Neil got quite a surprise when he found this tiny little critter clinging to his pool filter this morning. It was wet and shivering, so he placed it on his finger and sat in the sun so it could dry, then put it in a box with a towel and delivered it to WIRES volunteer Jeanette who lives close by.
The tiny critter is a juvenile Antechinus and it must have been looking for a drink last night and fallen into the pool.
Antechinus look similar to the feral mouse, but there are differences. For one, the Antechinus lacks the pungent odour associated with mice, they also lack the enlarged incisor teeth (front), instead they have teeth similar to canines. They do not gnaw on cables etc like mice, and they are unlikely to eat stored food, being carnivores they prefer insects and small lizards.
We have 3 species of Antechinus in Northern NSW; being the Brown Antechinus, Dusky Antechinus and Yellow- footed Antechinus. The breeding season is in winter or early spring, from July to September, but the timing differs between species and also with the location of populations.
All 3 species have a similar breeding pattern, with the males becoming very aggressive searching for females. They mate for up to 6 hours at a time over a period of 2 weeks with a number of females, after which not a single male is left alive, death results from stress due to aggressive behaviour and the excessive mating ritual. All 3 species have a similar breeding pattern, with the males becoming very aggressive searching for females. They mate for up to 6 hours at a time over a period of 2 weeks with a number of females, after which not a single male is left alive, death results from stress due to aggressive behaviour and the excessive mating ritual.
About a month after mating the female gives birth to approx. 7-10 very tiny babies. They are carried in a kind of open pouch clinging to the nipples of the mother, as she goes about her business, being dragged over the ground for 5-8 weeks depending on species. One wonders how they manage to survive this early part of their life.
After 6-8 weeks they become too large to travel with mum, they are now left in the nest made of dry plant material, hidden in a hollow log or similar protected place. They are weaned at 3 months of age, and now travel with mum through the summer months. As winter approaches, they all become solitary and go their separate ways, sexually maturing at 11 months of age.
This little lady is at a stage where she would be with mum at night in search of insects, and obviously a drink. She is a Brown Antechinus, and is currently in care and under observation with WIRES volunteer Josef for possible pulmonary aspiration. So far she is showing no signs of distress, and if all goes to plan she will be released back to her family tomorrow night.
Pictures by Josef Kohlmetz