|Specimen at the Melbourne Museum|
|Historic eastern hare-wallaby range in orange|
The eastern hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes leporides) once also known as the common hare wallaby, is an extinct species of wallaby that was native to southeastern Australia. It was first described by John Gould in 1841.
The eastern hare-wallaby was a small macropod, slightly larger and more slender than its surviving relative the rufous hare-wallaby. It had a body length of about 50 centimeters and a 33 centimeter long tail. Its fur color varied from black through brown to yellow with a grayish-white belly.
Distribution and Habitat
This species once inhabited the interior of New South Wales, Victoria and the Murray River region of South Australia. It was common in the level country between the Murray and Darling rivers, as well as the Liverpool Plains. Its preferred habitat consisted of open plains and grasslands.
Ecology and Behaviour
Very little is known about this wallaby today. It was a strictly nocturnal animal which led a solitary lifestyle. During the day it sat still in a well-formed 'seat', usually in the shelter of a saltbush or a tussock. If approached too closely, it would bound off at great speed. One wallaby was chased by dogs for 500 metres and suddenly doubled back and came back within 6 metres of John Gould and leapt over his head; it could jump 1.8 metres high.
The last known specimen of this species was a female collected in August 1889 in New South Wales. There were no further sightings of this species, even though researchers well into the 1930s were still uncertain of its extinction.
The cause of its extinction remains uncertain, as it died out before intensive agriculture was introduced throughout its distribution and before the red fox became common in its habitat. Several causes of its extinction have been suggested, including trampling of its grassland habitat by cattle and sheep, changed burning regimes, or predation by introduced cats.
- Australasian Mammal Assessment Workshop (2008). Lagorchestes leporides. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as extinct
- Francis Harper (1945). Extinct and Vanishing Mammals of the Old World.
- Richard Lydekker (1894). A hand-book to the marsupialia and monotremata (PDF).
- John Gould (1863). The Mammals of Australia.
- Tim Flannery; Peter Schouten (2001). A gap in nature.
- Flannery, Tim; Schouten, Peter (2001). A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals. Atlantic Monthly Press, New York. ISBN 0-87113-797-6.
- 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. 63. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.