(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

The Pygmy Possum belongs to a family of small possums that collectively type the marsupial family Burramyidae. The 5 extant species of pygmy possum are grouped into two genera. Four of the species are endemic to Australia, with one species additionally co-occurring in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Pygmy Possum profile

The mountain pygmy possum is the one mammal restricted to the alpine and sub-alpine areas of mainland Australia. It was considered extinct till rediscovered in 1966 at Mt Higginbotham in Victoria.

They are the one Australian marsupial that hibernates. Given the alpine climates wherein they reside they retailer energy in fats deposits before rolling right into a ball and interesting in heterothermy throughout the winter months.

Geographic Range

The mountain pygmy possum, Burramys parvus, lives within the alps of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia. More particularly, it’s discovered atop Mount Bogong,

Mount Loch, and Mount Higginbotham mountain ranges of Victoria. In New South Wales, it’s discovered predominantly within the mountain ranges of Kosciusko National Park, which embody Mount Townsend, Mount Kosciusko, and Mount Blue Cow. Pygmy Possum ranges in elevation from 1400m to 2230m.

Pygmy Possum Description

Pygmy possums range in size from about 5 to 12 cm (2.0 to 4.7 in), and often weigh between 10 and 50 grams (0.35 and 1.76 oz). They are nocturnal and omnivorous, residing on a diet of invertebrates, fruit, seed, nectar, and pollen.

They are wonderful climbers, due partially to their prehensile tails. Although they can’t glide like some possums, some species can leap long distances. They have a prehensile tail for grabbing branches, however spend most of their time on the ground.

Pygmy Possum Food Habits

The mountain pygmy possum is greatest described as an omnivore-insectivore-granivore- frugivore. While consuming habits of Pygmy Possum are numerous, the range of prey is low, making Pygmy Possum a specialized feeder, in keeping with the season.

During the ‘lively season’ from October-April, B. parvus’ diet incorporates high energy meals. During this era, B. parvus is an omnivore and insectivore, feeding closely upon the Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa), which migrates yearly to the Australian alps for breeding.

The yearly migration of the moth offers a predictable, energy wealthy and plentiful meals provide for B. parvus. The Bogong moth constitutes over 33% of the total ‘lively season’ diet of B. parvus. The moth may very well be the one dietary merchandise through the reproductive season (October-December) of B. parvus.

It has been discovered that females take a higher proportion of Bogong moths than males, because of the concurrent breeding season and extra dietary supplements required to boost offspring. Other bugs, consumed in sparse portions, are caterpillars, millipedes, beetles, and spiders.

As the lively season progresses, the abundance of Bogong moths decreases, resulting in a dietary change from moths to seeds and berries. The mountain pygmy possum prefers the seeds of habitat particular species corresponding to Mountain Plum-pine, Rambling Bramble, and Snow Beard-heath, through the months of January-April.

During the ‘non-active’, or hibernation season, B. parvus caches seeds and berries, which represent over 75% of their diet from May-October. The mountain pygmy possum is the one marsupial discovered to cache non-perishable food objects.

Burramys parvus is nicely tailored to its specialized diet. The mountain pygmy possum has agile forelimbs that allow manipulation of seeds, berries, and bugs. The arduous coats of seeds and bug exoskeletons are simply opened with a plagiaulacoid premolar. Burramys parvus makes use of its procumbent decrease incisors to scoop out the inside of the seed or insect.

Pygmy Possum Habitat

Burramys parvus lives in chilly, moist local weather. Snow is possible year round, however is most frequent between June and September. When snow isn’t blanketing the ground, rain and highly effective winds are typical.

The New South Wales and Victorian alps annual rainfall is bigger than 1500mm. The altitude of the alps causes temperatures to be low, seldom exceeding 10 degrees celsius from May to September.

The habitat of this species may be described as a boulder field. Recurrent wetting and freezing of water on the rock surfaces have led to the fragmentation of boulders. These fragments present necessary safety from the tough weather conditions and alpine predators.

Burramys parvus usually has been discovered nesting among the many crevices. Plants set up in shallow fragments, offering the mountain pygmy possum with plentiful sources. These vegetation are sometimes low shrubs with grasses intermixed.

Pygmy Possum Physical Characteristics

Burramys parvus is a small, rodentlike marsupial. Both sexes are about 110mm in head and body size, with males being barely longer and heavier than females. The tail of B. parvus is prehensile, starting from 140mm in females to 148mm in males.

