Mountain brushtail possums, or southern bobucks, are native to southeastern Australia, ranging from Victoria to Central Queensland. (Lindenmayer, et al., 2002)
Mountain brushtail possums are semi-arboreal marsupials found in wet sclerophyll forests of southeastern Australia (Lindenmayer, Dubach, and Viggers, 2002). They usually live in above-ground dens (either tree hollows or nest boxes). A recent study by J.K. Martin found that adult bobucks use multiple den-trees. However, they also occasionally den in thick ground vegetation (Martin, 2006). Due to logging, farming, and other human activities, the primary habitat of most populations is now fragmented forest in agricultural land (Martin and Handasyde, 2007). (Lindenmayer, et al., 2002; Martin and Handasyde, 2007; Martin, 2006)
Mountain brushtail possums are medium-sized (2.6 to 4.2 kg) marsupials. They have thick, light gray-brown fur, and long, dark gray, bushy tails. They differ morphologically from their close relatives, short-eared possums (Trichosurus caninus), which is found directly to the north of mountain brushtail possums. No sexual dimorphism is apparent (Lindenmayer, Dubach, and Viggers, 2002). (Lindenmayer, et al., 2002)
Mountain brushtail possums appear to be socially monogamous. Adults are strongly paired and remain very close to each other, staying in the same den on approximately 70% of the days during mating season. Females form a pair-bond at 2 to 5 years of age and the bonds only end at the death of one pair member. However, genetic evidence suggests that mountain brushtail possums are not monogamous; molecular paternity analysis has shown that 35% of young result from extra-pair copulations. Males that sired more than one offspring a year, outside of the pair bond, are generally larger, indicating that dominance results in reproductive success. Mountain brushtail possums have a short, synchronous breeding season. Females have one young per year. Young are in the pouch for approximately 6 months, and then spends 1 to 2 months riding on its mother’s back. Males play almost no part in raising the young (Martin, Handasyde, Taylor, and Coulson, 2007). (Martin, et al., 2007)
Mountain brushtail possums breed once yearly, in January and February. Offspring remain in the pouch for approximately 6 months and then ride on their mother’s back for another 1 to 2 months. Offspring are usually weaned around September. Juveniles remain close to their mothers until they are approximately 18 months old. Females become sexually mature between 2 and 5 years of age; males between 2 and 3 years (Martin, Handasyde, Taylor, and Coulson, 2007). (Martin, et al., 2007)
Most mountain brushtail possum females give birth to one baby a year. The offspring spend approximately 6 months in the pouch, then 1 to 2 months riding on the mother’s back. Males spend the least amount of time with their female partners when the females are carrying young on their back, and are therefore much less involved in the care of offspring. Juveniles remain with their mothers until they are approximately 18 months old. (Martin, et al., 2007)
Both male and female mountain brushtail possums appear to be long-lived, reaching at least 12 years of age. However, it appears as though fewer males reach that age than females (Martin and Handasyde, 2007). They are perhaps the longest lived marsupial (Viggers and Lindenmayer, 2002). (Martin and Handasyde, 2007; Viggers and Lindenmayer, 2002)
Mountain brushtail possums are nocturnal, staying in dens during the day and leaving at night to forage. They are sedentary, often remaining in the same small home range for their entire lives. Adults form strong pair-bonds and often share the same suite of different dens with their offspring. The home ranges of paired individuals overlap as well, as opposed to non-paired individuals, who remain more exclusive in their home ranges. (Martin, et al., 2007)
Both male and female adult mountain brushtail possums have a mean home range size of 6.0 hectares, plus or minus 0.4 hectares. The home ranges of subadults are significantly smaller. However, this data was gathered in a forest setting. Therefore, the home ranges of those populations living in scrub settings is unstudied and unknown (Martin, 2006). (Martin, 2006)
Mountain brushtail possums are herbivorous and frugivorous. They mainly eat acacia leaves, fungi, lichens, buds, fruit, and sometimes bark. Acacia is an integral part of their seasonal diet, with different species of the plant consumed at different times of the year. (Irlbeck and Hume, 2003)
Mountain brushtail possum predators have not been well-reported. They are preyed on by non-native foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and may also be taken by large snakes or raptors. The main threat to populations is human action – the clearance of land for forestry and agriculture. (Menkhorst, et al., 2011)
Mountain brushtail possums may influence vegetation community structure through their herbivory. Allergic reactions to ectoparasites on the skin may be one of the main causes of the disease 'rumpwear' in mountain brushtail possums (Hufschmid, Handasyde, and Beveridge, 2010). (Hufschmid, et al., 2010; Menkhorst, et al., 2011)
Trichosurus cunninghami does not appear to be of positive economic importance to humans.
Mountain brushtail possums are sometimes described as a destructive pest in southeastern Australian pine plantations (IUCN Red List). (Menkhorst, et al., 2011)
Helen McCreary (author), Yale University, Eric Sargis (editor), Yale University, Rachel Racicot (editor), Yale University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
uses sound to communicate
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
having more than one female as a mate at one time
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Hufschmid, J., K. Handasyde, I. Beveridge. 2010. The role of host and environmental factors in the epidemiology of rumpwear in brushtail possums. Australian Journal of Zoology, 58: 250-262. Accessed May 09, 2012 at http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=ZO10030.pdf.
Irlbeck, N., I. Hume. 2003. The role of Acacia in the diets of Australian marsupials – a review. Australian Mammalogy, 25: 121-134.
Lindenmayer, D., J. Dubach, K. Viggers. 2002. Geographic dimorphism in the mountain brushtail possum T. caninus: the case for a new species. Australian Journal of Zoology, 50: 369-393.
Martin, J. 2006. Den-use and home-range characteristics of bobucks, Trichosurus cunninghami, resident in a forest patch. Australian Journal of Zoology, 54: 225-234.
Martin, J., K. Handasyde. 2007. Comparison of Bobuck demography in two habitat types in the Strathbogie Ranges, Australia. Journal of Zoology, 271: 375-385.
Martin, J., K. Handasyde, A. Taylor, G. Coulson. 2007. Long-term pair-bonds without mating fidelity in a mammal. Behaviour, 144: 1419-1445.
Menkhorst, P., D. Taggart, M. Ellis, R. Martin. 2011. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed April 10, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/136256/0.
Viggers, K., D. Lindenmayer. 2002. The Other Brushtail Possum. Nature Australia, Spring 27: 46.