(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

The Tasmanian pygmy possum, the scientific name Cercartetus lepidus, also called the little pygmy possum or tiny pygmy possum is the world’s smallest possum.

It was first described by Oldfield Thomas in 1888 after he recognized {that a} museum specimen labeled as an eastern pygmy possum actually represented a species then unknown to science. The holotype resides within the Natural History Museum in London.

Tasmanian Pygmy Possum profile

Even although Tasmanian pygmy possum has a prehensile tail and is a superb climber, it usually lives near the ground and stays away from the higher branches of bushes. This might be because of predation by owls.

In Tasmania, C. lepidus is present in the tall closed forest to low woodland, in areas with an average rainfall of 300 mm. In mainland Australia and Kangaroo Island, the Tasmanian pygmy possum is discovered from low open woodland to heathlands.

The heathlands of Victoria, with an average rainfall of 1200 mm, present a larger range of meals that favors the continuous breeding pattern beforehand talked about.

Cercartetus lepidus is the smallest of the dwelling diprotodont marsupials. The head and body size ranges from 50-65 mm, with the tail size starting from 60-75 mm. The little pygmy-possum fur is comfortable with a pale fawn coloration on its dorsal aspect and a gray stomach.

Both the small size and gray stomach of Tasmanian pygmy possum distinguishes it from different members of the family. Cercartetus lepidus teeth have low, rounded cusps related to their diet of soppy meals. However, one of many premolars on both sides is normally blade-like or plagiaulacid.

Cercartetus lepidus is syndactylous and has an opposable hallux on its hind feet. Other traits embrace a conical head with a short muzzle, giant eyes, and brief, rounded ears. No sexual dimorphism is been seen in body size and/or weight.

Breeding happens all through the year, though it might be more widespread in the spring and summer seasons. The feminine has a well-developed pouch containing 4 teats, which subsequently limits the utmost size of a litter to this quantity.

The younger depart the pouch at around 42 days, though they could cling to the mom’s fur and be carried about after this age. They depart the nest to fend for themselves at around 90 days of age.

Geographic Range

The little pygmy-possum is present in Southeastern Australia from the mallee heathlands of Victoria to the forests of Tasmania. Tasmanian pygmy possum have additionally been discovered on Kangaroo Island.

Tasmanian Pygmy Possum Description

Although it’s a marsupial, the Tasmanian pygmy possum superficially resembles a dormouse, and it’s the smallest of all of the identified species of possum.[3] Adults range from 6.6 to 7.5 centimeters (2.6 to 3.0 in) in head-body size, with a 6 to 7.2 centimeters (2.four to 2.8 in) tail, and weigh simply 7 to 10 grams (0.25 to 0.35 oz). Their fur is comfortable and thick, and is fawn in color over a lot of the body, fading to a pale gray on the underparts.

The snout is brief with long whiskers, and the eyes are directed forwards and surrounded by barely darker fur, though without the conspicuous black rings seen on different pygmy possums. The ears are mobile and largely hairless.

The tail is prehensile, and thickly furred on the base, which can be widened by fat shops beneath the pores and skin. The rest of the tail is comparatively slim and cylindrical, with solely sparse hair between quite a few tiny scales.

Tasmanian Pygmy Possum

Tasmanian Pygmy Possum Distribution and habitat

The Tasmanian pygmy possum is discovered all through Tasmania, however was at one time considered extinct elsewhere. In 1964, a dwelling animal was found on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, and additional populations have since been found within the Murray-Darling basin in South Australia and Victoria.

There aren’t any formally recognized subspecies, though it has been proposed, primarily based on genetic information, that the mainland and Tasmanian populations could also be subspecies and even fully separate species. They inhabit sclerophyll forest, mallee, and open heathland vegetation.

The oldest fossils for this species date from the late Pleistocene, and had been discovered on the mainland, with the oldest identified Tasmanian fossils being a lot youthful. Fossils have been discovered as far afield as eastern Victoria and New South Wales, suggesting that the species was as soon as a lot more widespread than it’s right this moment.

It had been feared that the Kangaroo Island inhabitants might have been worn out by the 2019 bushfires that burnt virtually half the island. But in late 2020, conservation group Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife recorded dwell pygmy possums in a fauna survey of the unburnt forest.

