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Kangaroo Island Dunnart (Sminthopsis aitkeni)

Kangaroo Island 

The Kangaroo Island Dunnart

A total of 32 kangaroo island dunnarts have been captured since their discovery, this animal is not only endangered but it is also very rare. The rarity of this animal makes it difficult for scientist to gather data on the species. The first kangaroo island dunnart was caught in 1969 on Kangaroo Island and are the only dunnart on the island. Kangaroo island dunnarts are elusive, spread out across the island in clusters making the species very difficult to catch.

22 of the 32 captured kangaroo island dunnarts were found at Flinders Chase. Radio tracking devices have shown that the species takes shelter in burrows as well as under yakka and banksias during the day. It is also known that the individual habitat the animal can overlap into the habitat of another kangaroo island dunnart. The two specimens that were released with radio tracking devices lived at separate sites. There is little else known about the habitat of the elusive kangaroo island dunnart due to a lack of wild specimens.

The head and body measurement for the kangaroo dunnart is about 86mm; the average tail measurement is about 100mm. It is notable that every captured kangaroo island dunnart had a tail that was longer than its body. With a dark grey back fades into a lighter grey on the face (white chin) and underbelly with white feet. The kangaroo island dunnart looks as though it rolled on its back in soot. The tail is colored similar to the body, is quite thin and is clearly longer than the body.

Kangaroo island dunnarts prefer to eat insects including spiders, ants, beetles, and scorpions. Males and females appear to eat the same foods. Most of the information on the feeding habits of the kangaroo island dunnart have been observed through careful analysis of the scats observed from the captured dunnarts.

Mating season appears to be between September and January. The females can breed multiple times during a mating season. Little is known about the gestation period or the maturity of the kangaroo island dunnart. This lack of information is attributed to the lack of adult females in captivity.  

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A field Guide to the Mammals of Australia, Peter Menkhorst and Frank Knight, 2001.

The Kangaroo Island Dunnart-Rare or Elusive?, Australian Department for Environment and Heritage, 8/6/04, http://www.denr.sa.gov.au/biodiversity/kidunnart.html.

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