Long-nosed Potoroo

Scientific Name: Potorous tridactylus

IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened

 

The Long-Nosed Potoroo is one of the smallest and most ancient members of the kangaroo family and represent a living fossil, having remained relatively unchanged for around 10 million years. Once widespread along the East Coast of Australia, like many other smaller native mammals its population has declined and fragmented since the introduction of foxes and cats, making it difficult for breeding, resulting in local extinctions.

 

The Long-nosed Potoroo are ecosystem engineers, improving the health of the forest by dispersing a host of beneficial fungi spores as they forage and move around. These fungi, which form a major part of their diet assist Eucalypt and Acacia trees absorb more water and nutrients, and essential for seedling survival. It also plays a key role in reducing the chance of fires by grazing undergrowth and turning over leaf litter.

Description

Adult long-nosed potoroos can weigh up to 1.6 kg and have a head and body length of about 360 mm and a tail length between 200 – 260 mm. Its fur is greyish-brown above and light grey below. The upper body is brown to grey with a paler underbody and a long nose that tapers with a small patch of skin extending from the snout to the nose. The length of the feet is shorter than the head length. The animal tends to have a 4-legged pottering motion, but when startled, hops like all other kangaroos. It has life expectancy of around 5 to 6 years in wild.

Habitat

Long-nosed Potoroos utilise a wide variety of habitats including coastal heaths and dry and wet sclerophyll forests. Dense understorey is essential for cover; eucalypt forests are important because potoroos rely on fungi associated with these trees.

Distribution

The long-nosed potoroo are now only found in in isolated populations along the coastal Victoria, New South Wales and up into south-eastern Queensland. The geographical separation of the populations is major threat to the ongoing survival of the species.

Diet and Behaviour

Potoroos are mainly nocturnal, resting during day in nests made of leaves under dense cover.  They use a range of microhabitats for different behaviours such as feeding and sheltering. Long-nosed Potoroos are solitary, except in captivity or when females have young.  They are not territorial. They eat many types of roots, tubers, fruits, seeds, insects and larvae, all depending on seasonal availability. They often dig small holes in the ground in a similar way to bandicoots.

Reproduction

Long-nosed Potoroos become sexually mature at around 12 months of age and give birth to a single young after a gestation period of 38 days. Young stay in the pouch for between 120- 130 days. After leaving the pouch the young remain near the mother, and still feed for about 40 days (weaned at 170 days). They breed once or twice a year depending on climate and habitat conditions.

 

Threats

 

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation from land clearing for residential and agricultural development.
  • Predation from foxes, wild dogs and cats.
  • Too frequent fires or grazing by stock that reduce the density and floristic diversity of understorey vegetation.
  • Logging or other disturbances that reduce the availability and abundance food resource

 

FAME has supported populations of Long-nosed Potoroos in protected areas of South Australia and Victoria since 2000 and the Southern Ark Project in Victoria.

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