Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Musky Rat-Kangaroo

Click on the photos to enlarge

One of the most peculiar little creatures we live with is the Musky Rat-Kangaroo, Hypsiprymnodon moschatus. The scientific name is off-putting enough but the name of its family is even more challenging-Hypsiprymnodontinae, a real mouthful. They are very difficult to photograph because of their constant movement and the time they are active. They never seem to tame like other marsupials, so getting close is a real chore.

Muskies are crepuscular, that is they are active in the very early morning or late in the afternoon. They trundle about on dark days as well. Otherwise they reside in makeshift lairs. The one in the photo was partially constructed for them when a branch fell and accumulated leaves and smaller branches. The occupant added leaves and branches from time to time. Although these enclosures are "home" for the marsupials, they can hardly be considered safe. Both pythons and large goannas raid them for the occupants. Pigs would also not be deterred by the flimsy construction.

Musky Rat-Kangaroos are small, 21-35 cm in length with a scaly tail that is about as long as the body. They weigh about 500 gr. They are true marsupials although to the initiated, they appear rat-like and hop around like a rabbit. Muskies feed on fruits, seeds and insects and worms. They are attracted to a seed bowl we place in the driveway for wallabies and turkeys but they give way to these larger animals. Muskies are the smallest of the kangaroos.

Kangaroos are said to have evolved from possum-like ancestors. They are considered the most primitive of living macropods. The Musky has a possum-like toe on its hind foot to prove it! See The Chambers website for more info. If they have the good fortune, muskies can live for about 4 years. Females usually produce two young.

A musky hut. On dark days the occupants can be observed running in and out of the enclosure.

 The two photos above are the same individual--a male of course! Note the scars and the tick on the ear in the top photo. It's a tough life out there.
A youngster but with an indication that it has been fighting or experiencing some trauma.


glossy black cockatoo said...

A link to your blog was passed on to me by Prue, to whom I am very grateful. You write beautifully about the animals you feature and your Flickr photos of tiny things are sheer delight. Thank you.

Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks so much for your comment.