Prior to the arrival of humans in Australia there were a wide array of carnivorous marsupial species, the largest was probably the marsupial lion which may have weighed over 160 kilograms. After the extinction of the thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger in 1936, the Tasmanian Devil became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world, now tragically this species is threatened by a cruel and deadly facial tumour disease. Many of the remaining smaller marsupial predators, such as quolls, are also under threat, among these is a species found on the escarpment of Tamborine Mountain, the Brush-tailed Phascogale.
Brush-tailed Phascogales are rat sized marsupials, they have grey heads, back and flanks with pale undersides. Their large ears are bald and one of their most distinctive features is a dark brushy tail which resembles a bottle-brush. They are swift and effective hunters with sharp cat-like teeth and strong claws used to catch large insects, spiders, centipedes, small lizards and mammals.
They are shy, cryptic, solitary animals which inhabit dry, open sclerophyll forests featuring eucalypt trees. When the eucalypts are flowering the phascogales may drink nectar from the blossoms thereby assisting in pollination. Their distribution along the east coast is patchy and it is thought that they are now extinct in 50% of their original range.
This species is mainly arboreal, their sharp claws and rotating hind foot allow them to climb up, down and hang upside down with speed and agility. When alarmed they tap their front feet on the bark of a tree.
They are nocturnal creatures which sleep in spherical bark-lined nests located in tree hollows during the day, and emerge at dusk to forage during darkness.
Although small in size their population has low densities within very large home territories, females range over 20-70 hectares which do not overlap with unrelated females, while males may range over 140 hectares which overlap with other phascogales.
They breed for a number of weeks between May and July. The female gives birth to 3-8 young after 30 day gestation, the young are attached to nipples in a poorly developed pouch until the mother deposits them in her nest. The mother cares for her young for about 20 weeks, after which time the juveniles leave the nest with males wandering farther afield than their sisters.
This is not a long lived species, there is a major die off of one year old males after mating, females may live longer however their teeth wear down quickly and only 6-16% survive to produce a second litter.
This species is rare and threatened with loss of old growth forests, clearing, firewood cutting, burning, loss of hollows, habitat fragmentation, road hazards, cats and foxes contributing to their continuing decline. Unfortunately some dead brush tailed phascogales have been found run over along the Goat Track over the past few years.