The fur is okay, however dense. The dorsal side is gray, with a darker part on the back and head midline. The ventral floor is a light cream, with males growing a vibrant fawn-orange in the breeding season.

The forepaws are dexterous, simply in a position to manipulate meals, whereas on the hindfoot the hallux aids in climbing.

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Pygmy Possum Behavior

The mountain pygmy possum is a relaxed, social animal, hardly ever partaking in competitors for house or meals. Burramys parvus is secretive and nocturnal. During the day, it sleeps curled in a ball to retain warmth.

In captivity, its temperament is way identical. Mountain pygmy possums have been seen operating over the backs of one another with little disturbance. They additionally appear to socially groom one another.

Only when distressed does Pygmy Possum make a low guttural vocalization. The mating behavior of B. parvus is cued by a number of components, together with the spring equinox, the arrival of Bogong moths, male encroachment into natal areas, and the disappearance of snow.

The behavior of Pygmy Possum has an attribute pattern, with the male first pursuing a feminine and sniffing her anal area. If the feminine chooses to mate, she permits him to mount and clasp her flanks.

Copulation lasts a number of minutes, after which the male leaves. The feminine might present excessive post-copulatory aggression in the direction of the male if he chooses to remain within the neighborhood after copulation.

After the start and growth of younger males, females are aggressive in the direction of them and power them to go away from the natal space. Older males go away first, adopted by juvenile males and typically juvenile females.

Over time, the sex ratio of a natal space turns into feminine biased. The sedentary females have a greater useful resource pool than the dispersed males, resulting in elevated longevity of females.

In reality, females are 4 to 5 occasions more prone to survive the winter than males. This sort of social organization has been termed matriarchal useful resource defense polygyny.

Female natal areas have communal nesting sites and overlapping house ranges. Older females are likely to share their ranges with as many as 10 youthful females. It is probably going that the youthful females are genetic descendants of the older feminine.

Only throughout nightly forages do the females go away from the natal space. Since the natal space is within the higher elevations, the place meals are more plentiful, these dispersals are comparatively quick distances.

Males have much less structured house ranges. When not invading the feminine’s range to mate, the males are nomads, foraging through the night over broad expanses of nutrient-poor sources.

Their foraging distances can attain comparatively long distances, lowering their probability of survival on account of predators and inadequate vitamins.

Pygmy Possum Reproduction

Pygmy Possum follows a low fecundity, high longevity life strategy. The mountain pygmy possum has a non-breeding season from January-April when it gains weight for the approaching winter and the younger disperse. The inactive season, from May-September, is hibernation season for Pygmy Possum.

From September by way of December, Pygmy Possum is in a lively season of breeding. Pygmy Possum females are polyestrous however restricted to 1 litter per year by the need to retailer fats reserves for hibernation. Without ample fats, the females die.

In response to fats reserve limitations, Pygmy Possum synchronizes its reproduction with spring, when nutrient-wealthy Bogong moths are plentiful. Breeding happens yearly for a lot of consecutive years.

Reproducing females have been discovered as much as 12 years of age, which makes them one of many longest-lived small terrestrial mammals.

Studies have efficiently mapped out the reproductive timeline of the mountain pygmy possum. Mating happens between late September and mid-October. Female estrous lasts ~20 days.

After fertilization, a gestation interval of 13-16 days ensues, adopted by birth within the final week of October of 4 altricial younger. The younger have nicely developed forelimbs and heads for touring from the cloaca to the pouch.

The feminine cleans a path for the younger to the pouch, the place the younger connect to a teat. Frequently the feminine bears more than 4 younger, resulting in more offspring than teats.

Under these circumstances, the ‘slowest’ younger is not going to have a teat when it arrives within the pouch and can die. The lactation interval lasts 30 days, with a subsequent nesting interval of 30-35 days.

The younger are totally weaned and impartial after 65 days. Young disperse between January and March. At roughly 1 year of age, the younger start mating.

Only 50% of the reproducing younger will survive, because of the incapacity of youthful Pygmy Possum to take care of fats reserves for hibernation. By their second summer, younger is totally able to sustain themselves for each activity.


The Mountain Pygmy Possum lives within the Australian alps, the place the ski business has been rising for the reason that mid-1950’s. Leveling and grooming of land for ski trails has enormously affected the quantity of obtainable habitat for Pygmy Possum.

While B. parvus often makes its house in ski lodge foundations, the dispersal of males to and from the natal site has to turn out to be more and more troublesome.

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