Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Musky Rat-Kangaroo

Yep! Kangaroos sure are big... OR ARE THEY?! Well, many of them are; however, in the case of the musky rat-kangaroo, they come in a very small package. This particular kangaroo has a very modest body length of 9 inches and only weigh about a pound. The musky rat-kangaroo is considered the smallest kangaroo in the world. I was rather surprised that it was considered a kangaroo at all, but they really do fit the bill.

The musky rat-kangaroo can be found in large numbers in northeast Australia and also in New Guinea. They are often found around rivers and creeks or tropical rain forests. These tiny marsupials make nests out of dried fern like some of their small cousins.

Apparently, this marsupial appears to have closer relations to the possum than any other kangaroo. This gives him an interesting prehensile tail which he can use to do a little climbing--very little actually. He also has opposable thumbs. No other kangaroo has either of these, and that makes him special. One more thing about that tail: it is unusually shiny as if it was made of glossy leather. Rat's also have furless tails, but this one is more noticeable. Some people might think it's kind of icky-looking, but I actually see it as a very prominent feature.

The musky rat-kangaroo is also a macropod. All kangaroos are macropods. Once mated, they can have one or two offspring per litter. The female's pouch is big enough for both of them. They will only produce offspring once every year.

Remember how the large kangaroos are known for their great leaps when they run? Most kangaroos tend to hop using only their back legs, but the musky rat-kangaroo also use their forelimbs. They gallop in a manner that is similar to a rabbit--placing their strong back feet in front of their forelimbs mid-gallop. This is very unusual for a kangaroo.

I had a lot of trouble finding research on their basic behaviors. There does not seem to be a huge interest in them--despite their unusual traits. This makes it hard to hone in on a fictional personality. Because of this, I had to look at images of them and try to figure out what they were thinking. Honestly, I think they are little weirdos. They got those creepy-but-cool shiny tails, possum-like thumbs, and rabbit-like traveling methods. They don't seem like they would really fit in with their kangaroo cousins. I think that they must have little rooms somewhere where they talk about weird things, and nobody else is in on the clique. If it is nothing like the real thing, then that just means that it is my imagination at work, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tooie@tooiekangaroo.com. Weird...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Woylie

Remember the boodie? Well, he has a cute little cousin called a woylie. Apparently, everyone in this family tends to have a silly name, but I don't mind it so much. I don't know the meaning of the name, but I did find out that it is based on a word from the Nyungar language used by the indigenous people of south-west Australia.

Their bodies can be as long as 13 inches long with a tail that can be 14 inches long. This tail is prehensile and is generally used to carry things while they run such as nesting material. Like the boodie, the woylie is very rodent-like in appearance--something I always find appealing. They have a sort of yellow-brown fur with a paler version of this color on their belly. They usually have little to no fur on their muzzle and tail. Additionally, the woylie is a macropod--meaning that they have horizontal pouches for their young.

The woylie is mainly a night creature. They are loners as well; although, like any other animal, mating is always a good time to make friends. Females of this species can mate about 6 months after birth, and they will produce a litter about every 3.5 months afterwards.

As far as food, they are omnivores and like various plants and insects; however, that is not their favorite. The woylie's most delectable dish comes in the form of underground fungi. They will use their foreclaws to dig up this fungi and feast upon it as if it was chocolate pudding. There was a time when the woylie actually was doing Australia a service by cleaning up all this fungi out of the ecosystem, but as of late, such things are simply not possible,

The latter statement is true because the woylie is almost entirely gone from this world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has given the woylie a rating of CU or Critically Endangered. This means that the woylie is now in danger of going completely extinct, and it may happen soon. To put this in perspective, the woylie once inhabited 60% of Australias mainland where they now only exist in 1% of it. This drastic decrease comes from several factors--namely the introduction of grazing animals into the region, land clearing for agriculture, and the unfortunate introduction of red foxes who rather like eating the woylies. Sadly, we may not see many woylies for very much longer.

I know of no fiction made for the woylie, but when I try and imagine what a fictional creature will be like, I try to focus on the one or several bits of research that stand out the most. In this case, it was its love of fungi. A particular adoration for something always stands out to me, and with animals, that adoration usually comes in the form of food. That is why I see the woylie as a tinny, little connoisseur. I see them being very opinionated on every type of fungi and would likely make a good chef if given the opportunity.

So, that is the woylie in a nutshell. I hate to see something so cute disappear, but sometimes, that is just the way it goes with some animals. But we can still enjoy them while they are yet here, and even so, there are many other fun marsupials to stare at. That's what I do, you see. I like to stare at them. I stare at them because I like them, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing--except, of course, writing this blog.

On that note, thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tooie@tooiekangaroo.com. [Stare]

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Wombat

Sometimes, you can condense an animal down into a single word. With foxes, you can say clever. With mules, you can say stubborn. In the case of the Australian wombat, the word "fat" suits them perfectly. A wombat who can't properly "shake it" should really be ashamed of itself.

Wombats look like very large rodents with a lot of meat on them. Generally, their body size is about 40 inches with a short stubby tail. They can actually be much bigger though. Domestic wombats--if treated well and fed regularly--can get pretty huge. I'll get into that a little later.