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Tasmanian Pygmy Possum Food Habits

Cercartetus lepidus is omnivorous. It feeds on nectar and pollen from a wide range of flowering vegetation. For instance, Banksia ornata, Eucalyptus spp., Leptospermum coriaceum, and Astroloma conostephioides pollen have all been present in faecal and intestine samples of this mammal.

Sugar-water, honey, and apple are additionally part of the diet. Little pygmy-possums additionally prey on a large range of invertebrates together with spiders, scorpions, and bug larvae. Small lizards are additionally included in their diet.

The little pygmy-possum secures the prey with its forepaws and tears away parts with its teeth. Daily meal consumption is about 7% of its body weight.

Tasmanian Pygmy Possum Behavior

The Tasmanian pygmy possum is nocturnal and arboreal. It lives primarily in shrubland or forest undergrowth, and, though a great climber, hardly ever ventures into the higher branches of bushes, presumably as a result of this could make it weaker to avian predators.

Pygmy possums use strips of bark to assemble dome-like nests in tree cavities or rotten wooden, however are solitary animals that don’t share their nests with different people apart from their very own younger.

In captivity, Little Pygmy-possums have been paired, however, they’re normally solitary within the wild. Because of their small size, pygmy-possums have a tough time sustaining a high body temperature when it is chilly or when there are not sufficient meals accessible. To counter this, Tasmanian pygmy possum undergoes alternate intervals of exercise and dormancy all through the year.

This inactivity is known as torpor. These intervals of torpor last as long as about 6 days, and through them the pygmy-possum’s body temperature is about equal to the air temperature.

Cercartetus lepidus takes about 20 minutes to regain full exercise after being within the torpor state. Cercartetus lepidus is a nocturnal animal that stays in its nest beneath dense cover throughout daylight.

This possum has a ‘drifting house range’ that’s an adaptation to sources which are spatially and temporally unpredictable. It appears that Tasmanian pygmy possum tracks the flowering patterns of main plant species.

When meals is plentiful for C. lepidus, the bottom of its tail thickens with fat deposits which function as a short-term energy reserve. This adaptation of C. lepidus, together with coming into torpor, permits it to dwell in unpredictable environments.

Tasmanian Pygmy Possum

Tasmanian Pygmy Possum Biology

Tasmanian pygmy possums are omnivorous, feeding on bugs, spiders, small lizards, nectar, and pollen, the latter two primarily coming from Banksia and eucalypts.

Their desire for consuming pollen without destroying the host flower might imply that they assist to pollinate some species of plant. Known predators embrace Tasmanian devils, quolls, kookaburra, masked owls, and tiger snakes.

During chilly climate, particularly under about 6 °C (43 °F), Tasmanian pygmy possums have the power to enter torpor. While in this state, body temperature drops, and oxygen consumption falls to only 1% of regular.

Tasmanian Pygmy Possum Reproduction

Female Tasmanian pygmy possum have 4 teats of their pouch, which limits their litter size to 4. Females are polyestrous and may in all probability rear more than one litter per year.

Little pygmy-possums present in Victoria have been seen to lactate in January, February, April, June, and September, indicating that breeding happens all through the year.

However, in Tasmania, lactating females have solely been seen between September and January; there, breeding is confined to spring and summer season. Young are weaned at roughly 50 days.

Once the younger are half-grown and too giant for the pouch, they’re left within the nest whereas their mother finds meals. If the younger has to be transported, they cling to their mom’s back. Cercartetus lepidus reaches maturity at about three months.

Male Tasmanian pygmy possum has been discovered with regressed testes and testes which are smaller than regular, suggesting that males will not be reproductively lively all through the year.

Conservation

Cercartetus lepidus is widespread in northwestern Victoria and likewise present in a lot of conservation reserves. The standing of the little pygmy-possum must be safe as long as there should not any main change in land-use on public land or to fireplace regimes.

Cercartetus lepidus can survive hearth, however, the long-term results should not but identified. Extensive forest clearing has eliminated a lot of the habitat of Tasmanian pygmy possum on the mainland, but ample habitat continues to be left in Tasmania. The woodchip business may also play a task in the way forward for the Little Pygmy-possum.

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