(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

The honey possum or noolbenger, scientific name Tarsipes rostratus, is a tiny species of marsupial that feeds on the nectar and pollen of a various range of flowering vegetation. Found in southwest Australia, it is a vital pollinator for such vegetation as Banksia attenuata, Banksia coccinea and Adenanthos cuneatus.

Honey Possum Profile

Honey Possum has gray fur that’s brown on the dorsal aspect with a darkish stripe ranging from the nape of the neck extending down in the direction of the bottom of the tail. It has a white and yellow ventral pelage on its underbelly that turns into orange on its sides.

The head is dorsoventrally flattened with an elongated snout that’s roughly two and a half instances longer than its most width. Tarsipes rostratus has a brush-tipped protrusible tongue that’s equal in size to the pinnacle.

With the exception of the incisors, which are enlarged, the dentition of T. rostratus is vastly diminished. Its arms and feet have tough pads, opposable and elongated digits, with nails that don’t project past the toe-pads.

It has a prehensile tail that’s hairless on the ventral floor close to the tip. Tarsipes rostratus is sexually dimorphic, with females being roughly a 3rd heavier than males.

Females range in mass from 10 to 18 g, have a body size starting from 70 to 90 mm, and a tail that measures from 75 to 105 mm in size.

Males range in mass from 6 to 12 g, have a body size starting from 65 to 85 mm, and a tail that measures from 70 to 100 mm in size. Despite females being barely bigger, there is no such thing as a distinction in head size between the sexes.

Honey possums are nocturnal or crepuscular and are comparatively nonsocial. In captivity, nevertheless, they huddle in giant teams once they sleep however no such behavior has been noticed in natural populations. There is little proof of territoriality, nevertheless, females are dominant over males.

Tarsipes rostratus has a higher basal metabolic fee (BMR) and subject metabolic fee (FMR) than most different marsupials. It has an average body temperature of 36.6 C, which is far higher than the everyday marsupial, and a BMR of two.9 cm^three oxygen/hour.

When in torpor, if its body temperature falls under 5 degrees C it’s incapable of exiting torpor. Daily energy expenditures range from 25 to 30 kJ/day, which classifies them as hypermetabolic. In order to satisfy their high energy calls, its diet consists primarily of pollen and nectar.

Geographic Range

Honey Possum is native to the southwestern tip of Western Australia, all through the coastal-sand plain heathlands, which accommodate various array plant communities.

Honey Possum

Honey Possum Habitat

The preferred habitat of Tarsipes rostratus is banksia woodlands, which are wealthy in floral variety. The overstory of banksia woodland habitat alongside the southwestern coast of Western Australia is dominated by Banksia attenuata (slender Banksia) and B. menziesii (firewood Banksia).

Eucalyptus todtiana (coastal blackbutt), E. gomphocephala (Tuart), E. marginata (Jarrah), Allocasuarina fraseriana (Fraser’s sheoak), Nuytsia floribunda (christmas tree), and different Banksia species additionally happen, however far much less ceaselessly. Interspersed all through the understory are numerous species within the households Proteaceae, Myrtaceae, Papilionaceae, and Epacridaceae.


Although restricted to a reasonably small range within the southwest of Western Australia, it’s domestically widespread and doesn’t appear to be threatened with extinction so long as its habitat of heath, shrubland, and woodland stays intact and numerous. Records of places held on the Western Australian Museum point out they’re more widespread in areas of high Proteaceae variety, areas corresponding to banksia woodlands the place species may be discovered flowering always of the year.

Honey Possum Description

A tiny marsupial that climbs woody vegetation to feed on the pollen and nectar, the honey, of banksia and eucalypts. They resemble a small mouse or the arboreal possums of Australia and are readily distinguished by the exceptionally long muzzle and three brown stripes from the pinnacle to the rump.

The pelage is a cream color below that merges to rufous on the flanks, the general coloration of the upper parts is a mixture of brown and gray hairs. A darkish brown central stripe extends from the rump to a mid-point between the ears, this can be a more distinct stripe than the 2 paler adjoining stripes.

The size of the tail is from 70 to 100 millimeters, exceeding the mixed body and head size of 65 to 85 mm, and has a prehensile capacity that assists in climbing.

The recorded weight range for the species is 5 to 10 grams. The variety of teeth are fewer and most a lot smaller than is typical for marsupials, with the molars diminished to tiny cones. The dental formulation of I2/1 C1/0 P1/0 M3/3 totals no more than 22 teeth.

