Musky Rat Kangaroo

This is the smallest of ten species of rat kangaroo, all of which live in Australia. Most rat kangaroos have short fur on their long tails, but some have tails that are hairless and scaly. Like kangaroos, these animals have large feet and well-developed hind legs. However, unlike other species in the family, this rat kangaroo usually moves about on all fours rather than hopping kangaroo-fashion.

Musky rat kangaroos have dense rich brown fur that is lighter on their undersides. Compared to other rat kangaroos, their back legs are less well developed. Some seeds germinate, and produce trees for future seed supplies.

Both the males and females emit musky scents, probably to attract mates. Although they usually live alone, they do not seem to defend territories. Unlike all other rat kangaroos, they are most active during the day, when they forage on the forest floor, looking for insects and worms by turning over forest debris and rummaging in the leaf litter with their forepaws. Sometimes they take a break from foraging and stretch out to sunbathe in bright spots in the forest. At night, musky rat kangaroos sleep in nests between the buttress roots of trees or in tangles of vines. The range of these animals is contracting because of forest clearance for agriculture.

The musky rat-kangaroo is unique in two ways. It has a well-formed first digit, or thumb, on each hind foot and it is the only kangaroo to regularly give birth to twins. The young are usually born in the rainy season (February to May), but this can vary.

Distribution: North-eastern Queensland, Australia.

Habitat: Dense vegetation in tropical rainforest.

Food: Insects, worms, roots, seeds, palm fruit, fungi, flowers, twigs, leaves, lichen and bark.

Size: 21 - 34 cm (8 - 14 in); 337 - 680 g (0.75 - 1.5 lb).

Maturity: Between 18 and 21 months.

Breeding: Usually 2 young born at a time.

Life span: Unknown.


Rufous Rat-kangaroo

Range: E. Australia: Queensland to C. New South Wales.

Habitat: Grassland, woodland.

Size: Body: 15 - 20 1/2 in (38 - 52 cm). Tail: 13 3/4 - 15 3/4 in (35 - 40 cm).

The largest of the rat-kangaroos, the rufous rat-kangaroo builds a grassy nest in which it shelters from the heat of the day. It has little fear of humans and will enter foresters' camps and even feed from the hand. This lack of fear makes the animals vulnerable to attack by dogs and red foxes, and while their populations are in no immediate danger, the future survival of these little kangaroos is a cause for concern.

They breed slowly - a maximum of 2 young a year - but nothing more is known of their breeding habits.


Dona's Tree Kangaroo

There are ten species of closely related tree kangaroo, all of which live in New Guinea and on a few surrounding islands, or in tropical northern Queensland in Australia. This species is the largest of the tree kangaroos and, like others in the group, it has a thick tail that can be longer than the body. Unlike most ground-living kangaroos, which have well developed back legs, the front and back limbs of tree kangaroos are almost the same size.

As their name asserts, tree kangaroos live in trees, but they frequently come to the ground to search for food and to move to new trees. Indeed, this species actually spends most of its time on the ground, while smaller species may spend as much as 98 per cent of their time in the branches of trees.

This species of tree kangaroo has fur m various shades of brown, but other species are among the most colourful of all marsupials, with bright yellow markings and different shades of red.

Tree kangaroos are very agile, and can jump between trees, dropping as much as 9 m (30 ft) from one branch to another. They are able to jump to the ground from as high up as 18 m (60 ft). Most species of tree kangaroo live alone, but related females of this species sometimes gang together to drive away unfamiliar males. Most species of tree kangaroo are declining because of increased hunting and habitat loss.

Distribution: Western, central and south-eastern New Guinea.

Habitat: Mountainous rainforests.

Food: Mostly leaves and fruit.

Size: 52 - 81 cm (20 - 32 in); up to 20 kg (40 lb).

Maturity: Not known.

Breeding: 1 young born at a time.

Life span: 20 years.

Status: Vulnerable.


Long-Footed Potoroo

These marsupials are also described as rat kangaroos because of their distinctive rat-like appearance. They even hold food in their front paws like rats.

These small, solitary marsupials were only discovered in 1968, and they have a very localized distribution. They play a significant part in the ecosystems of the areas where they occur, because they help to spread the fungi that they eat through their droppings. Long-footed potoroos are regarded as endangered, partly because of their restricted range, and any loss of their forest homeland is significant. They are also vulnerable to attack by foxes as well as feral cats.

Distribution: There are three distinct populations of this Australian species, occurring in New South Wales, in the vicinity of the Great Dividing Range and in east Gippsland.

Weight: 1.6 - 2 kg (3.5 - 4.4 lb).

Length: 72 cm (28 in), including tail, which is almost as long as the body.

Maturity: By 2 years old.

Gestation Period: 21 days.

Breeding: 1; young spend about 145 days in the pouch.

Food: Feeds largely on fungi, which it digs up from the ground.

Lifespan: Up to 13 years.

Facial features

The head is triangular, with a prominent nose, whiskers and small, rounded ears. The eyes are also small.

Front feet

These are equipped with powerful claws for digging for food.

Fire and fungi

Forest fires may actually encourage the growth of the fungi that make up almost the entire diet of these marsupials.


The body has brownish-black upperparts and a pale grey belly.

Hind feet

The length of the peach-coloured hind feet is partly responsible for the name of this marsupial.


The female can only accommodate one youngster at a time in her pouch.