Long-footed potoroo – Potorous longipes – is a small marsupial found in southeastern Australia, restricted to an area around the coastal border between New South Wales and Victoria. It was discovered in 1967 when an adult male was caught in a dog trap in the forest southwest of Bonang, Victoria. It is classified as vulnerable.
Potorous longipes is the largest species of Potorous, resembling the long-nosed Potorous tridactylus. It is a solitary nocturnal creature, feeding on fungi, vegetation and small invertebrates. It differs from the P. tridactylus in its larger feet and longer tail.
The scientific name of the animal commonly known as the long-footed potorro is Potorous longipes. Potoroo is the common name for all of the three other species belong to the genus Potorous, Gilbert's potoroo, P. gilbertii, the broad-faced P. platyops and long-nosed P. tridactylus. Potorous longipes is the largest potoroo, and most resembles Potorous tridactylus. The species was first noticed in 1967 in the East Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia. The formal description was published in 1980. Remains of the long-footed potoroo were found in a predator droppings in 1986
Description and anatomy
The long-footed potoroo is a very rare marsupial only found in Australia. A potoroo is a small type of kangaroo-like marsupial. They are about the size of a rabbit and their common name suggests, these animals have very long hind feet. These feet have long toes with very strong claws. They are the largest potoroos with males weighing up to 2.3 kg (5.1 lb) and females 1.4 kg (3.1 lb). The entire body length is between 380–415 mm (15.0–16.3 in). The tail can be between 315–325 mm (12.4–12.8 in) in length while the hind foot between 103–114 mm (4.1–4.5 in). This animal can be differentiated from other potoroos by its long back feet. Their long hind feet are the same length relative to their head. On their feet they have an extra footpad called the hallcual pad. The long-footed potoroos hop in a similar fashion to a kangaroo, yet they can use their tails to grasp objects. They have a soft dense coat with coloration of grayish-brown fur that slowly fades into a lighter color on the feet and belly.
Behavior and life history
Habitat and distribution
The long-footed potoroo lives in a range of montane forests. It has also been found in the warmer temperate rainforest. This species lives where the soil is constantly moist. It spends its day time sleeping in a nest on the ground in a hidden, sheltered area. An essential feature of the long-footed potoroo's habitat is the dense vegetation cover that supplies protection and shelter from predators. This species was discovered only in 1967 so historically, it is inadequately understood. It is native to Australia and has a very restricted area where it lives. The main populations can be found in Victoria, in the Barry Mountains, which is in the northeast part of the state and in the East Gippsland located in the far east. A smaller population lives north of the Victorian border in the south east forest of New South Wales.
The long-footed potoroo is very difficult to find in the wild due to its shy behavior. The National Recovery Plan states that it is unlikely that there are a few thousand individuals in the wild as of now. It might be only a few hundred long-footed potoroos but it is difficult to truly say.
The long-footed potoroo normally eats up to 91% of its diet consisting of fruiting fungi that are found underground. They are known to consume up to 58 different species of fungi as part of their diet. These underground fungi are also called sporocarps or truffles. If necessary, they may also eat fruits, plant material and soil-dwelling invertebrates. The jaw of this animal has shearing premolars and molars that are rounded at the top, indicating a varied diet is consumed. The long-footed potoroo plays a part in the symbiotic relationship between the fungi (ectomycorrhizae) and the trees. The long-footed potoroo help this relationship by releasing the spores of the fruiting fungi through its fecal material. In turn, this helps keep the forest healthy benefiting both the fungi and the forest. The species of fungi that are eaten in the winter and summer are similar; however, the amount of each type of fungi species varies between seasons and years. They have a sacculated forestomach in which bacterial fermentation occurs. This aids in the breakdown of fungal cell walls.
The long-footed potoroo is very shy and elusive. They can produce a vocalization, a low kiss kiss sound when they are stressed or to communicate to their offspring. Although the long-footed potoroo is a nocturnal species, they may partake in early morning basking in the sun. The long-footed potoroo is constantly hidden from plain sight. Under normal conditions, males are not aggressive. Nevertheless, if prompted they can become aggressive defending their home.
Mating, reproduction, and parental care
Breeding can occur all year, yet, most young are born in the winter, spring, and early summer time. Higher rainfall and deep moist soil full of leaf litter provides a stable food supply. In turn, these periods of good conditions allows breeding to occur easily. When the female is in estrus the males will fight with one another, until dominance is established. The species has a monogamous mating system. The gestation period for a pregnant female is around 38 days. It is known that in captivity, the offspring stay in the mother's pouch for 140 to 150 days. The offspring then reaches sexual maturity at around 2 years old. Females can give birth up to three young per year, though one to two young is most commonly seen. After the young leave the pouch, they can stay with their mothers up to 20 weeks until they become independent. They will stay in the mother's territory up to 12 months before leaving. The long-footed potoroo exhibits postpartum oestrus as well as embryonic diapauses.
It is known that the long-footed potoroo moves to different parts of its territory due to the distribution of fungi. Thus seasonally, their territory boundaries change following the distribution of truffles. Males use a larger home range area than females use. The species is territorial and the territories of mated pairs can overlap with each other, but not with other pairs. The home range of the long-footed potoroo is between 22 and 60 ha in East Gippsland and between 14 and 23 ha in north-eastern Victoria.
As of 2006, the long-footed potoroo has been classified as Endangered (EN) by the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN Red List, the long-footed potoroo is considered endangered because its occurrence is less than 5,000km2. The dispersed area where the animal is found is most likely in a decline of the number of individuals due to predators and competition for food from introduced pigs. It is listed as an Endangered Species on Schedule 1 of the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. It is also considered an Endangered Species under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and endangered by the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
The most serious predators that the long-footed potoroos have include the red fox, feral cats, and wild dogs. Their habitat is greatly disturbed due to building roads, thus they have seemed to move along these roads and forage for food in these areas. This also causes a threat due to the chance of being hit with a motor vehicle. In Victoria, the State Forest is where about half of the long-footed potoroo's exist. Due to the introduction of pigs in its native area, these pigs may be a large competitor for the long-footed potoroo's specialized diet.
Information on this rare species is spotty. Thus in order to conserve it effectively, further studies on its way of life and habitat need to be conducted. Research was able to be performed on a small captive population that was able to breed in the 1980s and 1990s at the Healesville Sanctuary. This allowed researchers and conservationists the opportunity to observe the behavior and reproduction of this animal. Small steps have been taken to bring up the population of long-footed potoroo and to protect it from going extinct. In the State Forest of Victoria, the long-footed potoroo is protected through special areas in which logging is monitored or prevented and burning of the forest has been reduced. Their natural predators such as the wild dogs, red fox and feral cats have also been put under control. This will allow the long-footed potoroo to reclaim their habitat and allow their numbers to rise again. Conservation plans such as these will not only benefit the long-footed potoroo but will also be beneficial to other threatened animal species in this area.
2019–2020 Australian Bushfires
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