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Southern brown bandicoot

southern brown bandicoot, southern brown bandicoot food
The southern brown bandicoot Isoodon obesulus is a short-nosed bandicoot, a type of marsupial, found mostly in southern Australia It is also known as the quenda in South Western Australia from the Noongar word kwernt


  • 1 Taxonomy
  • 2 Description
  • 3 Distribution and habitat
  • 4 Biology and behaviour
    • 41 Life history
  • 5 Conservation status
  • 6 References


George Shaw described the species as Didelphis obesula in 1797 While some authorities list as many as five subspecies I o fusciventer, I o obesulus, I o peninsulae, I o affinus, I o nauticus, the most recent edition of "Mammal Species of the World" only lists I o nauticus as a valid subspecies, aside from the nominate; the others are given synonym status


19th-century illustration

Southern brown bandicoots have a stocky body with a short snout and short, rounded ears They show sexual dimorphism, with females being smaller than males On average, males measure 50 cm 20 in in total length, and weigh up to 12 kg 26 lb, while females measure 40 cm 16 in and weigh no more than 1 kg 22 lb They have coarse, bristly hair that is grizzled and coloured a dark greyish to yellowish brown, with the undersides a creamy-white or yellowish grey The tail is relatively short, measuring about 13 cm 51 in in length, and is brown above and white below

There are five toes on each foot, although, as in many other marsupials, the second and third toes of the hind foot are fused along almost their entire length The toes end in sturdy claws, except for the first digits of the fore feet and the fifth digits of the hind feet, which are tiny are vestigial The pouch in females opens to the rear, and contains eight teats arranged in a partial circle


Distribution and habitat

Once common throughout many parts of coastal Australia, today southern brown bandicoots have a more limited distribution An isolated population exists at the north-eastern part of the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, but all other surviving animals are found in the southern half of the country In New South Wales they are considered rare, and are primarily restricted to the extreme south-east of the state and to two national parks north of Sydney In Victoria, they are more common, being found along the whole length of the coast and at up to 1,000 m 3,300 ft in the Grampian and Dandenong mountains

In South Australia, they inhabit the Eyre and Fleurieu peninsulas, the extreme southeast, and Kangaroo Island Isolated and increasingly restricted populations are known from south-western Western Australia However, southern brown bandicoots are most common in Tasmania, where they are found across almost the entire island They are also currently found on Inner Sister Island but have been extirpated from many other small Tasmanian islands where they once lived

Within these regions, southern brown bandicoots inhabit open forest, scrub, and heathland, especially where there is extensive ground cover by shrubs or mat-rushes Two subspecies are currently recognised:

  • Isoodon obseulus nauticus - restricted to the Nuyts Archipelago
  • Isoodon obesulus obesulus - all other localities

Biology and behaviour

Southern brown bandicoots are nocturnal and omnivorous, feeding on insects, spiders, worms, plant roots, ferns, and fungi They spend very little time drinking, being able to obtain sufficient water from their diet alone Although their native predators include barn owls, tiger snakes, and quolls, the bandicoots do not avoid the odour of these animals, which may make them vulnerable to predation They do, however, typically avoid one another, living solitary lives in non-overlapping home ranges that typically vary from 1 to 5 hectares 25 to 124 acres, depending on the local conditions If males encounter one another, the more dominant individual leaps onto the back of the other, scratching with its claws Because the skin of bandicoots is unusually thick, this results in hair loss, but little permanent injury to the defeated male

They spend much of the night searching for food, which the detect primarily by scent, sniffing the ground before digging into with their claws They pursue any prey that escapes, holding it down with their forepaws as they consume it They spend the day sleeping in well-concealed nests of shredded vegetation Both sexes possess scent glands between the ears that are apparently used in intra-species communication and become enlarged during the breeding season

Life history

Reproduction is closely linked to local rainfall pattern, and many brown bandicoots breed all year around, giving birth to up to four litters a year Gestation lasts less than fifteen days, and perhaps as few as twelve, and typically results in the birth of two or three young, although litters of up to five have been reported; larger mothers tend to give birth to larger litters

The young weigh just 350 mg 54 gr at birth, remain in the pouch for about the first 53 days of life, and are fully weaned at around 60 days Growth and maturation is relatively rapid among marsupials, with females becoming sexually mature at four to five months of age, and males at six or seven months Lifespan in the wild is probably no more than four years

Conservation status

The southern brown bandicoot is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN However, populations have declined markedly and become much more fragmented in the time since European expansion on the Australian mainland In many areas of its range the species is threatened locally, while it may be common where rainfall is high enough and vegetation cover is thick enough Apart from habitat fragmentation, the species is under pressure from introduced predators such as the red fox and feral cats It has been reintroduced to some lower rainfall areas where there is protection against cat and fox predation – one such site being Wadderin Sanctuary in the eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia, 300 km east of Perth

In national assessment, the southern brown bandicoot is currently regarded as Endangered on the mainland as a whole, and Vulnerable in South Australia


  1. ^ a b Groves, CP 2005 "Order Peramelemorphia" In Wilson, DE; Reeder, DM Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd ed Johns Hopkins University Press p 39 ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0 OCLC 62265494 
  2. ^ a b c Friend, T, Morris, K, van Weenen, J, Winter, J & Menkhorst, P 2008 "Isoodon obesulus" IUCN Red List of Threatened Species IUCN 2008: eT40553A10333481 Retrieved 18 May 2016 CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  3. ^ a b "Quenda" PDF Archived from the original PDF on September 20, 2007 Retrieved 2007-07-23 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dressen, MM & Rose, RK December 2015 "Isoodon obesulus Peramelemorphia: Peramelidae" Mammalian Species 47 929: 112–123 doi:101093/mspecies/sev012 CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  5. ^ Paull, D 1995 "The distribution of the southern brown bandicoot Isoodon obesulus obesulus in South Australia" Wildlife Research 22 5: 585–599 doi:101071/WR9950585 CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  6. ^ a b Keiper, P & Johnson, CN June 2004 "Diet and habitat preference of the Cape York short-nosed bandicoot Isoodon obesulus peninsulae in north-east Queensland" Wildlife Research 31 3: 259–265 doi:101071/WR02030 CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  7. ^ Larcombe, AN 2003 "Activity rhythms of southern brown bandicoots Isoodon obesulus Marsupialia: Peramelidae in captivity" Australian Mammalogy 25 1: 81–86 doi:101071/AM03081 CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  8. ^ Mella, VSA, Cooper, CE, & Davies, SJJF December 2010 "Predator odour does not influence trappability of southern brown bandicoots Isoodon obesulus and common brushtail possums Trichosurus vulpecula" Evolutionary, Molecular and Comparative Zoology 58 5: 267–272 doi:101071/ZO10049 CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  9. ^ Stoddard, DM 1980 "Observations on the structure and function of cephalic skin glands in bandicoots Marsupialia: Peramelidae" Australian Journal of Zoology 28 1: 33–41 doi:101071/ZO9800033 CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  10. ^ Whitfield, Philip 1998 The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Animals New York: Marshall Editions Development Limited p 24 
  11. ^ Stoddart, DM & Braithwaite, RW 1979 "A strategy for utilization of heathland habitat by the brown bandicoot Isoodon obesulus; Marsupialia, Peramelidae" Journal of Animal Ecology 48: 165–179 doi:102307/4107 CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  12. ^ "Informing Biodiversity Conservation for the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Region, South Australia" PDF Department for Environment and Heritage, Government of South Australia 

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