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Family: Dasyuridae Predatory marsupials

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Predatory marsupials are primitive and closest to American possums. They have an archaic dental system with a full range of incisors. A typical primitive structure of the hind limbs is typical for them: they are five-fingered, all fingers are well developed and separated from one another. The dental system, the structure of the legs, and the size of these animals suggest that one of the most primitive members of the family - the yellow-legged marsupial mouse - is very similar to the ancient original form, from which all marsupials once evolved.

The family of predatory marsupials has 2 subfamilies: the most species-rich primitive subfamily of marsupial mice and the subfamily of predatory marsupials proper.

Representatives of the subfamily of marsupial mice (Phascogalinae) in size resemble ordinary mice and rats. Among them there are very small forms. For example, the body length of the northern marsupial mouse (Planigale ingrami) is only 45 mm. This is the smallest living marsupial.

Marsupial mice are characterized by a primitive dental system: they have many small incisors and primitive three-tubercular molars, convenient for grinding insects. The basis of the nutrition of these animals is beetles, locusts, millipedes, arachnids, earthworms, small lizards. Marsupial mice also attack house animals introduced by humans and even rats. These are agile, bold and voracious animals.

The subfamily has 10 genera and 43 species. Most of them (the genera Antechinus, Planigale, Dasycercus and Sminthopsis) are known as marsupials. The animals belonging to the genera Phascogale and Dasyuroides are larger, they are usually called marsupial rats. They are adjoined by 3 New Guinean genera (Murexia, Phascoloso-geh, Neophascogale) and the recently isolated West-Australian genus Ningaui.

Most representatives of the subfamily are inhabitants of arid and semi-arid regions: forests, mountains, steppes and semi-deserts.

As already mentioned, in different types of bag is developed very differently. Studying this subfamily, one can trace how the bag of marsupials in general was formed by gradual transitions. The number of nipples in representatives of this subfamily varies from 4 to 12, which approximately corresponds to the number of cubs. The size of the newborn is about 1 cm.

Marsupial mice climb trees well. Their usual shelters are voids and crevices in rocks, trees, and soil.

The vast genus of wide-legged marsupial mice (Antechinus) has 14 species. The most characteristic representative of the genus is the yellow-footed marsupial mouse (A. flavipes). This is the most numerous and widespread representative of the genus. It is the most primitive of the Australian marsupials in the shape of its teeth and well-separated toes. In size, it resembles a large mouse or a young rat. It is widespread throughout the mainland of Australia. The bare feet with meaty pads and long claws help her climb trees and walls. The yellow-footed marsupial mouse easily runs even on the ceiling of the caves in which it often settles. Nests carefully woven from the leaves of eucalyptus are placed in inaccessible places, for example at the ceiling of the cave.

Flat-headed marsupials (genus Planigale) belong to 5 species. They are characterized by a highly flattened skull, similar to a lizard skull. Thanks to him, animals can crawl into the narrowest crevices, for example, into cracks in dry soil. They inhabit drying marshes and ponds, usually covered with impenetrable thickets of hard grasses. The basis of nutrition is locusts. All representatives of the genus are smaller than our house mouse.

Two of the five species belonging to the genus Planigale, are now close to complete extinction and are listed in the IUCN Red List.

The crested tailed marsupial mouse, or mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda), is the only representative of the genus. Lives in the Australian deserts. At the base of the tail there is a thickening containing reserves of fat. This is a daytime animal. She often lies flat, like a lizard, and basks in the sun. It can tolerate very large (for mammals) doses of insolation. The bag is almost absent. The cubs hanging on the nipples of the mother for about a month are protected only by a small lateral fold of the skin. It is difficult to catch and observe these animals. Mulgara is very voracious, but easily tamed and lives well in captivity. Destroys many house mice and even rats.

Slender, bony-eared narrow-legged marsupials are representatives of the vast genus Sminthopsis, numbering 13 species. Most of them live on the mainland of Australia, 1 species - on the Aru Islands at the western tip of New Guinea. They inhabit arid steppes and semi-desert areas. Predominantly insectivorous, but in the case of the case, they willingly attack house mice and other small animals. They have very developed care for offspring. One farmer in New South Wales plowed a narrow-legged marsupial mouse with ten young cubs hanging from its mink with a plow. He noticed her as she slowly walked away with her overwhelming burden. When several cubs were removed from her, she did not run away, and ran around with a squeak, until she was able to gather all ten of her back on her back.

