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Tiger Quoll

Tiger Quoll in Queensland Australia

The quoll is a carnivorous marsupial native to mainland Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania. It is primarily nocturnal and spends most of the day in its den. Of the six species of quoll, four are found in Australia and two in New Guinea. Another two species are known from fossil remains in Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits in Queensland. Genetic evidence indicates that the quoll evolved around 15 million years ago in the Miocene, and that the ancestors of the six species had all diverged by around four million years ago. The quoll species vary in weight and size, from 300 g (11 oz) to 7 kg (15 lb). They have brown or black fur and pink noses. They are largely solitary, but come together for a few social interactions such as mating which occurs during the winter season. A female gives birth to up to 18 puppies, of which only six survive to suckle on her teats.

The quoll eats smaller mammals, small birds, lizards, and insects. Its natural lifespan is between two and five years. All species have drastically declined in numbers since Australasia was colonised by Europeans, with one species, the eastern quoll, becoming extinct on the Australian mainland, now being found only in Tasmania. Major threats to their survival include the cane toad, predators, urban development, and poison baiting. Conservation efforts include breeding programs in captivity.

Description Edit

Adults are between 25 and 75 cm (9.8 and 29.5 in) long, with hairy tails about 20 to 35 cm (7.9 to 13.8 in) long. Females have six nipples and develop a pouch during the breeding season, which opens toward the tail (with the exception of the tiger quoll, which has a true pouch) when they are rearing young. Their coats are brown or black, with some colour variants in between. They have bright pink noses and long snouts. Their natural lifespans are between two and five years; the larger species tend to live longer than the smaller. Quolls are solitary, nocturnal animals. The average weight differs greatly depending on the species; male western and eastern quolls weigh about 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) and females 0.9 kg (2.0 lb). The tiger quoll is the largest, with the male weighing about 7 kg (15 lb) and the female 4 kg (8.8 lb). The northern quoll is the smallest, and the male weighs on average 400 to 900 g (14 to 32 oz), and the female 300 to 500 g (11 to 18 oz).

Distribution and Habitat Edit

The quoll is indigenous to mainland Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania. The six species were once widely distributed across the three land masses, but are now restricted to only a few areas. Although primarily ground-dwelling, the genus has developed secondary arboreal characteristics. Each species of quoll lives in distinct geographical areas. The tiger quoll and eastern quoll are exclusively mesic zone species, that is they inhabit moister habitats. The western quoll also inhabits mesic habitat, but has adapted to arid regions across inland Australia, while the northern quoll inhabits tropical habitat of high rainfall.

Behavior Edit

The quoll is a carnivorous marsupial. It is primarily nocturnal, sleeping in hollowed-out logs or rocky dens and coming out to hunt during the night, though on rare occasions it can be seen looking for prey during the day. It is mostly ground-dwelling, but it is not uncommon to see a quoll climbing a tree. The quoll marks its territory several kilometres away from its den. A male's territory often overlaps many females' territories, and male and female quolls only meet for mating. Quolls have communal toilet areas, usually on an outcropping used for marking territory and social functions. These communal latrines may have up to 100 droppings in them. The quoll is a mostly solitary creature, limiting contact with others to mating or other social activities such as using the latrines.

Diet Edit

The quoll is mostly carnivorous; the smaller quolls primarily eat insects, birds, frogs, lizards and fruit; the larger species eat birds, reptiles, and mammals, including echidnas and possums. The tiger quoll's diet is dominated by mammals such as brushtail possums, rabbits and hares. The exact mix is variable depending on the availability of prey after bushfires, and can include carrion or bandicoots when food is scarce. The other species of quoll have also been known to eat carrion. The quoll's paws and vibrissae allow it to reach into small burrows to find prey. The quoll hunts by stalking. Depending on the size of its prey, the quoll may leap or pounce on it. It pins small prey down with its front paws while devouring it, and jumps onto larger prey, sinking in its claws and closing its jaws around the neck. The quoll can obtain all the water it needs from its food, making it quite adaptable during droughts or other periods of water shortage.

Reproduction Edit

Mating occurs during the winter months. Once a female quoll has been impregnated, the folds on her abdomen convert into a pouch that opens at the back. The gestation period is 21 days. A baby quoll, or pup, is the size of a grain of rice. Up to 18 quolls are born in each litter, but only six survive the first two weeks. The survivors stay in their mother's pouch for eight weeks, suckling on one of the mother's six teats for milk. During the ninth week, the pups venture out of the pouch and onto the mother's back, where they remain for six weeks. The quoll reaches maturity when it is one year old, and has a natural lifespan of between two and five years. A 2008 study of the pouches of tiger quolls reported the pouches' appearance' were reliable indicators of the quolls' reproductive status: during the follicular phase, pouches were found to be red and have many secretions. After ovulation, pouches became deep and wet. Researchers can use this information to determine where a female quoll is in her ovarian cycle, which is anticipated to be helpful in breeding management.

Threats Edit

Cane toads were introduced into Queensland in 1935; their numbers have since grown exponentially. These poisonous toads pose a significant threat to the northern quoll, which may die after consuming one. The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has stated that cane toads are highly invasive and are major threats to the quoll's survival. Predators such as foxes and cats prey on quolls and compete with them for food. For example, both quolls and foxes catch and consume rabbits. Since the introduction of foxes, the rabbit population has dropped dramatically. Foxes have been eradicated from many of the islands off the coast of Australia in an effort to protect the quoll.

The quoll is suffering badly from urbanisation, housing development, mining development, and expansion of agricultural lands. Habitats are also being destroyed by large herbivores trampling the grass and overgrowth, making camouflage difficult. Forest fires and weeds also contribute to habitat destruction. The poison sodium monofluoroacetate is commonly used in Australia to control pests such as European rabbits, foxes, feral predators, and wild dogs such as dingoes. It is cooked into meat which is put into the wild for the animals to ingest. The poison is extremely toxic to wild dogs and other pests, but considerably less so to quolls. Size is a main factor in how the poison will affect a quoll; larger quolls will suffer no ill effects from eating one piece of prepared meat containing sodium monofluroacetate, but will suffer if they eat more than one within a short period of time. One piece of meat may be lethal to female and juvenile quolls. Since the quoll is a carnivore and will readily consume any meat left out, it is at high risk from the poison. The meat should be buried at least 8 cm (3.1 in) underground, but has been found under minimal soil that a quoll can dig around to get to it. Poisoning is currently being investigated, as the number of quolls protected from predators by the bait may be much more than those which ingest the poison and die.

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