The wombat is a burrower which is just awful if you have a garden nearby. As big as they are, these are not small holes to deal with. They are not macropods; however, they do have pouches that are inverted so as to not scoop up dirt during the burrowing activity. You may remember me bringing up a similar feature on my earlier bilby spotlight.

These marsupials are strict herbivores. Their diets consists of grasses, herbs, roots, and the like. Because of their surprisingly slow metabolism, they can take up to 14 days to digest their food. This also makes them move very slowly--similar to a sloth. The only time they will move quickly is when they are threatened. At this point, they will suddenly go from a ridiculous crawl to a 90 second 25MPH sprint.

It's hard to imagine so much fat running that fast, isn't it? Well, I would suggest not getting in his way. A running wombat tends to be very bowling ball-like. It will knock down and trample anything in its path. Even chain link fences have been known to have holes in them due to this big ball of running chub. Just stay out of its way.

Similar to the boodie, the female wombat--once mated--will give birth in only 21 days. She will only have one offspring as well. A young wombat takes 15 months to wean, and it will become sexually active in 18. Nice and slow, that's how it's done.

The biggest wombat in the world goes by the name of Patrick. Although, I could not figure out how long he was, the pictures suggest he is almost as big as the woman who cares for him. What I do know, however, is his weight: 84 pounds. He is charmingly fat, and if there is anything we can love about a wombat is that he is wonderfully chubby.

There are wombats in fiction. In the Australian book series "Blinky Bill" by Dorothy Wall, there is a wombat character who goes by the name Mister Wombat or Wombo as the lead koala likes to call him. There was also a video game for the nearly forgotten Sega Saturn called Willy Wombat. I can't really tell you much about this game since it has fallen into so much obscurity, but I will provide a picture regardless.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a reoccurring, unofficial mascot kept showing up. It was Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat. This character was more of a tongue-in-cheek gag, but it was still popular. You have to understand that some wombats can be quite annoying to people--what with them bowling over people and destroying fences. This is really how the character came to be.

To quote a character from the video game Metal Gear Solid 2, "Laugh, and grow fat!" The quote really sums wombats up for me. I honestly love how they look, and would adore the chance to give those chubby things a big ol' hug. As characters, I do not think they would be ashamed of their bigness. They would encourage it! They would speak up about all the joys of being large and see themselves as more beautiful for it! This is really what I meant by charmingly fat.

So that's it for the wombats. Although, there are three breeds of them, they are all similar enough to close the book on this particular marsupial. I just want you to know that I really do love them. I already love rodents, and the prospects of a big, fat, lovable one is right up there on my "glorious list." They have easily made it into the marsupial hall-of-fame, and I was very happy to write a blog about them.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tooie@tooiekangaroo.com. Ha! Ha! Ha!



From "Blinky Bill."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Boodie

Here we have another rodent-like marsupial with a silly name. Yes, it shall now be my pleasure to tell you all about the boodie. It's a big boodie too! Indeed, the boodie can average 15 inches from head to tail. The tail is also quite long and somewhat prehensile. It is commonly used to carry nesting material. The boodie resembles a rat with kangaroo feet in many ways, but unlike a rat, its tail is covered in fur with a little white patch at the tip. As their official conservation status is considered "Near Threatened," they can only be found in the off-lying islands of Australia and on the mainland of Shark Bay. Although the boodie is a fun name to say, they are also commonly known as a tungoo, Lesueur's rat-kangaroo, and the short-nosed rat-kangaroo. But I like boodie better.

The boodie is a macropod. This means that they have a large pouch that has a horizontal opening. They are also the only macropod in the world who burrows. They use these borrows for shelter during the day. At night they come out looking for food. Being omnivores, they prefer to eat very little things like tiny plants or very small insects like termites. They are also known for raiding vegetable gardens which do classify them as pests sadly.

The most significant aspect of the boodie is its reproductive qualities. No, I'm serious. I'm not making a joke. Much of my research into this area left me rather fascinated. The boodies are polygamous which basically places more than one female to each male. The females often form what may seem like friendships with each other in boodie society. The males allow this, but they do try to keep other males from messing around with their female boodies. Hehe. Really, it's very hard to write this without laughing. I'm doing my best. I swear it's all based on research.

After two boodies mate, there is a shockingly short gestation period of 21 days. Additionally, there will only ever be one offspring per boodie. That's right: just one. The very second the female has finished giving birth, the male will mate with her again, but here something really odd happens. Once the egg is fertilized, it will go completely dormant until the child has been properly weaned. This is a rare but not unheard of reproductive ability known as facultative embryonic diapause. Only about 100 mammals in our world can do this. Because of their high rate of growth, one female boodie can produce up to three offspring a year.

I think, perhaps, this may be the most shameless display of punning I've done in a while, but I just couldn't resist it. The boodie is still a very interesting creature, and I can see them in fiction as well. Some societies of humans are fond of polygamy, and the boodies as characters would fit right in. Multiple wives would be a norm to them, and the females would become friends with each other as well. I never really saw them as bad people--despite the garden thievery. I am fairly certain they were just trying to provide for their ever-growing families. I would imagine that other visiting marsupials might find their lifestyle a bit too unorthodox, or maybe not.

Agree or disagree with the little guys, they still lead a fascinating life. Here is another reason to love the marsupials, and not just for all the puns; although, the puns are nice too.

Thank you for reading this blog! If you enjoyed it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tooie@tooiekangaroo.com. Boodie call!