Narrow-legged marsupials are well tamed. They are very voracious. So, one animal weighing about 20 g per night in the cage ate 5 earthworms and 3 small lizards - ate it without a trace, with skin and bones. These animals are very useful, because in a huge amount they destroy insects: locusts, cockroaches, termites. Unfortunately, in many areas, narrow-legged marsupials are almost destroyed by feral cats.

The genus Sminthopsis is currently classified as marsupial jerboas (S. laniger), which were previously isolated into a special genus. These are graceful small animals with large ears and highly developed hind legs and tail, jumping almost up to 2 m long. The forelimbs, although shorter than the hind limbs, are not as reduced as, for example, the kangaroo. The “technique” of their movement is more like a hare jumping. Feet swollen in the shape of pillows. The tail is very long, with a brush at the end and bent so that the animal can lean on it during the jump, as real jerboas and kangaroos do.

Marsupial jerboas inhabit the dry savannahs of East Australia and the rocky or sandy areas of the Central Australian Desert. These are strictly nocturnal animals, very poorly studied. They are insectivorous, but on occasion attack small lizards and rodents, in captivity feed on meat. Put in a box with mice, they are immediately attacked. The usual number of cubs is 7. The bag is poorly developed and opens back.

Now the marsupial jerboa, especially its eastern Australian subspecies, is so rare that it is threatened with complete extinction. Included in the IUCN Red List.

Marsupial rats differ from marsupial mice in size. There are 2 genera of marsupial rats: carp-tailed (Phascogale) and comb-tailed (Dasyuroides). Pistachios rats, especially taphos (Phascogale tapoatafa), which were especially widespread throughout Australia, were the scourge of the first European immigrants: they devastated their pantries and bird yards. Currently, the basis of nutrition of these animals is rodents introduced by humans. Tafa is one of the first marsupials seen by Europeans in Australia. In size, it resembles a large rat. She has a long, pointed muzzle, a tail ending with a tassel, and a beautiful bluish-gray skin.

Tafa easily climbs trees, lives in hollows or burrows. Its flexibility, speed of movement and bloodthirstiness can be compared with our affection. This is a smart and ferocious predator. The importation of poultry, mice and rats by man created favorable conditions for this small predator. When meeting with a man, tafa is fierce and courageous. Her bites are very painful. Tame tafa is extremely difficult. In captivity, is fierce and tries to escape.

The second Vcch of the genus Phascogale - the small marsupial rat (Ph. Calura) is very rare and is included in the IUCN Red List.

The genus Neophascogale, recently isolated from it, is close to the genus Phascogale; the only species of this genus, the marsupial rat Lorentz (N. lorentzi), is found in New Guinea. The genus Ningaui has also been created recently; it includes two species of animals that inhabit the deserts of Western Australia.

The crested tailed marsupial rat (Dasyuroides byrnei) is the only representative of the genus, differs from other marsupial mice and rats by the absence of a thumb on its paws. The tail is slightly thickened due to fat deposits. This resident of sandy and rocky deserts was found in Central Australia only at the end of the last century. Lifestyle is almost unstudied.

New Guinean marsupial rats (genus Murexia) are smaller than Australian rats: their body length is 11-20 cm, their tail is 15-18 cm. There are 2 species in the genus. Outwardly, they look like our sleepyheads. The coat is short and dense, gray-brown on top and light on the belly. They live on trees in rainforests, climbing mountains to a height of 3000 m. They feed on insects and small vertebrates.

Striped marsupial rats (Phascolosorex) live in the mountains of New Guinea. They are also small (body length 13-17 cm), have an elongated muzzle, orange belly or brown-red. Wood predators. There are 2 species in the genus.

