Friday, 9 May 2008

Possum surprise

I was expecting sugar gliders but there were none around. Nary a glider to be seen. They must have all been down at the Lake Eacham Hotel, knocking back a few cleansing ales after a hard day's sleep. Instead, I saw something that I really wasn't anticipating — something more exciting than a sugar glider — a striped possum (Dactylopsila trivirgata).

Although widespread in NE Queensland (it also occurs in New Guinea), this species is not seen often. Certainly not by me. I feel privileged to have come face to face with one, even if the feeling wasn't reciprocated. The possum was rather less impressed by me than I was by it.

Striped possums demonstrate a beaut adaptation. The fourth finger is skinny and elongated, similar to that of an aye-aye. It's used in much the same way — for winkling out beetle larvae from wood. They are not exclusively larvivores (did I just make that up?) and feed on a wide range of foods, including the sweet liquid used to bring in sugar gliders. (When they're not down at the pub.)








Later on, the next shift turned up — a bandicoot and a white-tailed rat. See if you can work out which is which. (There's no prize, so don't try too hard.)






9 comments:

Christopher Taylor said...

They are not exclusively larvivores (did I just make that up?)

No, I'm pretty sure I've heard that term before.

Later on, the next shift turned up — a bandicoot and a white-tailed rat. See if you can work out which is which.

Ha. My first encounter with a bandicoot after I arrived in Australia, funnily enough, involved me rushing up to my partner in a garden centre and exclaiming, "There is the f***ing biggest rat I've ever seen running around between the pots over there!"

Dave Coulter said...

I think I have heard that people keep sugar gliders for pets?

Gah! A rat!

Sherryl said...

Great photos. I've never seen a possum like that, even in nature books. Do we have bandicoots in Victoria?

Duncan said...

Gorgeous animal that possum. What a great time you're having Snail.

Snail said...

LOL @ Christopher! I guess they could be a bit of a shock if you're not expecting them.

Dave, I know that sugar gliders are kept as pets in the U.S. There are restrictions on keeping native mammals here but I think some states allow them as pets.

Sherryl, I'm pretty sure we do get bandicoots in Vic but I can't remember seeing them. At all. Now I come to think of it.

Duncan. I'm having a great old time. But it's going to end soon!

AYDIN Ă–RSTAN said...

How on earth can you get so close to them without scaring them away?

Snail said...

They're focussed on the food put out for the sugar gliders. The rat was the wariest of the lot, darting off into the forest whenever I got to close. The possum was also quite cautious. The bandicoot wasn't so bothered.

I used the long lens too but I was still within 6 metres of them.

Sherrie Y said...

What I find most curious about that possum is that it seems to have been built wrong side up. I wonder what the evolutionary advantage of having one's aft end fore might be. I'm sure such an adaptation could be useful in academia, but hmmmmm.... in the wild?

Snail said...

It's in the Antipodes, of course!

The rat and bandicoot are the wrong way up.