Ask an expert: Possum or potoroo?

By AG Staff 7 November 2013
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A reader in Queensland requests help in identifying a mystery marsupial.

QUESTION: I live in Clifton Beach, north of Cairns, and we’ve noticed a mysterious marsupial at night. The kids thought it was a possum, but it looked to me like a potoroo. Are potoroos found in tropical north Queensland?
Toni Donelly, Clifton Beach, QLD

Dr Sandy Ingleby, at the Australian Museum, says:

Potoroos are not found in far north Queensland, the most northerly occurring species being the long-nosed potoroo, which extends to Gladstone in Queensland.

There are, however, several species that look confusingly similar, especially with only a fleeting glimpse. The most likely species to be confused with a potoroo in far north Queensland is the musky rat-kangaroo. This is the smallest of Australian kangaroos and is distinguished by its dark brown fur, naked tail, distinctive gait and by often being active during the day.

Two species of bettong are also found in north Queensland, the rufous bettong and the northern bettong. They belong to the same family as potoroos, but have a shorter, wider head.

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