WILDLIFE Adorable Aussie desert-dwellers

The marsupial family Dasyuridae has adapted well to the harsh Australian conditions, and if you spend time in the desert, you might be lucky enough to spot one of these rodent look-alikes. 

But with about 20 species of small dasyurid in the arid zone, most people would be hard-pressed to pick a kultarr or a dunnart from a house mouse. Here's 6 of them to get your learning journey started...

1. Wongai Ningaui Ningaui ridei Body length: 60 —70mrn Tail: 60-70mm

This mammal resembles a dunnart but has broader hind feet and bristly fur. Unlike many other small desert mammals, wongai ningauis can climb into low-lying vegetation, aided by their semi-prehensile tails. 

2. Kowari Dasyuroides byrnei Body length: 130-180mm Tail: 110-140mm

The kowari population fluctuates through flood and drought cycles. Threats include feral cats, habitat degradation from livestock, and climate change. They prefer to dig their burrows into tussock grasslands, dry riverbeds and sand dunes.

3. Stripe-faced dunnart Sminthopsis macroura Body length: 70-100mm Tail: 80-100mm

The stripe-faced dunnart has the ability to store nutrients and water in its tail. Healthy individuals will often have a tail that appears fattened at the base. It’s widely distributed throughout Australia’s dry grasslands and shrublands.

4. Fat-tailed antechinus Pseudantechinus macdonnellensis Body length: 90-110mm Tail: 70-90mm Tail: 70-90mm

This marsupial is named for its ability to store fat in its tail, which it does more noticeably than other dasyurids, giving it an almost carrot-like shape when well nourished. Unlike many other small arid-zone mammals, it’s notable for appearing during the day to bask in the sunlight near the rocky crevices in which it nests.

5. Crest-tailed mulgara Dasycercus cristicauda Body length: 120-220mm Tail:70-130mm Tail: 70-130mm

One of the largest desert-dwelling dasyurids, the mulgara eats insects, small reptiles and other mammals. It has only recently been distinguished as a separate species from the similar brush-tailed variety and is thought to have a preference for burrowing into open sand dunes or salt pans.

6. Kultarr Antechinomys laniger Body length: 70-110mm Tail:100-150mm Tail: 100-150mmTail: 70-130mm

The kultarr has disappeared from some areas of NSW, but is widespread across the rest of its range. It’s notoriously difficult to trap and therefore study. The kultarr is characterised by its bounding gait, due to elongated hind feet that allow it to rapidly change direction by pivoting on its forefeet.

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