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Parantechinus apicalis - Gould.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Dasyuromorphia
Family: Dasyuridae
Subfamily: Dasyurinae
Tribe: Dasyurini
Genus: Parantechinus
Tate, 1947
P. apicalis
Binomial name
Parantechinus apicalis
(Gray, 1842)
Dibbler area.png
Dibbler range
(blue — native, pink — reintroduced)

Dibbler is the common name for Parantechinus apicalis, an endangered species of marsupial. It is an inhabitant of the southwest mainland of Western Australia and some offshore islands. It is a member of the order Dasyuromorphia, and the only member of the genus, Parantechinus. The dibbler is a small, nocturnal carnivore with speckled fur that is white around the eyes.


The dibbler is 10–16 cm long with a 7.5-12.0 cm tail; it weighs 40-125g. The distinctive features of this dasyurid include a white eye-ring, gray-brown fur flecked with white hairs, and a short tapering tail. It has strong jaws and large canine teeth for killing prey, which include small vertebrates such as mice, birds and lizards, as well as insects and other invertebrates. The breeding season for the species is March–April.

The dibbler is found in southwestern Western Australia, It is also found on Boullanger Island and Whitlock Island and Escape Island off Jurien Bay.,[2] some national parks/reserves, including Fitzgerald River National Park, Peniup Creek Reserve (where it was re-introduced) and at the Stirling Range National Park (where it was re-introduced). Dibblers weigh about 40–100 grams (1.4–3.6 oz) and eat insects, small reptiles, and nectar. The dibbler is a solitary, mostly nocturnal species.

The dibbler's habitat is an unburnt vegetation area with a thick litter layer and sandy soils.

The two main locations where dibblers live are Whitlock and Boullanger, which are two little islands just off Jurien Bay. They have also been recorded at Torndirrup Peninsula south of Albany. Specimens have been obtained by traps located on Banksia attenuata.[3]



The dibbler is the only member of its genus, Parantechinus, which indicates that it is an "antechinus-like (animal)".[4] The specific epithet, apicalis, means "pointed". This genus formerly included the sandstone dibbler, now placed in the genus Pseudantechinus.

The genus Parantechinus contains only the single species, Parantechinus apicalis, the dibbler. It was first described in 1842 by John Edward Gray, who placed it in the genus Phascogale. He identified the specimen as being Australasian in origin. The genus Parantechinus was created for the species in 1947 by George Henry Hamilton Tate. The species was also assigned to the genus Antechinus, before being split to own genus. There are various arrangements of the genera in this section of family Dasyuridae, many of which are supported by molecular systematics, and their relationship remains unresolved.[3]

Common name[edit]

The name 'dibbler' is used by government and scientific authorities, and in popular usage, to refer to this species exclusively.[5][6][7][8] In the Dibbler Recovery Plan, Senior DEC scientist, Dr. Tony Friend notes

Strahan (2003) introduced the common name "southern dibbler" for P. apicalis [Parantechinus apicalis] and "northern dibbler" for the sandstone antechinus" [Pseudantechinus bilarni][3] ... the well-established use of "dibbler" to refer only to P. apicalis is recommended and is followed in this plan."[9]

A number of common names derive from previous systematic arrangements. John Gould gave several names from the Nyoongar/Noongar language; Marn-dern and Wy-a-lung are from northern areas, Dib-bler is from the dialect spoken in the King George Sound region.[10] The practice of restoring traditional names to marsupial species has conserved this common name. Gould referred to the species as the freckled antechinus,[3] and it has also been known as the speckled marsupial mouse.

The online edition of Mammal Species of the World gave the name Southern dibbler in 2009.[11] A species known as the Northern (or sandstone) dibbler, Pseudantechinus bilarni, is found in the Northern Territory. This species has been distinguished by the name Southern dibbler, however this name is given in The Mammals of Australia (2008),[12] the formative guide for Australian mammal nomenclature worldwide.

Conservation status[edit]

The dibbler was believed to have become extinct until it was rediscovered in 1967 at Cheyne Beach on the south coast of Western Australia after a gap of 80 years. It remains an endangered species.

The Perth Zoo in Western Australia operates a conservation project for the dibbler which is helpful in its survival and breeding, and along with the Department of Environment and Conservation have helped to breed and release more dibblers into the wild.

In the early 19th century, dibblers were widely distributed across Western Australia. By 1884, they were declared extinct, but some were found on the southern coast of Western Australia in 1967. They are threatened by habitat loss (land clearing, forest fires) and predators. Their predators are mainly feral foxes and feral cats.


  1. ^ Friend, T.; Burbidge, A. & Morris, K. (2008). "Parantechinus apicalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as endangered
  2. ^ Menkhorst, Peter (2001). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press. p. 58.
  3. ^ a b c d Friend, Tony (2003). "Dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis) Recovery Plan" (PDF). Dibbler Recovery Team. Department of Conservation and Land Management (DEC). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-08-15. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  4. ^ Woolley, P.A. (1995). "Southern Dibbler". In Strahan, Ronald (ed.). The Mammals of Australia. Reed Books. pp. 72–73.
  5. ^ Bencini, R., McCulloch, C., Mills, H.R., Start, A.N., 2001. Habitat and diet of the dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis) on two small islands in Jurien Bay, Western Australia. Wildlife Research 28, 465–468.
  6. ^ Fuller, P.J., Burbidge, A.A., 1987. Discovery of the Dibbler, Parantechinus apicalis, on islands at Jurien Bay. The Western Australian Naturalist 16, 177–181.
  7. ^ Miller, S., Bencini, R., Mills, H., Moro, D. Food availability for the dibbler, Parantechinus apicalis, on Boullanger and Whitlock Islands, Western Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology (in press).
  8. ^ Mills, H.R., Bencini, R., 2000. New evidence for facultative male dieoff in island populations of dibblers, Parantechinus apicalis. Australian Journal of Zoology 48, 501–510.
  9. ^ Dibbler Recovery Plan (html)
  10. ^ Friend citing Gould, J. 1863. The Mammals of Australia. Taylor and Francis, London.
  11. ^ Groves, C.P. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 26. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. OCLC 62265494.
  12. ^ The Mammals of Australia 3rd Ed. 2008. Reed New Holland. Edited by Steve Van Dyck & Ronald Strahan. ISBN 978-1-877069-25-3

External links[edit]