Diversity of the

Australian Marsupials


Site Navigation
Home Page
Origin
Morphology
Australian Marsupials
American Marsupials
Ecology
References and
Acknowledgments
Introduction.

Order: Dasyuromorphia

This order contains three families and is the most comparable Australian order to the didelphimorphians and sparassodontans of the Americas. However, significant differences from their American relatives include the lack of arboreal herbivores and the presence of Myrmecobius fasciatus, a specialised termite-eating species with no American equivalent. There is also a growing number of dasyuromorphian-like genera from the Oligocene and Miocene being discovered, though their links to modern dasyuromorphians is unclear.

The largest dasyuromorphians were the members of the once diverse thylacine family. Containing just a single species, the nocturnal Tasmanian wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus), they weighed between 15 and 35kg and were carnivorous, hunting alone or in pairs in woodland and grasslands. However, they developed a reputation amongst European immigrants for feeding on sheep, and are believed to have been brought to extinction through a combination of hunting and epidemic disease.

The family Dasyurids are the most diverse dasyuromorphians, consisting of 71 species that range from the smallest mammals in the world, the 3g shrew-like planigales to the 8kg wolf-like Tasmanian devil. Though most weigh less than 250g, they are viscious insectivores or carnivores. Most are terrestrial or spend most of their time in trees, and are predominately nocturnal. They are also highly successful, occurring in all major habitats in Australia and New Guinea. Features that distinguish them from other Australian marsupials are three pairs of incisors on their lower jaw, front feet with five toes and hind feet with at least four toes, each of which have sharp claws except the big toe.

planigale_tenuirostris (8K)
Planigale tenuirostris

The origins of the myrmecobiids are a complete mystery and today this family is represented by a single species, (Myrmecobius fasciatus).

Order: Notoryctemorphia.

Order: Peramelemorphia.

Order: Diprotodontia.

Order: Yalkaparidontia.