Spiny, striped, pygmy and giant bandicoots of New Guinea

By Natalie Warburton. Quenda are quirky inhabitants of many gardens and parks in the Perth metropolitan region. But did you know that they are only one of more than twenty species of bandicoots that are found around Australia and New Guinea? 

Unlike our local species, little is known of the diets and behaviour of their cousins in New Guinea, which include fun-sounding animals such as five species of spiny bandicoot, mouse bandicoots, striped bandicoots, pygmy bandicoots and giant bandicoots!

Indeed, they have some pretty unusual characteristics… check out these hands and feet!

Feet of a New Guinean bandicoot (photo by NW).

By examining gut contents, digestive system anatomy and teeth, a recent study from PhD student Todd Elliott at the University of New England in NSW investigated the diet of the 14 bandicoot species from New Guinea.

Like most bandicoots, the species from New Guinea are omnivorous. However, there do seem to be differences in teeth and digestive system anatomy that correspond with observed differences in food items retrieved from the guts of preserved museum specimens. All but two of the species were found to consume underground truffle-like fungi, while some of the spiny bandicoots seem to eat more fruit than fibrous plant material.

Understanding the diets of animals is key to developing appropriate conservation and management plans for threatened species and ecosystems. Importantly, for species that might be difficult to study in the wild, detailed studies of specimens preserved in museums can provide important and relevant information to better understand and preserve our amazing biodiversity.

https://www.publish.csiro.au/AM/AM21015 Todd Elliott’s paper

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