Yet how many of us really know the extent of our natural patrimony, or have witnessed the abundant biodiversity of our country? Given the impossibility of seeing all of them first hand, each week we’ll showcase an animal you may have never even heard of, to help acquaint you with Australia’s other citizens. This week: the Bandicoot, a marvellous marsupial that inspired a best-selling computer games series.
Around 21 species of Bandicoot are known to exist exclusively in Australia. Perhaps the two most recognisable ones are the bilby, and the long-nosed bandicoot, the long nose being an evolutionary adaptation and not the outcome of a life of mythomania. The bandicoot is classified as a marsupial, a specific kind of mammal that carries its young in pouches. However it is distinguished from other marsupials by having:
· incisor teeth to munch on insects and flesh
· second and third toes that grow together, a homologous structure shared by the kangaroo
That is not all they share with the kangaroo. Although Bandicoots are much smaller than their evolutionary cousins, ranging from 6 to 22 inches in length, they too move around their environment by hopping on their larger hind legs. Bandicoots are nocturnal creatures, meaning they only surface at night-time after a day of residing in logs, tunnels or whatever crevices they find. Their fur varies across species from orange to grey, brown to striped.
The long-nosed species is probably the most well known. Its name is derived from its most conspicuous characteristic: its long and pointed muzzle. Its coat is composed of rough bristles. The long nose is employed to reach insects and other invertebrates after the paws have dug holes in the forest floor, however as an omnivore, it can also munch on plant roots. The drive to find food results in patented night-time whistles and grunts.
Long-nosed bandicoots reside across the entirety of the East Coast of Australia, principally in rainforests where they soak up the moisture. They breed all year round, although winter is generally avoided. A young bandicoot independently roams its habitat after 8 weeks of suckling the mother’s teets. It’s adaptability to many habitats means the population is regarded as largely stable and not endangered.