The subfamily of predatory marsupials (Dasyurinae) includes larger and highly organized animals. The subfamily includes small-sized spotted animals, known in Australia under the name marsupial martens, and a larger one, the Tasmanian devil. Outwardly, these animals are very different, but their origin is common.

Marsupial martens represent a transitional group from insectivorous marsupial mice to real predators - the Tasmanian devil, and then the marsupial wolf. In the structure of their teeth, a number of transitions from an insectivorous type of nutrition to predatory can be traced. Marsupial martens closely resemble small predators such as martens or mongooses. They have a thin, graceful muzzle and a long fluffy tail. The gray or reddish skin is covered with evenly spaced white spots. According to the legends of local residents, these spots are traces of wounds accidentally received by these animals during the battle that occurred between the two heroes of the South Australian tribes - Pilla and Inda. Marsupial martens played a large role in ancient rites and participated in mystical religious ceremonies.

Almost all marsupial martens are arboreal animals. They track down prey and overtake with a jump. There are 6 species of marsupial martens belonging to 2 genera: Dasyurus and Myoictis. Of these, the most primitive pygmy marten (Dasyurus hallucatus) is a small, purely woody species. Below are considered in more detail 2 species: quoll and tiger marsupial marten.

A representative of spotted marsupial martens quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus) was named by this native name as early as 1773 in J. Cook's Travel Description. This small predator was numerous in many areas of Australia. Fifty years after the start of colonization, he began to meet less often, and now has completely disappeared from a number of places. The size of a small cat, resembling the appearance of a mongoose or civet, the quoll has black, gray or brown wool, mottled with whitish spots. Depending on whether he currently has cubs or not, the bag is missing or well developed. The female has 6 nipples. however, the number of simultaneously born cubs can reach 24, in this case those who survive will be able to attach to the nipples of the mother first survive.

The food of the quoll is very diverse - insects, lizards, small birds, mammals, fish, which he lies in wait on the banks of water bodies. The colonization of Australia created favorable conditions for him: poultry, rabbits, rats, mice became his favorite food. At first, the colonists mercilessly exterminated the quoll, which devastated their houses and pantries. However, soon the attitude towards him changed, and now the Australians appreciate him as a useful assistant, in the mass of exterminating mice, rats and young rabbits. In 1901 - 1903 an epizootic spread among the Kwolls, after which he disappeared from many parts of Australia. Now the corolla has become very rare. Included in the IUCN Red List.

Kvoll is an intelligent and courageous, but not a ferocious animal. It lends itself well to taming. Active at night. In the afternoon he sleeps in his lair - a crevice of a rock or a hollow, and at dusk he goes in search of prey.

The largest of the marsupial martens is the five-tailed marsupial marten (D. maculatus), which has a tail evenly covered with white spots. The length of her body is about 75 cm, tail 35 cm. The female is slightly smaller than the male. Distributed in Eastern Australia and Tasmania. This is a ferocious predator strong enough to cope with a large cat and withstand even dogs. A real arboreal animal, it has a well-developed thumb and squeezed pads of the feet, well “sticking” to the branches of trees. By the structure of the teeth, it is more adapted to beggarly meat, as evidenced by its sharp-tuberous molars. The bag consists of folds that limit the milky zero in front and on the sides. Cubs (there are from 4 to 6) are born in May, the Australian fall. Spotted-tailed marsupial marten preys mainly at night. The diet is diverse, consisting mainly of birds (chickens, guinea fowl), bird eggs, rabbits and smaller mammals and reptiles. However, due to its size and great strength, it preys on larger animals: herons, wood sums and even young wallaby. Bold and agile, she can be careful and patient if necessary.

Spotted-tailed marsupial marten is found mainly in forest areas. Climbing straight up the trunks of large eucalyptus trees and ruining bird nests, located even at the ends of long branches. Picking up the birds on the branches, she jumps and catches them right on the fly before she reaches the ground. Often hunts for sleeping birds.

