Importance of tree hollows
These cute little creatures look similar to
the feral mouse, but there are differences. For one, the Antechinus
lacks the pungent odours associated with mice, they also lack the
enlarged incisor teeth (front) like the mouse has, and instead they
have teeth similar to canines. They do not gnaw on cables etc like
mice, and they are unlikely to eat stored food, being carnivores they
prefer insects and small lizards.
We have 3 species of Antechinus in Northern
NSW; being the Brown Antechinus, Dusky Antechinus and Yellow- footed
Antechinus. All 3 species have a similar breeding pattern, mating
in September, when the males become very aggressive searching for
females. They mate for up to 6 hours at a time over a period of 2
weeks with a number of females, after which not a single male is left
alive, death results from stress due to aggressive behavior and the
excessive mating ritual.
A quiz question often asked:
“What is the most sexed animal in the world?” The answer
is: the Antechinus.
About a month after mating the female gives
birth to approx 7-10 tiny babies. They are carried in a kind of open
pouch clinging to the nipples of the mother, as she goes about her
business, being dragged over the ground for 5-8 weeks depending on
species. One wonders how they manage to survive this early part of
their life. After 6-8 weeks they become too large to travel with the
mother, they are now left in the nest made of dry plant material,
hidden in a hollow log or similar protected place. They are weaned
at 3 months of age, and now travel with mum through the summer months.
As winter approaches, they all become solitary and go their separate
ways, sexually maturing at 11 months of age.
The Dusky Antechinus is found only on the east
cost of Australia and Tasmania, living in mainly mountainous areas
with dense understorey of ferns and scrubs. Here it uses its long
claws and powerful limbs to dig for invertebrates; it also eats fruits
such as blackberry on occasion. At this stage the Dusky Antechinus
is not considered threatened, however, some local populations throughout
the region have been reduced due to burning, which destroys complex
under storey habitat.
Please be careful when dealing
with mice in your home, you could be accidentally killing protected
native Wildlife, who help maintain the fragile balance of biodiversity
in our local forests.
The Australian Museum Complete book of Australian mammals.
The Encyclopaedia of Australian Mammals by Ronald Strahan.