapering tail. Ringtail (Pseudochirulus) possums in general have prehensile tails. Herbert River ringtail possums use their tails to carry small branches for nest making (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1992). Due to their arboreal lifestyle, the ventral side of the tail of Daintree River ringtail possums is hairless, ensuring a better grip as they climb. They also have hand-like feet that are well suited to life in the canopy (Andromeda Oxford Ltd., 2001).

    Males tend to be larger than females. A study concerning anesthetizing Australian possums shows that Daintree River ringtail possum males weigh between 830 and 1450 g, while females range from 700 to 1200 g (Holz, 2002). Exact measurements for the length of P. cinereus were not found, but similar possums range from 167 to 368 mm head and body length (Nowak, 1999).

    Range mass: 700 to 1450 g.

    Range length: 167 to 368 mm.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

    Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Habitat

    Habitat
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    Pseudochirulus cinereus is found only in tropical rainforests in Australia. They are adapted to living at higher elevations, above 300-450 m, and are found on mountaintops. Herbert River ringtail possums (Pseudochirulus herbertensis) are closely related to Daintree River ringtail possums. Herbert River ringtail possums spend most of their time in the canopy of the rainforest, only journeying to the ground on rare occasions. Due to their close relationship, Daintree River ringtail possums may exhibit similar behaviors.

    Range elevation: 300 (low) m.

    Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

    Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Based on the feeding habits of similar possums, it is reasonable to believe that Daintree River ringtail possums are primarily folivorous. Ringtail possums, including Pseudochirulus cinereus, contain a large caecum with bacteria in order to digest the leaves. Daintree River ringtail possums and other species of ringtail possums may occasionally eat flowers or fruits (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1992) and exhibit coprophagy (Andromeda Oxford Ltd., 2001).

    Plant Foods: leaves; fruit; flowers

    Other Foods: dung

    Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

Associations

    Associations
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    Specific parasites of Pseudochirulus cinereus are unknown, however some possible endoparasites may include those in the Phyla Cestoda, Nematoda, and Protozoa (McKay, 1987).

    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Predators of Pseudochirulus cinereus include wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax) in northern Queensland and dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) in northern Australia. Other predators may include owls and pythons.

    Known Predators:

    • wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax)
    • dingoes (Canis lupus dingo)
    • owls (Strigiformes)
    • pythons (Python)

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Like other ringtail possums, Daintree River ringtail possums are quiet animals. Young ringtail possums, however, may produce a quiet noise when they find themselves separated from their mothers (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1992). Daintree River ringtail possums may leave feces as a means of chemical communication. They may also leave their scent by rubbing objects with a gland on their sternum ("Ringtail and greater gliding possums", 2004).

    Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

    Other Communication Modes: scent marks

    Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The lifespan of Daintree River ringtail possums in the wild is unknown. Researchers, however, believe that Pseudochirulus cinereus may live longer than their smaller ringtail possum relatives (Springer and Kirsch, 1989). An estimation of the lifespan of P. cinereus may be 4 to 5 years in the wild ("Ringtail and greater gliding possums", 2004) and up to 15 years for captive females (Springer and Kirsch, 1989).

    Typical lifespan
    Status: wild:
    4 to 5 years.

    Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    15 (high) years.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    There is little information on the reproduction in Pseudochirulus cinereus. Inferences are made according to the reproduction of similar ringtail possums found in similar areas (Springer and Kirsch, 1989). Daintree river ringtail possums probably spend most of their lives alone, only meeting up with members of the opposite sex prior to breeding (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1992). They are typically polygynous animals but may shift between monogamy and polygyny depending on resource availability ("Ringtail and greater gliding possums", 2004).

    Mating System: monogamous ; polygynous

    Pseudochirulus cinereus individuals may start reproducing between 18 months and 2 years old (Springer and Kirsch, 1989). Daintree River ringtail possums may breed throughout the year, but mating peaks in April and May. The average litter size is 2 young and breeding occurs once annually. Young may spend 4 to 5 months in their mother's pouch after which they will be carried on her back (Nowak, 1999). Weaning in similar species occurs at 150 to 160 days, and young ringtail possums may become independent at 10 months ("Ringtail and greater gliding possums", 2004). Generation times for pseudocheirids is generally 2 to 4 years. Researchers believe that size may be an important factor in determining the duration of generation time. Because Pseudochirulus cinereus is smaller in size compared to other ringtail possums, they may have a shorter generation time (Springer and Kirsch, 1989).

    Breeding interval: Breeding occurs throughout the year but peaks in April and May.

    Breeding season: Breeding occurs from April through May.

    Range number of offspring: 2 (high) .

    Range weaning age: 150 to 160 days.

    Range time to independence: 10 (high) months.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1.5 to 2 years.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1.5 to 2 years.

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

    Information regarding much of the reproduction of Pseudochirulus cinereus is unknown (Springer and Kirsch, 1989). Females carry the young in their pouches or on their backs (Nowak, 1999), and older young are sometimes left alone on a branch until their mother returns (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1992). Due to the solitary lifestyle of Daintree River ringtail possumss (Andromeda Oxford Ltd., 2001), males probably do not contribute to providing for or protecting their 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)

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    According to the IUCN Red List, Pseudochirulus cinereus is a low risk, near threatened species (Australasian Marsupial & Monotreme Specialist Group, 1996).

    US Federal List: no special status

    CITES: no special status

Benefits

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Daintree River ringtail possums generally do not live near humans and do not have adverse effects on human economies.

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Daintree River ringtail possums are important members of the ecosystems in which they live. The Etolo people of Papua New Guinea will use the possums as food if they capture one during a hunt (Dwyer, 1982).

    Positive Impacts: food

Other Articles

    Untitled
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Pseudochirulus cinereus is very similar to the Herbert River ringtail possums (Pseudochirulus herbertensis). Due to lack of information on P. cinereus, inferences about these animals were made according to information on Herbert River ringtail possums (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1992). Daintree River ringtail possums and Herbert River ringtail possums (Pseudochirulus herbertensis) have been treated as the same species previously (Australasian Marsupial & Monotreme Specialist Group, 1996). These possum species differ in color and geographic location; P. cinereus is found north of Herbert River ringtail possum habitat. The two species were separated in 1989 on the premise that they contain different numbers of chromosomes and, therefore, cannot interbreed (Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, 1992).

    According to Wilson and Reeder (2005), the species name for Daintree River ringtail possums has been changed from Pseudocheirus canescens to Pseudochirulus cinereus by Flannery in 1994.