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A comparison of the behaviour and ecology of the Tasmanian bandicoots, Perameles gunii (Gray 1838) and Isoodon obesulus (Shaw and Nodder 1797)


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Moloney, DJ 1982 , 'A comparison of the behaviour and ecology of the Tasmanian bandicoots, Perameles gunii (Gray 1838) and Isoodon obesulus (Shaw and Nodder 1797)', Honours thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The study of the behaviour and ecology of marsupials has been a
neglected area of research for a long time and few quantitative studies
of this subject have been undertaken to date. However, recently (particularly
during the past twenty years), there has been a recrudescence
of interest in these spheres of investigation as the ensuing review of
the relevant literature shall demonstrate, although the amount of this
research-effort is still meagre in comparison with the volume of information
published about many species of eutherian mammals.
This neglect of research on marsupials is both surprising and unfortunate,
as marsupials are widely distributed, occupy all of the major
habitats occurring in Australia and have adapted diverse modes of life
almost, if not precisely comparable in variety to that of analogous
eutherian mammals occupying comparable ecological niches. Earlier
studies on marsupials were of a comparative nature often specifically
dealing with differences between metatherian and eutherian mammals.
In addition, these investigations mainly concentrated on only a few
species, particularly the larger members of the family Macropodidae
(the kangaroos and wallabies) and the Virginia opossum, Didelphis
marsupialis. Research-activities were further limited by the fact that
these studies were largely centred on reproduction, a process of considerable
importance in view of its uniqueness in marsupials.
It is the above factors and the fact that the majority of other
marsupials are nocturnal, timid and cryptic, (rendering investigations
difficult, particularly in the field) that have resulted in the paucity
of behavioural and ecological information available on the numerous
diverse groups of the sub-class Metatheria.
As previously mentioned, D. marsupialis has received considerable
attention, being the only specie of marsupial endemic to North America.
Investigations have covered behavioural characteristics and seasonal changes in behaviour (McManus 1970, 1971), the daily activity cycle
(Bombardieri and Johnson 1969) and population density and movement
patterns (Holmes and Sanderson 1965; Shirer and Fitch 1970).
Studies on the family Macropodidae have included observations on
daily activities and social behaviour of Macropus rufus (Frith 1964;
Russell 1970a; Croft 1981a), agonistic encounters and social behaviour
in M. giganteus (Grant 1973; Kaufmann 1975) and locomotion in several
species of the larger macropods (Windsor and Dagg 1971; Alexander and
Vernon 1975). Locomotion has also been observed in the genus Potorous
by Buchmann and Guiler (1974). Russell and Pearce (1971) studied the
investigation of novel objects by selected species of four marsupial
families, of which two species belonged to the family Macropodidae and
one to the family Peramelidae. Observations have been made in captivity
on the quokka (Setonix brachyurus), the pademelon (Thylogale billardierii)
and the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueuri) by Packer (1969),
Morton and Burton (1973) and Stodart (1966), respectively and Kitchener
(1973) has investigated the home ranges and movements of S. brachyurus
and P. apicalis.
By comparison, all of the other families of marsupials have received
scant attention. Studies on the family Dasyuridae have been mainly
concerned with prey-killing and feeding behaviour in Dasycercus cristicauda
(Ewer 1969) and in Sarcophilus harrisii (Buchmann and Guiler 1977).
Hutson (1975) investigated sequences of prey-catching in Dasyuroides
byrnei and in 1976 he also presented an account of maintenance activities
in the same species, as did Moss (unpubl.) in a study of Dasyurus viverrinus.
The ecology of S. harrisii was described by Green (1967) and
its home range and movements by Guiler (1970a). The smaller representatives
of the family have received some attention in that investigations
of certain aspects of the behaviour and ecology of Antechinus
stuartii, A. minimus and A. swainsonii have been conducted by Marlow (1961), Braithwaite (1974, 1979), Hocking (unpubl.) and Haynes (in
press). Hall (1980) studied the diets of two sympatric species of
Finally, the family Peramelidae (bandicoots), forming the subject
of the present investigation, has received a small amount of attention
with respect to their behaviour and ecology. Lyne (1964a) and Stodart
(1966a) studied the breeding of Perameles nasuta in captivity. Heinsohn
(1966) and Braithwaite and Gullan (1978) investigated the ecology
of P. gunnii and Isoodon obesulus. Reproduction was also studied in
I. macrourus (Mackerras and Smith 1960; Lyne 1974) and observations on
the behaviour of the same species were undertaken by Day, Kirkby and
Stenhouse (1974) using an open field arena. Activity-patterns and
social behaviour were analysed in I. obesulus (Watts 1974, O'Callaghan,
unpubl.) as were ranging movements in I. macrourus (Gordon 1974).
Discrimination-reversal learning in I. obesulus was investigated by
Buchmann and Grecian (1974) and studies of other behavioural and ecological
aspects undertaken included burrowing in I. obesulus (Kirsch
1968), feeding and foraging in I. macrourus (Anon. 1970), the status of
P. gunnii in Victoria (Seebeck 1979) and grooming in I. macrourus
(Clarke and Clarke 1969). Lyne (1951, 1952) described the external
characters (particularly of pouch young) of P. gunnii and four other
species of bandicoots and Stoddart and Braithwaite (1979) made a study
of the utilization of regenerating heathland habitats by I. obesulus.
In view of the relative lack of detailed information on members
of the family Peramelidae the present investigation was undertaken to
examine two distinctive but comparable species of the family. Heinsohn
(1966) described the same two species, Isoodon obesulus and Perameles
gunnii as being sympatric. Consequently this study is an attempt to
provide quantitative data on four specific aspects of their behaviour
and ecology, in order to acquire a general appreciation of the relationship of the two species to their environment and to each other. The
aspects investigated were maintenance activities (Chapter 3), feeding
behaviour and diet (Chapter 4), home ranges and habitat utilization
(Chapter 5) and intra- and inter-specific interactions (Chapter 6) .
It was hoped and is the avowed aim of this study, that a comparison of
these aspects may assist in explaining why these two species are able
to co-exist in the same habitat while presumably utilizing somewhat
similar resources.

Item Type: Thesis - Honours
Authors/Creators:Moloney, DJ
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 1982 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

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