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Brush-tailed Phascogale
Phascogale tapoatafa

Importance of tree hollows

Threatened species

 

 

By Susanne Ulyatt

The Brush-tailed Phascogale have a black bottle -brush tail, hairs on the tail can be 40 mm long. Underbelly is pale cream and above they are a uniform grey, their large ears are naked. They have long sharp claws, and a gripping hind foot.Breeding takes place in winter when the male becomes interested in the female.  Competition is fierce. Several males may follow a female, sniffing at her cloaca. Courtship is almost nil, but copulation can last for several hours. The female is known to doze off during this process. Poor fellow must be left wondering.

 

Due to competition and effort, the male is left susceptible to stress related diseases, and dies shortly after the breeding season, as is the case with the Antechinus.  The Phascogale is however the largest mammal known to die after the first breeding season.

Head and Body length of an adult male Phascogale is 180mm-230mm
Tail length is 175mm- 210mm.
Weight is 175-235 gram
Females are slightly smaller.

The female does not have a pouch, and will give birth to more young than her 8 nipples can accommodate, so not all young survive. During gestation an area of soft tissue covered by sparse long hairs will expand around the nipples, the young will stay attached to the nipples for 40 days. Hanging on to mum would be of utmost importance during this time.

After 40 days the young are left in the nest whilst mum forages for food at night. The nest is in a tree hollow (or in some cases someone’s wall, due to loss of habitat ) and is lined with leaves and shredded bark.
Food consists mainly of spiders, centipedes, small vertebrates, and the occasional domestic chook if it is small enough.

The young will stay in the nest till they are almost weaned at 5 months, and continue to use the maternal nest till the following breeding season. Females will then disperse being sexually mature and males as we have already learnt will not make it through after breeding to the following season.

 

Their habitat is variable, but their preference is open dry sclerophyll forest with little ground cover and annual rainfall of 500-2000mm, altitude up to 600m.

Images by Alicia Carter, Leoni Byron- Jackson, Lib Ruytenberg & Katrina Ulyatt

 

 

Image by Lib Ruytenberg
Image by Lib Ruytenberg
Image by Lib Ruytenberg
Image by Katrina Ulyatt
Image by Alicia Carter
Image by Katrina Ulyatt
 
Image by Lib Ruytenberg

 

Updated January 11, 2017  

Webmaster: Susanne Ulyatt

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