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Aspects of the behaviour and ecology of the Potaroo, Potorus tridactylus (Marsupialia: Potoridae)


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Johnson, SD 1987 , 'Aspects of the behaviour and ecology of the Potaroo, Potorus tridactylus (Marsupialia: Potoridae)', Honours thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Aspects of the behaviour of captive potoroos, Potorous tridactylus were examined
with particular emphasis on quantitative differences in the behaviour of non-parous
and pouch-gravid individuals and the behavioural interactions that occur within the
context of the mother-young relationship, The ontogenetic development of the young
was described, and the temporal distribution of adult and juvenile behaviour was
compared. In addition, a program of capture-recapture trapping vas conducted ln
order to examine the home ranges and habitat utilization of this species.
The durations of feeding attivity in pouch-gravid females were shown to be
significantly higher than those of non-parous subjects. In addition, pouch-gravid
females engaged in resting behaviour for significantly longer periods than animals
without young and, furthermore, were shown to exhibit significantly lower levels of
locomotory activity. These observations were discussed in relation to the strategy of
foraging which may be employed by free-living P. tridactylus
The nature of the mother-young relationship was described. Following the initial
vacation of the pouch at 112 days of age, young P. tridactylus spent increasingly
longer periods of time out of the pouch until the time of its final vacation at 128 days.
The mother vas instrumental in the maintenance of proximity between herself and
her young for the two weeks following initial vacation of the pouch; however, after
this time the young assumed the responsibility for proximity. The mean distances
between the mother and her young were shown to increase with the age of the young.
Young continued to suckle until the age of ca. 139 days, after which time all attempts
were prevented by the mother. Although the levels of agonistic behaviour between
the mother and young were generally low, an increase in the frequencies of agonistic
acts by the mother toward the young was observed. Allogrooming was a major
component of the behavioural interaction between mother and young: however, the
levels of this behaviour decreased with increasing age of the young. These
observations were discussed vith respect to the process of weaning in P. tridactylus The development of the young was described in relatlon to the first observed occurrences of maintenance behaviours and several morphological traits. Juveniles
were shown to engage in locomotory activities significantly less frequently than
adults; conversely, juveniles spent more time engaged in resting. The temporal
distribution of behaviour over the activity period was shown to be similar in both
adults and juveniles. These observations were discussed with reference to the adaptive
value of juvenile behaviour patterns.
The mean area of the home range of male P. tridactylus was 4.36 ha; the area of
the home range of a single resident female was 0.94 ha. The home ranges of males
were noted to overlap considerably,(mean=62.6%).P. tridactylus was shown to
preferentially utilize areas with a dense cover of vegetation. These observations were
discussed with reference to results obtained in previous investigations of the ecology of
this species.

Item Type: Thesis - Honours
Authors/Creators:Johnson, SD
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