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The bandicoot spends the night rooting around and digging holes in search of food. An active, alert ground dweller, it belongs to that diverse mixture of pouched mammals, the marsupials. Bandicoots are native to forests, plains, and deserts throughout Australia and New Guinea. Once there were 17 species, but two of these are already extinct. Others have declined sharply and, as a result of habitat loss through farming and other disruptions, are unlikely to recover.
Characteristics: Members of the bandicoot family range across Australia, New Guinea, and outlying islands. Some are the size of small rats, others are as big as rabbits. All are strictly ground dwelling. New Guinea bandicoots, including the spiny bandicoot, live on the floor of the island’s tropical forests. The smallest species, the mouse bandicoot, and the largest species, the giant bandicoot, also live there. The Australian species have varied habits. The golden bandicoot prefers dry areas. The northern brown bandicoot, the long nosed bandicoot, and the eastern barred bandicoot live in humid habitats including grassy plains, scrub, and woodlands, and even in town gardens.
All bandicoots spend the daylight resting, usually inside a nest of grass on the ground. In the evening they come out to forage, yet they stay near cover so that they can hide from snakes, dingoes, and foxes, their chief predators. Bandicoots are solitary by nature, pairing only to mate. Bandicoots have powerful hind legs, a rough coat, and a tapered snout. The golden bandicoot lives in dry regions and has a coarse but lustrous coat.
Breeding: Bandicoots reproduce faster then most other marsupial species. In a moderate climate adults may mate at any time of the year. Gestation is rapid – as short as 12 days – and the tiny young are well developed at birth. They immediately crawl into their mother’s pouch and feed on her milk. As the young grow, the mother’s pouch enlarges and eventually bulges along her body length. As early as seven weeks after birth the young are ready to leave the pouch; they are weaned about 10 days later. The female can mate again before her young leave the pouch, so as soon as they are weaned she may be ready to bear the next litter. Three litters per year are usual. The female’s pouch opens to the rear, enabling the young to climb in and out easily.
Food and Feeding: Insects, spiders, and worms form the principal diet of bandicoots, but these marsupials are opportunists and will eat other types of available food. They sometimes catch small rodents and often forage for seeds, berries, tubers, and fungi. One species forages over most of its home range each night. Where there is little water, bandicoots get enough moisture from dew and the fluids in their food. Though bandicoots pick some of their food from the ground, they are best known for digging conical holes in the soil with their strong forefeet. They then poke their long snouts into the holes to catch invertebrates or chew plant roots and tubers. The pointed muzzles are also used to probe crevices around roots and under logs. The bandicoot turns over the topsoil, sniffing out and eating roots and worms.
Length: 6 in.-2 ft.
Weight: ½ -10lb.
Sexual maturity: Female, from 3 months. Males, from 4 months
Mating: Varies by region
Gestation: From 12 days. 50 days in the pouch
No. of Young: Up to 7
Habit: Nocturnal, ground dwelling, solitary, territorial
Diet: Invertebrates, small vertebrates, seeds, berries, tubers, and fungi
Lifespan: 3 or more years
Related Species: The 2 species of bilby
that form the family Thylacomyidae are closely related. Also known as rabbit
Distribution: Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea and the nearby Kai, Aru, Bismarck, Ceram, and D’Entrecasteaux Islands.
Conservation: The impact of introduced animals has helped drive two Australian Species to extinction and reduced the range of several others. Bandicoots are protected by law, and some are restricted to reserves.
Some Bandicoot Species:
Short nosed golden bandicoot, Isoodon auratus: Inhabits arid, sandy plains and open woodland in central and northern Australia. Glossy golden coat with white belly.
Short nosed brindled bandicoot, Isoodon macrourus: Inhabits coasts of northeastern Australia and southern New Guinea.
Long nosed eastern barred bandicoot, Perameles gunnii: A small bandicoot with a patterned rump. Lives in both arid areas and woodland; prefers the grasslands of Victoria, Australia and Tasmania.
Did You Know:
Bandicoots sleep so soundly in their nests that, in the days before they were protected, hunters could pin them down with their feet and pick them up.
In rainy weather, the northern bandicoot may kick a layer of earth over its nest as an umbrella.
Rival male bandicoots fight by locking jaws and wrestling.
Certain bandicoot species have the shortest pregnancy period known for a mammal: a mere 12 days of gestation.