The morphology of the elongated snout’s jaws and dentition presents quite a few distinctive traits suited to the specialization as a palynivore and nectivore.

Tarsipes tongue is extensible and the end coated in brush-like papillae, with the redundant motion of the modified or diminished teeth being changed by the interplay of the tongue, keel-like decrease incisors, and a fine combing floor on the palate.

The testes are very giant in size, famous as proportionally the best for a mammal at 4.6 % of the body weight. The sperm additionally has a distinctive size; its tail (flagellum) measurement of 360 micrometers additionally cited because the longest identified. Specialized characters of Honey Possum embody visible acuity for detecting the brilliant yellow inflorescence of Banksia attenuata.

They have a typical lifespan between one and two years.

Honey Possum Behavior

The honey possum is especially nocturnal, however will come out to feed throughout the daylight in a cooler climate. Generally, although, it spends the time asleep in a shelter of comfort: a rock cranny, a tree cavity, the hole inside a grass tree, or a deserted bird’s nest.

When meals are scarce, or in a chilly climate, it turns lethargic to preserve energy. In comparability to different marsupials of the same size, Honey Possum has a high body temperature and metabolic fee that’s termed euthermic.

Lacking fats reserves, however capable of scale back their body temperature, publicity to cooler temperatures, or lack of meals induces certainly one of two states of torpor.

One response is a shallow and temporary interval, much like lethargic dasyurids, the place the body temperature is above 10–15 degrees Celsius, and one other deeper state just like the burramyids that lasts for a number of days and reduces their temperature to lower than 10 °C.

The species is ready to climb with the help of the prehensile tail and an opposable first toe on the long hindfoot that is ready to grip like a monkey’s paw.

The bristle-like papillae on the higher floor of the tongue enhance in size towards the tip, and that is used to assemble the pollen and nectar by quickly wiping it into the inflorescence.

Both it’s front and back feet are adept at greedy, enabling it to climb bushes with ease, in addition to traverse the undergrowth at velocity. The honey possum also can use its prehensile tail (which is longer than its head and body mixed) to grip, very like one other arm.

Radio-tracking has proven that males notably are fairly mobile, shifting distances of as much as 0.5 km in a night and use areas averaging 0.eight hectares.

Males appear to enterprise out in a bigger range, and a few proofs signify higher distances coated; proof of pollen discovered on a person in a research space was from a banksia not discovered inside three kilometers of the gathering site.

The plant species that present nectar and pollen to Honey Possum are primarily genera of Proteaceae, Banksia, and Adenanthos, and Myrtaceae, eucalyptus, and Agonis, and people of Epacridaceae, shrubby heath vegetation, though additionally it is identified to go to the inflorescence of Anigozanthos, the kangaroo paws, and the tall spikes of Xanthorrhoea, the grass-trees.

A study of the quantity of nectar and pollen has concluded {that a} 9 gram particular person requires around seven milliliters of nectar and one gram of pollen every day to take care of a lively steadiness.

This quantity of pollen offers adequate nitrogen for the species high exercise metabolism, and the extra nitrogen necessities of females throughout lactation are out there within the pollen of Banksia species.

The ingestion of extra water when feeding at moist flowers, a frequent circumstance within the high rainfall areas of its range, is ready to be eradicated by kidneys that may process as much as two instances of the animal’s body weight in water. Pollen grains are digested over the course of six hours, extracting nearly all of the vitamins they comprise.

Honey Possum

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Little is understood of communication and notion in Honey Possum. In different possum species, it has been steered that secretions from the holocrine gland are used to mark habitats and sign alarm. There is not any proof indicating that possums use scent marking to draw potential mates.

Honey Possum Food Habits

Honey Possum consumes pollen and nectar from a wide range of flowering vegetation. It is the one flightless animal that feeds solely on pollen and nectar. Large quantities of pollen and nectar are consumed from vegetation belonging to the households Proteaceae, Epacridaceae, and Myrtacae.

Honey Possum prefers to forage on Banksia spp., which are giant vegetation with broadly separated and uncovered inflorescences from the family Proteaceae. The Mediterranean local weather of southwest Western Australia is vulnerable to recurrent fires, which has a big impact on the inhabitant’s density of Honey Possum.

Areas that stay unburnt for longer durations of time have bigger vegetation, which bears more inflorescences. Plants with more inflorescences are correlated with the elevated abundance of Honey Possum.

Its feet and prehensile tail are used for climbing, whereas their forepaws with elongated digits are used to govern flowers throughout the feeding. In order to accumulate the necessary vitamins from nectar, a considerable amount of fluid should be consumed.

