Fat-tailed Dunnart - Reptile Encounters

Fat-tailed Dunnart

Scientific name:

Sminthopsis crassicaudata

Other names:

Narrow-footed marsupial mouse (applied to all dunnart species)


Least concern, Near Threatened in Victoria

The Fat-tailed Dunnart has a head and body length of 60-90mm, tail 45-70cm in length and weighs only 10-20 g. It has large black eyes, large ears, a pointed snout and a fat tail when in optimum condition. Most of the upper body is fawn to brownish grey in colour, with darker patches around the eyes and head. Some individuals have white crescent shaped patches around the ears. The underside and the legs are usually light grey to white in colour.

Will occupy a range of open habitats including open woodlands, open shrublands, dry shrublands and grasslands. They can be found living in areas of unimproved pasture on agricultural land, and can even be found sheltering in old farm sheds, among rock piles and old logs. Cracked clay soils also provide suitable habitat and an abundance of shelters

The Fat-tailed dunnart is the mostly widely distributed dunnart species in Australia, being found in every state and territory except for Tasmania. It is found west of the Great Dividing Range across most of the continent with the exceptions of the Kimberly and northern WA, far south western WA, northern NT, northern QLD and Tasmania.

Diet consists mainly of invertebrates, although they will also consume small reptiles, amphibians and even mice, which are almost the same size as they dunnarts themselves. They eat roughly their own body weight in food each night.

Like most dasyurids, Fat-tailed dunnarts are short lived (about 15 months for males and 18 months for females) which means successful breeding is important for populations to survive.

Breeding occurs between July and February. Females will make their nests under logs, rocks, or in deep cracks in the ground, made out of dried leaves and grasses. Usually 8 to 10 young are born around 3 days after mating. The young attach firmly to the 8 to 10 teats that the female has in her well-developed pouch. They leave her pouch permanently approximately 60 days after birth, staying in the nest while the mother forages for food.

The young are weaned from their mother after approximately 70 days.. The young reach sexual maturity at 4-5 months of age, however females don’t breed within the first year of birth. Mothers do not provide further care to their young once they can survive on their own. Some females can produce two litters during the breeding season.

Fat-tailed dunnarts eat roughly their own body weight in food each night. Body fat is stored in the tail when food is plentiful, giving the tail a swollen appearance . This helps the individual to survive when food is in short supply. The tail generally appears thinner in winter when food is scarcer. If food is very scarce, usually in the cooler months, dunnarts may enter a deep temporary sleep known as torpor.

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