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Wales. Altogether the Dasyures number some twenty species in Australia and Tasmania.
Besides the Dasyures, a second type of the same family, but in many respects divergent in structure, is found on the mainland of Australia. This is the Myrmecobius, or Banded Ant-eater, a little animal of the size and somewhat
of the likeness of the common squirrel, with a long bushy tail and elegant transverse stripes across the back. The Myrmecobius is terrestrial in its habits, and feeds principally on ants. It is apparently confined to the western and central parts of the sub-region.
The Peramelidæ, or Bandicoots, the second family of
Australian marsupials, have also teeth adapted to an insectivorous diet, although we know, from the records of trustworthy observers, that some of the species feed more or less upon vegetable substances. Such is certainly the case with the Rabbit-eared Bandicoot (Perogale lagotis) of Western Australia, which is abundant over the grassy plains of that colony, and, from its burrowing habits and large hare-like ears, is commonly known as the “Native Rabbit.” Of the typical bandicoots (Peromeles), five or six species are known, distributed over various portions of Australia, each colony having its peculiar forms. They are all purely terrestrial animals, some inhabiting the densest scrubs, and others the hot stony ridges of the upland plains. The only remaining member of the family Peromelidæ is the anomalous Pigfoot (Choropus castanotis), a small ratlike animal with slender feet, which is confined to the hard stony grounds of the interior of the southern Australian colonies.
A most interesting discovery has recently been made in the deserts of Central Australia of a new burrowing marsupial, of mole-like habits, for which it is necessary to constitute a new family. This little animal has been described by Dr. E. C. Stirling (9) under the name of Notoryctes typhlops, and is apparently very rare (Fig. 3, p. 27). As its name implies, it is quite blind, its eyes being represented merely by pigment spots buried beneath the skin and muscles; furthermore, its whole structure is admirably adapted for its burrowing life. Full descriptions of both its habits and anatomy will be found in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia for 1891.
We now come to the herbivorous marsupials (Diprotodontes), of which there are three families all confined to the
Australian Region (unless the newly-discovered Cænolestes of South America shall be ascertained to belong to the Diprotodonts) namely, the Wombats (Phascolomyidx), the
Phalangers (Phalangeride), and the Kangaroos (Macropodidæ).
The Wombats are numerically of the least importance of the three families above mentioned, although the form and general appearance of the animals of the single known genus, Phascolomys, are hardly less remarkable than those of the Kangaroos.
There are three species of Wombat (Fig. 4) generally recognised, one of which is confined to Tasmania ; they are clumsy-looking animals, resembling in their form and actions small bears. They never climb trees, but live entirely on the ground or in burrows and holes, feeding on grass, roots, and other vegetable substances. In general structure the Wombats are closely allied to the next
family, the Phalangers, although their exclusively terrestrial habits naturally involve minor points of difference, which, added to the characters presented by their dentition, have induced naturalists to recognise them as a separate family.
The Phalangers (Phalangeride), which next follow, are a much more extensively developed group of animals, presenting us with several well-marked generic forms,
and with about twenty-one readily distinguishable species in the Australian mammal-fauna.
While the Kangaroos are mostly grazing animals, and the Wombats burrowers and grubbers, the Phalangers are essentially arboreal in their habits, and are much more strictly nocturnal than the two former groups. In the daytime the Phalangers lie concealed in the hollows of trees, issuing forth at night to feed amongst the branches upon leaves, buds, and fruits. The Koala, or“native bear” (Phascolarctos), of which form a single isolated species only is known, serves to connect the Phalangers with the Wombats, being allied to the latter by many characters, and amongst others by the absence of a tail, which distinguishes it from the rest of its family. In Pseudochirus, Trichosurus, and Dromicia, the more typical forms of the Phalangeridoe, which next follow, the tail is not only well developed, but is of vital importance to the animal, being used as a prehensile organ. The flying Phalangers of the genera Petaurus, Gymnobelideus, and Acrobates, do not employ their caudal appendages in the same way. But this organ, which is much elongated in all these groups, and densely clothed with hair, serves, along with the membrane extended between the fore and hind legs, in the manner of the flying squirrels (Pteromys), to support the animal in the air when descending from the top of one tree to the base of another.
One more very singular little animal must be enumerated before we leave the Phalanger family—the Tarsipes (Tarsipes rostratus), small in size, but great in interest, even among the many abnormal forms of this wonderful land. The Tarsipes is of the size and general form of an ordinary mouse, but with a long slender-pointed muzzle,