As a result of the high water content of their diet alongside their incapability to pay attention to urine, Honey Possum ceaselessly excretes high volumes of dilute urine.

Honey Possum Predation

Aerial predators of honey possums, embody barn owls (Tyto alba) and black-shouldered kites (Elanus caesuleus), and customary terrestrial predators embody red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and feral cats (Felis domesticus). Insure components of their range, Fitzgerald River National Park, different potential predators embody tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus), southern displays (Varanus rosenbergi), Square-tailed kites (Lophoictinia isura), Australian kestrels (Falco cenchroides), brown falcons (Falco berigora), and boobook owls (Ninox novaeseelandiae). Honey possums are arboreal and are mostly discovered within the decreasing cover. As an end result, the higher cover seemingly offers shelter from aerial predators and is elevated off the forest flooring seemingly decreases predation strain from terrestrial predators.

Honey Possum Reproduction

Breeding is dependent upon the supply of nectar and might happen at any time of the year. Females are promiscuous, mating with a lot of males, and should concurrently carry embryos from totally different progenitors.

Competition has led to the males having very giant testicles relative to their body weight, at a relative mass of 4.2% it’s amongst the big identified for a mammal. Their sperm is the biggest within the mammal world, measuring 365 micrometers.

The growth of blastocysts corresponds to today’s size, induced by a shorter photoperiod, however different reproductive processes are prompted by different issues, in all probability meals availability. Gestation lasts for 28 days, with two to 4 younger being produced.

At the start, they’re the smallest of any mammal, weighing 0.005 g. Nurturing and growth inside the pouch lasts for about 60 days, after which they emerge coated in fur and with open eyes, weighing some 2.5 g.

As quickly as they emerge, they’re typically left in a sheltered space (corresponding to a hole in a tree) whereas the mom searches for meals for herself, however inside days, they are taught to seize maintain of the mom’s back and travel together with her.

However, their weight quickly turns into an excessive amount, and so they cease nursing at around 11 weeks and start to make their very own properties shortly thereafter. As is widespread in marsupials, a second litter is usually born when the pouch is vacated by the first, fertilized embryos being stopped from growing.

Most of the time, honey possums persist with separate territories of about one hectare (2.5 acres), the exterior of the breeding season.

They reside in small teams of no more than 10, which leads to them partaking in a fight with each other solely not often. During the breeding season, females transfer into smaller areas with their younger, which they’ll defend fiercely, particularly from any males.

Honey Possum Ecology

Honey Possum is a keystone species within the ecology of the coastal sands of Southwest Australia, complicated assemblages of vegetation referred to as kwongan, and are more likely to be the first pollinator of woody shrubs corresponding to banksia and Adenanthos.

Their feeding exercise includes visits to many particular person vegetation and the pinnacle carries a small pollen load that may convey more successfully than the birds that go to the identical flowers.

The favored species Banksia attenuata seems to be obliged to this animal as a pollination vector, and each species have developed to go well with their mutualistic interactions.

The impact of fireside frequency on the inhabitants was evaluated in research over a twenty-three-year interval, giving indications of the resilience of the species to the first fireplace within the space and a subsequent burn six years later.

The impact of elevated frequency and depth of fireside, because of world warming and prescribed burns can adversely have an effect on the suitability of the native habitat.

The species is vulnerable to the effect of Phytophthora cinnamomi, a soil-borne fungal-like species that are related to forest dieback within the eucalypt forests and banksia woodlands of the area.

The flowers of the 9 plant species most favored by T. rostratus present meals all through the year and 5 of those are weak to the withering situation brought on by P. cinnamomi pathogen.

Bright yellow inflorescence of Banksia attenuata, regarded as the favorite of the honey mouse

It is the one solely nectarivorous mammal that isn’t a bat; it has a long, pointed snout and a long, protrusile tongue with a brush tip that gathers pollen and nectar, like a honeyeater or a hummingbird.

Floral variety is especially essential for the honey possum, because it can not survive and not using a year-round provide of nectar and, not like nectarivorous birds, it can not simply travel long distances in the hunt for recent provides.

Honey Possum Conservation

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, honey possums are a species of “least concern”. Due to their relative abundance and broad distribution, there are not any main threats to their existence.

However, bushfires may end up in important habitat loss. In addition, water mildew (Phytophthora cinnamomi), which is prevalent in lots of high humidity environments, may cause plant pathogens that would lower useful resource abundance for honey possums.

Finally, feral cats might have a destructive impact on honey possum abundance.

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