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Dasyuridae

(Native cats, carnivorous marsupials)

The marsupial family Dasyuridae includes 61 species divided into 15 genera. Members of this family are found in Australia and New Guinea.

Dasyurids range in size from roughly from 5 or 6 gm to 8 kg. Despite their variation in size, most are similar in shape, with a moderately long
body, long pointed head, long and usually fairly well-furred tail, and short to medium-length legs. The tail is not prehensile. The feet are not
syndactylous (that is, the second and third toes are not fused), and the animals walk with the entire surface of their feet on the ground
(plantigrade). Arboreal species have a small but mobile hallux on the hind foot, but this toe tends to be reduced or absent in terrestrial species.
The hind foot of terrestrial species also tends to be longer than that of arboreal species. Many dasyurids lack a pouch; in these species, the teats
are arranged on a circular patch of skin on the abdomen. Some that lack a pouch have folds along the sides of the abdomen that give young
some protection. The stomach of dasyurids is a simple sac.

The skull of dasyurids is didelphid-like in appearance, but it include 4 upper and 3 lower incisors on each side of the jaw rather than 5/4 as in
didelphids. The canines are well developed and have a sharp edge; the premolars (2 or 3 upper and lower on each side) are blade-like; and the
molars (4 upper and lower) are tuberculosectorial, often with sharp cusps for shearing. The palatal vacuities that characterize most marsupials
are reduced or absent in some species.

Dasyurids are primarily carnivorous and insectivorous.

Taxonomists divide the family into four subfamilies, the Dasyurinae (quolls, Tasmanian devil, kowari, mulgara, kaluta, dibblers,
pseudantechinuses, and parantechinuses), Phascogalinae (phascogales and other antechinuses), Sminthopsinae (dunnarts and kultarr), and
Planigalinae (planigales and ningauis). Evidence for the cohesiveness of the entire group, however, is strong. 

/ORDER_DASYUROMORPHIA/


This order contains three recent families, Dasyuridae (dasyurids, including an amazing array of mouse- to dog-sized insectivorous or carnivorous species, Myrmecobiidae
(containing just the numbat or marsupial anteater), and Thylacinidae (restricted the the probably-extinct thylacine or Tasmanian wolf). Dasyuromorphs are said to be modern
representatives of a sort of basal stock of australodelphian marsupials, from which other Australian families arose. They are not syndactylous, and they have 4/3 incisors
(polyprotodont).



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Dasyuridae

(Native cats, carnivorous marsupials)

The marsupial family Dasyuridae includes 61 species divided into 15 genera. Members of this family are found in Australia and New Guinea.

Dasyurids range in size from roughly from 5 or 6 gm to 8 kg. Despite their variation in size, most are similar in shape, with a moderately long body, long pointed head, long and
usually fairly well-furred tail, and short to medium-length legs. The tail is not prehensile. The feet are not syndactylous (that is, the second and third toes are not fused), and the
animals walk with the entire surface of their feet on the ground (plantigrade). Arboreal species have a small but mobile hallux on the hind foot, but this toe tends to be reduced or
absent in terrestrial species. The hind foot of terrestrial species also tends to be longer than that of arboreal species. Many dasyurids lack a pouch; in these species, the teats are
arranged on a circular patch of skin on the abdomen. Some that lack a pouch have folds along the sides of the abdomen that give young some protection. The stomach of dasyurids
is a simple sac.

The skull of dasyurids is didelphid-like in appearance, but it include 4 upper and 3 lower incisors on each side of the jaw rather than 5/4 as in didelphids. The canines are well
developed and have a sharp edge; the premolars (2 or 3 upper and lower on each side) are blade-like; and the molars (4 upper and lower) are tuberculosectorial, often with sharp
cusps for shearing. The palatal vacuities that characterize most marsupials are reduced or absent in some species.

Dasyurids are primarily carnivorous and insectivorous.

Taxonomists divide the family into four subfamilies, the Dasyurinae (quolls, Tasmanian devil, kowari, mulgara, kaluta, dibblers, pseudantechinuses, and parantechinuses),
Phascogalinae (phascogales and other antechinuses), Sminthopsinae (dunnarts and kultarr), and Planigalinae (planigales and ningauis). Evidence for the cohesiveness of the entire
group, however, is strong. 


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Myrmecobiidae

(numbat, marsupial anteater)

The Myrmecobiidae contains a single species, the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus).

These marsupials are small to medium in size, weighing 300 to 700 gms, with a pointed head, small ears, and a long, bushy tail. They lack a pouch. Their coat is distinctively banded
across the back and rump with transverse dark and white stripes. Large, strong claws are found on all digits. Numbats have a remarkable long and slender tongue, with which they
extract termites and ants from their galleries.

The teeth of numbats are relatively small and appear degenerate; nevertheless, they are polyprotodont, with four upper and three lower incisors on each side of their jaws. Following
these are upper and lower canines, and behind the canines are a series of molars and premolars that may include extra (supernumerary) teeth. The total number of cheek teeth is
usually 7-8 on each side of the upper jaw, 8-9 on each side of the lower. As is true of other dasyuromorphs, numbats are not syndactylous. Cranial characteristics of these peculiar
animals include an unusual backward prolongation of the hard palate, reduction in the size and number of palatal vacuities, massive postfrontal processes, and palatal branches of the
premaxillae that don't fuse anteriorly.

Numbats often forage during the day.

Numbats are found in southern Australia. Once widespread, they have been reduced to few isolated populations by habitat destruction and predation by the introduced red fox.


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Thylacinidae

Thylacine, Tasmanian wolf

A single genus and species makes up this family of marsupials. The marsupial wolf, now probably extinct, was once widespread in Australia and New Guinea. Its last stronghold
was in Tasmania. The last known individual died in captivity in 1936.

Thylacines were clearly related to the dasyuromorphs, based based on morphological and molecular evidence. They were polyprotodont, with dental formula 4/3, 1/1, 3/3, 4/4 = 46;
and they were not syndactylous. They differ from other dasyuroids most conspicuously in their size and body form; these large, wolflike animals reached a weight of 35 kg and had
long, canid-like limbs with digitigrade posture.

Competition from dingos and domestic dogs, hunting by European sheep ranchers, and an epidemic of distemper have all been blamed for the decline of the thylacine.

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