|The honey possum is a tiny marsupial that feeds
at night on a diet of nectar and pollen. It is about the size of a mouse
and has a long, pointed snout and brush tipped tongue. The honey possum
inhabits fields and small shrubs, running along the ground and climbing
with speed and dexterity. Grayish brown in color with three long stripes
running down its back, the animal uses its grasping hands, feet, and long
tail to help it climb and feed.
Habits: The honey possum sleeps during the day, either hidden by low growing vegetation or tucked into a hollow branch. It comes out to feed at dusk. Its body is well adapted fro climbing and it can run quickly and it can run quickly on the ground. Most honey possums live in a small home range, traveling across the area during the year to feed on different species of plants as they bloom. The home ranges overlap, except those belonging to breeding females. Females keep other honey possums out while having their young. During cold weather when food is scarce, the honey possum enters a temporary state of hibernation (inactivity) in which its body temperature and metabolic rate drop.
Food & Feeding: The honey possum feeds on nectar and pollen, using its pointed snout and long, brush tipped tongue to probe deep inside flowers. It prefers flowers of the genus Banksia that produced large heads of nectar rich flowers and bloom throughout the year. The honey possum diet requires it to feed on a broad range of plants that flower at different times of the year.
The honey possum uses it well adapted hands and feet when climbing a shrub or a tree. It is aided by its long, prehensile (capable of grasping) tail. Because the honey possum is so small and light weight, it can climb out onto very slender branches in order to feed. Hanging by its tail, the honey possums forelimbs are left free to hold the flowers steady.
Breeding: Breeding takes place throughout the year. Fe liters are born in December, though, because few plants are in flower, so food is scarce. Peak months for births are January and February. Slightly lower peaks occur at three month intervals, which is the time needed to raise a litter. The births are carefully timed to match the availability of flowers and food. Like the kangaroo, the female honey possum can keep her fertilized eggs in a dormant state so that a second little can be born as soon as the first is out of the pouch and weaned. This method ensures that the young possums reach maturity when there is plenty of food.
The female gives birth to two or three tiny young and suckles them in her pouch. The pouch has four teats, but litters or four young are unusual. The young remain in the pouch for about 8 weeks until they weight about one tenth of an ounce. Their eyes are open and they have a full coat of fur. At this stage, the female leaves an abandoned birds nest, while she feeds. For about 11 weeks she returns regularly and suckles them. After a few days, the young begin to follow her on feeding trips. They reach maturity at about six months.
Related species: The honey possum is the
only member of the family Tarsipedidae and has no close relatives.
Did you know?
Features of the Honey Possum:
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