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genus dasyurus

Tiger Quoll

The Tiger Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), also known as the Spotted-tail Quoll, the Spotted Quoll, the Spotted-tailed Dasyure or (erroneously) the Tiger Cat, is a carnivorous marsupial mammal, native to Australia. It is mainland Australia's largest carnivorous marsupial and is considered an apex predator.

Taxonomy

The Tiger Quoll is a member of the family Dasyuridae, which includes most carnivorous marsupial mammals. It was first described in 1792 by Robert Kerr, the Scottish writer and naturalist, who placed it in the genus Didelphis, which includes several species of American opossum. The species name, maculatus, indicates that this species is spotted.

Two subspecies are recognised:

  • D. m. maculatus, found from southern Queensland south to Tasmania
  • D. m. gracilis, found in an isolated population in northeastern Queensland, where it is classified as endangered by the Department of Environment and Heritage

Life history

The Tiger Quoll ranges from 35 to 75 cm in length and has a tail of about 34 to 50 cm. It is also 50% larger than other species of quolls. Females are smaller than the males: while females grow to four kilograms, males can reach up to 7 kg. Like other quolls, this species has thick, soft fawn, brown or black fur, with lighter fur on the underside. Small white spots cover the body including its bushy tail, which may also have a white tip. It has a pointed snout with a moist pink nose, bright eyes, and sharp teeth. Ridges on the pads of its feet allow them to climb trees.

This quoll feeds on a large range of prey including birds, rats, other marsupials, small reptiles and insects. It is a good climber but spends most of its time on the forest floor. Although nocturnal, it spends the daylight hours basking in the sun. It nests in rocky banks, hollow logs, or small caves.

It produces one litter a year with four to six young. The gestation period is 21 days. The female's pouch develops during breeding season, and is open towards the tail. The young remain in their mother's pouch for about seven weeks, and it takes some 18 weeks for them to become independent of the mother. Sexual maturity is reached after one year. The Tiger Quoll can reach up to 4 or 5 years old.

Range and habitat

Before European settlement the southern subspecies had a range extending from southern Queensland through coastal New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania. It is now confined to a few areas, mostly in national parks, and listed as threatened in all mainland states. Land clearing, habitat destruction, and predation by the red fox and cats have led to the decline. It has a large home range, and can cover over 6 km overnight.

The northern subspecies of the Tiger Quoll lives in restricted areas around Cairns and Cooktown in northern Queensland, and also in Papua New Guinea. It is slightly smaller than the southern subspecies. It is predicted that only 50% of quolls remain compared to last century.

Conservation status

The Tiger Quoll is listed by the IUCN on the Red List of Threatened Species with the status "vulnerable". The Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage considers the northern subspecies D. m. gracilis as endangered.

References

Further reading

  • Belcher, C. A.; J. P. Darrant. (June 2006) Habitat use by tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Zoology. Vol. 269, Issue 2. pp. 183–190.
  • Belcher et al. (May 2005) Diet of the tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) in south-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology. Vol. 55, Issue 2. pp. 117-122.
  • Belcher, C. A.; J. P. Darrant. (March 2004) Home range and spatial organization of the marsupial carnivore, Dasyurus maculatus maculatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Zoology. Vol. 262, Issue 3. pp. 271-280.
  • Belcher, C. A. (1998) Susceptibility of the tiger quoll, Dasyurus maculatus, and the eastern quoll, D. viverrinus, to 1080-poisoned baits in control programmes for vertebrate pests in eastern Australia. Wildlife Research. Vol. 25, Number 1. pp. 33-40.
  • Claridge et al. (12 April 2006) The propensity of spotted-tailed quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) to encounter and consume non-toxic meat baits in a simulated canid-control program. Wildlife Research. Vol. 33, Issue 2. pp. 85-91.
  • Firestone et al. (2000) Variability and differentiation of microsatellites in the genus Dasyurus and conservation implications for the large Australian carnivorous marsupials. Conservation Genetics. Vol. 1, Number 2. pp. 115-133.
  • Firestone, Karen B. (March 2000) Phylogenetic Relationships Among Quolls Revisited: The mtDNA Control Region as a Useful Tool. Journal of Mammalian Evolution. Vol. 7, Number 1. pp. 1-22.
  • Firestone et al. (October 1999) Phylogeographical population structure of tiger quolls Dasyurus maculatus (Dasyuridae: Marsupialia), an endangered carnivorous marsupial. Molecular Ecology. Vol. 8, Issue 10. pp. 1613-1625.
  • Glen, A. S.; Dickman, C. R. (April 2006) Home range, denning behaviour and microhabitat use of the carnivorous marsupial Dasyurus maculatus in eastern Australia. Journal of Zoology. Vol. 268, Issue 4. pp. 347-354.
  • Glen, A . S .; Dickman, C . R . (2006) Diet of the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) in eastern Australia: effects of season, sex and size Journal of Zoology. Vol. 269, Number 2. pp. 241-248.
  • Hesterman et al. (2007) Reproductive endocrinology of the largest Dasyurids: Characterization of ovarian cycles by plasma and fecal steroid monitoring. Part II. The spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus). General and Comparative Endocrinology. In press.
  • Jones et al. (December 2001) Dasyurus maculatus. Mammalian Species. No. 676, pp. 1-9.
  • Jones, M. E. et al. (May 2000) Niche differentiation among sympatric Australian Dasyurid carnivores. Journal of Mammalogy. Vol. 81, Number 2. pp. 434-47.
  • Jones, Menna E.; Leon A. Barmuta. (May 1998) Diet Overlap and Relative Abundance of Sympatric Dasyurid Carnivores: A Hypothesis of Competition. The Journal of Animal Ecology. Vol. 67, No. 3. pp. 410-421.
  • Jones, Menna. (December 1997) Character Displacement in Australian Dasyurid Carnivores: Size Relationships and Prey Size Patterns. Ecology. Vol. 1, No. 8. pp. 2569-2587.
  • Lunney, Daniel; Matthews, Alison. (2001) The contribution of the community to defining the distribution of a vulnerable species, the spotted-tailed quoll, Dasyurus maculatus Wildlife Research Volume 28, Number 5. pp. 537.
  • Murray, Andrew J.; Poore, Robert N. (2004) Potential impact of aerial baiting for wild dogs on a population of spotted-tailed quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) Wildlife Research. Vol. 31, Number 6. pp. 639.
  • Sakai, Tatsuo; E. W. van Lennep. (February 1984) The Harderian Gland in Australian Marsupials. Journal of Mammalogy. Vol. 65, No. 1. pp. 159-162.

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