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Was thought to be extinct for 83 years

Order: Dasyuromorphia Prev. Marsupialia

Family: Dasyuridae

Genus & Species: Parantechinus apicalis


The dibbler is a small, little-known spotted marsupial mouse of Australia. It is very rare; little is known about its biology. The dibbler is basically mouse-like in appearance, with a small, rounded body and large ears. Dibblers grow to body lengths of 5.8 in (145 mm). The tail is stout, furry, and grows to lengths of 4.6 in (115 mm). Dibblers weigh a maximum of 100 grams.

Dibblers have strong jaws with several tiny, sharp teeth that help support their carnivorous tendencies. Females, like most marsupials, have a pouch used to carry the newborns until they are fully developed. The dibbler is a type of broad-footed marsupial mouse and, as the name suggests, all species have broad feet. The bottom of the feet contain grooves running along the pads that act as suckers and enable them to grip to trees and rocks. The feet end in sharp claws. Dibblers have large eyes, a pointed snout, and long whiskers. Dibblers do not vary greatly in colour. The coat is generally brown sprinkled with grey. The eyes are bordered with white rings. Dibblers are incredibly agile and acrobatic, and can run through seemingly impenetrable undergrowth with surprising ease.


Dibblers are found in the southwestern portion of western Australia. They are found on the islands of Boullanger and Whitlock off the coast of Jurien in Jurien Bay. A colony of dibblers has also been established on Escape Island in the same bay. Dibblers can also be found in Fitzgerald National Park, Arpenter Nature Reserve, Waychinicup National Park, Torndirrup National Park, and Ravensthorpe. Subfossil records show that at one time dibblers could be found in southern Australia.

Dibblers can be found in the low Bankia heathlands of western Australia and seem to prefer sandy soils. They are nocturnal mammals and sleep in rock crevices, hollow logs, and caves during the day.


Dibblers are, unlike mice, carnivores. They use their strong jaws to crunch down on house mice, dunnarts (small mammals), ground-dwelling insects, small birds, and lizards. They also will feed upon the nectar of flowers.


Dibblers are extremely rare, but the reason for their decline is not known. Because of their speed and habitat in thick undergrowth, they have few natural enemies. However, introduced animals such as feral foxes and feral cats may be reducing their numbers. Also, plant diseases and land clearance both destroy their shelter and their food, and also makes them vulnerable to other predators. Forest fires also seem to have an effect on dibblers, as they will not return to an area that had been burnt down for several years.

The dibbler is considered to be an endangered species.


Little is known about the breeding habits of the dibbler. The breeding season seems to be during the spring. After a gestation period of 44 days, the female dibbler gives birth to 8 young. These babies live and nurse in their mother's pouch for several weeks. They grow quickly and soon become too big for the pouch; only their snouts fit in, allowing them to nurse for some time.


The dibbler was first discovered in the mid 1800's and at that time was considered to be scarce. It was so scarce that by 1884 it was declared to be extinct. The science community believed it to be extinct for 83 years, until a man named Michael Morcombe trapped one in 1967. Since then, several populations have been found. In the last 5 years, 40 000 nights have been spent searching for dibblers to get and accurate read of their numbers, but only 45 have been discovered.

Perth Zoo has been involved in the conservation of this species, and in May of 1997 their captive breeding program paid off: 3 of their females gave birth to 21 young. The next year, 7 females gave birth to 46 young. These dibblers have been placed on Escape Island to start a growing population there.


The dibbler is a species of broad-footed marsupial mice. Another member of its genus is the sandstone marsupial mouse of northern Australia.


5. plans/action_plans/marsupials/16.htm#dibbler
7. Helen Robertson, c/o Perth Zoo
8. "Marsupial Mouse" Funk & Wagnall's Wildlife Encyclopedia, vol 11, 1974, USA, BPC Pub Ltd