Bettongia gaimardi cuniculus
|Present distribution of Bettongia gaimardi|
The eastern bettong (Bettongia gaimardi), also known as the southern bettong and Tasmanian bettong, is a bettong whose natural range includes south-eastern Australia and the eastern part of Tasmania.
Two formerly recognised species, Bettongia cuniculus (Tasmanian bettong) and Bettongia gaimardi (eastern bettong), were placed into a single species with two subspecies by Wakefield in 1967. The two recognised subspecies are:
- B. g. gaimardi, mainland subspecies (extinct)
- B. g. cuniculus, Tasmanian subspecies
Following the introduction of the red fox and European rabbit to Australia, the mainland subspecies became extinct around the 1920s. The Tasmanian subspecies still exists. In 2012, a small population was reintroduced to the mainland in Canberra where they appear to be doing well.
Diet and behaviour
The eastern bettong is a nocturnal animal. During the day it sleeps in a nest it constructs from grasses and leaves. A major component of its diet is underground fungi related to truffles, but it digs up roots and tubers, as well. Insects and grubs are also eaten when encountered. It is unique in that it will travel up to 1.5 km from its nest to a feeding area, a considerable distance for a creature that rarely exceeds 2 kg in mass.
This bettong's habitat is open woodlands at altitudes between sea level and 1000 m. (The highest point on Tasmania is at 1617 m.) The bettong usually nests in dry open eucalypt forests and grassy woodlands, sleeping during the day in a domed, grass nest that is well camouflaged and built by collecting nesting material bundled and transported to it in its curved prehensile tail.
Like other bettongs, the eastern bettong is a continuous breeder with a gestation period of only three weeks. Bettongs produce young all year.
While the mainland population became extinct in the first decades of the 20th century, the Tasmanian population has been regarded as secure. One concern is that most of the bettongs are found on private land, with only two groups found within reserves. The introduction of red foxes to Tasmania is a major threat to this population. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has raised the threat status for eastern bettongs from least concern to near threatened based on the threat from foxes.
- Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 57. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
- Menkhorst, P. (2008). Bettongia gaimardi. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 29 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as near threatened
- Rose, R. (1997). Metabolic rate and thermal conductance in a mycophagous marsupial, Bettongia gaimardi. The World Wide Web Journal of Biology 2: 2-7.
- Wakefield, N. (1967). Some taxonomic revision in the Australian marsupial genus Bettongia, with description of a new species. The Victorian Naturalist. 84:8-22.
- Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2011). Bettongia gaimardi gaimardi in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 29 Dec 2011 06:51:31 +1100. (http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=66656)
- ABC News Rare marsupials found fat and happy in new home http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-20/marsupials-found-fat-and-happy-in-their-new-home/4472690
- Department of Primary Industries and Water (August 2006).  The Tasmanian bettong]. Department of Primary Industries and Water.
- University of Tasmania, School of Zoology.  Profile – Tasmanian Bettong]. University of Tasmania.
- Department of Primary Industries and Water - Foxes in Tasmania http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/ThemeNodes/LBUN-5K438G
- Foxes in Tasmania-Invasive Animals CRC Report http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/publications/lbun-6r26gg?