Diversity of the

Australian Marsupials

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Order: Dasyuromorphia.

Order: Notoryctemorphia.

Order: Peramelemorphia

The marsupial bandicoots; this order consists of three known living families and two extinct ones. Their phylogenetic relationship with other marsupials is controversial, though a late Palaeocene bandicoot fossil, the earliest fossil from a modern Australian marsupial order, shows this group differentiated before Australia separated from Antarctica.

bandicoot2 (40K)
A Marsupial Bandicoot

Though morphologically different to any placental mammals, the nocturnal and semifossorial (use of burrows as refuge) bandicoots fill the same niche as hedgehogs and shrews. These small to medium sized mammals (150g to 5kg) are successful, inhabiting all major habitats in Australia, New Guinea and neighbouring islands. They specialise on feeding off insects, obtaining food by digging using their strong feet and jaws and using their long snouts to probe into holes, though they can also feed on fruit, seeds and underground fungi. They can also be recognised from other marsupials by the fact they have a combination polyprotodont dentition and syndactylous toes on their hind feet which are used for grooming.

Distinctive amongst the bandicoots is their incredible high reproductive rate, the highest amongst all marsupials. Females, given suitable climatic conditions, breed throughout the year. Bandicoots also show little parental care, instead producing many offspring with the hope that a number will survive to reproductive age, which is very young. Reproduction also represents the only time when the otherwise solitary bandicoots come together.

Order: Diprotodontia.

Order: Yalkaparidontia.