In relation to humans, this cat is a timid and secretive animal. However, this is one of the most warlike inhabitants of the Australian bush. There is a known case when two Irish terriers could do nothing with a spotted-tailed marsupial marten hiding under the roots of a tree. In another case, after a long fight, she bit an enormous feral cat that attacked her. In the presence of prey, she often does not pay attention to the danger. One Tasmanian farmer found her in broad daylight at the moment when she was eating the remains of the Wallaby. The farmer swung an ax at her, the animal bounced to the side, but, seeing that the man was no longer moving, he immediately returned to his prey.

Striped marsupial marten (Myoictis melas) is the only member of the genus. This small animal (body length 17-21 cm, tail 14-20 cm), hardly studied, inhabits the plain forests of New Guinea, Salavati Islands and Aru Islands.

A close relative of marsupial martens is the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii). In contrast to the species just examined, the devil is a land animal, reminiscent of its heavier build and dark color of a small bear. It is a stocky predator about 50 cm long, with a large head, short black tail and black skin, often speckled with white spots.

The fight between the Tasmanian devil and the first European colonists broke out after the first meeting. The first European settlers of Tasmania were convicts, accompanied by their guard and a few colonists. The food in the first colonies was poorly established, there was not enough meat, and the settlers were counting on poultry brought with them from England. On this basis, they soon became acquainted with the Tasmanian devil, who began to vigorously destroy the chickens. The repulsive expression of the muzzle, the black coat, the sinister growl and bloodthirstiness gave rise to his name. This beast was ruthlessly exterminated, especially since its meat turned out to be edible and, according to the colonists, tasted like veal in taste.

Currently, the Tasmanian devil is found only in Tasmania, although, in all likelihood, he used to inhabit the mainland of Australia. Fossils of it were discovered in the south of Western Australia.The presence of skulls and bones of this species in the kitchen remnants of the natives supports the assumption that it could exist here relatively recently. In 1912, one such animal was killed 60 miles from Melbourne, however, in all likelihood, it was a beast that escaped from the willow zoo.

Numerous in the vicinity of Hobart at the beginning of the 19th century, the Tasmanian devil retreated further and further into the undeveloped forest and mountain parts of Tasmania as the population grew. However, people continued to pursue him. When sheep were brought to Tasmania and they were attacked by local predators, the Tasmanian devil was again blamed for this, although the marsupial wolf was probably more to blame. As the island was developed, the Tasmanian devil retreated farther and farther, until he found himself in almost inaccessible rocks, here he managed to gain a foothold and thereby avoided complete destruction.

Tasmanian devil hunts at night. Very gluttonous, he eats small and medium animals. Birds, including parrots, young wallaby, kangaroo rats and other smaller mammals, are his constant prey. He often wanders along the shores of water bodies, eating frogs and crayfish, and on the sea coast - edible remains thrown out by the waves. Despite its relatively small size, he is very strong and hardy and, on occasion, attacks animals much larger than himself (for example, sheep).

The "bad reputation" of the Tasmanian devil, apparently, was greatly facilitated by his unpleasant, sinister voice, which panicked the first colonists. E. Trafton describes him as a whining grunt, followed by a hoarse cough or, if the beast is angry, a low piercing growl.

For a long time, it was believed that it was impossible to tame the Tasmanian devil. Indeed, when he is caught, he is desperately defending himself, biting. Placed in a cage, he first tries to escape, which he often succeeds due to very strong jaws: there were times when he twisted the bars of the grating with his teeth. However, it is not difficult to tame it, it is only necessary with the desire and ability to get down to business. Grown in captivity, Tasmanian devils become completely tame, frisky and affectionate. Even adult caught animals soon become so tame that they can be stroked. They are very clean, endlessly licking themselves and smooth, love to swim and bask in the sun. They wash their faces with both front paws at once, folding them with a bucket.

The bag consists of a horseshoe-shaped fold of skin that disappears on the back of the abdomen. In the second half of September you can already see a small body or tail sticking out of the bag, and at the end of this month the female begins to collect straw and dry grass and prepare the nest. Cubs climb trees well. Adults climb worse, but nevertheless they can climb inclined trunks and are easily held on branches. Tasmanian devils swim well, easily cross rivers.

Predatory marsupials (Dasyuridae) - a family of mammals of the order marsupials. Distributed in Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea and adjacent small islands. / (Wikipedia)

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