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The Quoll – Cute Cousin of the Tasmanian Devil

Monday 3 May 2010

You may not have heard of the quoll.  However, do not suspect they are a creature of invention.  These small marsupials are native to Australia and Papua New Guineau and – as you can see – they are extremely appealing to the eye.  Above is an Eastern Quoll fawn. The tribe (that's a rank between family and genus) that the quoll belongs to also contains the much better known Tasmanian Devil.

Image Credit Flicker User Herper715
The species above is known as the Tiger Quoll because of the markings on his fur, but there the resemblance (if there ever was any) ends.  Like many marsupials they are odd animals, at least to those of us on continents where we are surrounded by mammals.  They grown up to thirty inches in length and have hairy tails around six inches in length.

One peculiar fact about the quoll is that they only develop a pouch (where their young will grown after they are born) once the breeding season is in progress.  The pouch is towards their tail area. They have six nipplies and can have several young (or joeys) at the same time. Above is another Eastern Quoll, found in Tasmania.

Quolls are quite happy living in forest or in open land and live mostly on the ground.  However, over the millennia they have had reason to take to the trees and are quite happy among the branches too.  They do not have prehensile tails which would enable them to grab hold of branches with their tails to aid climbing.  The above climber is a Spotted or Tiger Quoll, found in eastern Australia.

However, quolls do have ridges on the pads of their feet, a feature which is common among arboreal animals. Although their colour is usually the brown that you can see in most of the pictures here, they can morph black, such as the Eastern Quoll example above.

These little guys have very very strong teeth and so although they look cute and cuddly a nip from one of them would be very painful.  These teeth are used to rip apart their prey. This has included the cane toad, introduced in to Australia in 1935.  Unfortunately the cane toad is highly toxic and has threatened the number of quolls.

Altogether there are six species of quoll and their genus is called Dasyuru, which gives them one of their alternative names, the daysure.  There is now a capture program in process (see above) to help out the quoll in terms of the cane toad problem. 

The Northern Quoll (above) is the smallest of the six species and rarely grows longer than thirty centimeters in length.   A peculiar feature of the Northern is that after mating the males invariably die and the females are left alone to raise the young.  They live mostly on fruit and small vertebrates but despite their size and timid appearance they are happy to scavenge in campsites.

The Tiger Quoll’s (above) diet includes birds, rats and mice and although it spends most of its time on the ground it regularly climbs trees.  It has a single litter each year and can have as many as six young (one for each nipple).  Once the young are born they get to the mother’s pouch and stay there for up to seven weeks – becoming fully independent in eighteen.  Although the species is nocturnal it is a sun worshiper and likes to spend the day basking in sunlight.
The quoll is considered an endangered species and is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list under the status vulnerable.  Let's hope that the steps being taken by the Australian government will ensure its continued existence for the future.

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