Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Sugar Glider

Sugar gliders are a totally cute marsupial with a totally cute name. They are also one of the more popular creatures in Australia, so this will be a fun spotlight. This marsupial is actually capable of flight! They glide using underarm flaps similar to the flying squirrels. In fact, much of their behavior is very similar to the flying squirrel, yet they are not related to them at all. Hey, why not? It's just more to love in the world.

The sugar glider is very small being only 13 inches from head to tail tip. The most they will ever weigh is 140 grams--115 grams for the females. Another interesting aspect of this cute, little thing is it's swift heart rate--up to 200 beats per minute. Human beings only go as high as about 100.

Sugar gliders are one of a number of gliding possums from Australia. They will climb up to a high branch of a tree where they will make a launch. Once they are in the air, they can glide safely for about 165 feet. They do rapidly drop lower and lower the more they glide at a rate of 3 feet for every 6 feet traveled. This is sufficient enough to gain a lot of ground very quickly.

Their eyes are set apart which may look a little weird, but they are actually set that way to assist with triangulating between launch and landing locations. That's right: they work it out in their heads before take off. The reason they glide at all is because hunting around for food is very energy consuming of itself. Gliding is a very low energy maneuver, and it lessens the stress while they search for food below. These marsupials are omnivores. They love insects the most, but they do have an intense sweet tooth which accounts for their adorable name.

Although some sugar gliders can be loners, the majority of them are very social. They form up into groups that are ruled by two dominant males. These two males will fight off any strangers, but they will never, ever fight each other. They even share food with one another. This arrangement is referred to as male co-domination, and it struck me as peculiar.

Once mated, the female sugar glider will only have one or two babies per litter. Two is far more common. That may not seem like much, but the gestation period of a sugar glider is a very shocking 17 days. Needless to say, they are under no threat of extinction. The females also have pouches, and I just know you must be wondering if they can still fly while carrying young. The answer is a resounding yes! They most certainly can continue to fly with babies in their pouch. There is even a strong layer of tissue that separate the children in the pouch called a septum. This prevents them from being hurt during the landing.

Sugar gliders also make wonderful pets. What you may not expect is that they are super popular in the US. Sugar gliders are mass bred here for that very reason; however, if you live in California, Hawaii, or Alaska, you are not allowed to keep one.

Sugar gliders are in fiction but not very often as main characters. They are generally cute back-up characters that are there to be endearing. Because of this, I don't have any works to reference. What I can tell from studying them is that a sugar glider as a main character would be very hyper and perhaps a little nervous. They would always want something to do--a quest, an errand, something they can do for someone. They could easily make wonderful mailmen! As long as they are keeping busy, they will enjoy themselves. I can't imagine a sugar glider being lazy--not with a heart rate like that.

Just look at these guys! They are adorable! I would even go so far as to say that they are even cuter than the flying squirrels. Apologies to any squirrels reading this, but that's just how I see it. They are tiny, little busy bodies that work hard to get things done. They are also very cute. Did I mention that they were cute?! Just look at them and decide for yourselves.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Thylacine

Heads up! I'm wrapping up my Marsupial Spotlights within the next weeks. I'll be moving on to new spotlights after that. But there are still more marsupials to deal with, and I shall be happy to introduce you to them.

The thylacine is a very strange marsupial that looks like a really odd cross between a mountain cat and a dog. It also has some very interesting stripes on its back that get very thick and defined around its rump. They are very cool to look at. Size-wise, they are 51 inches long with a very long tail of 26 inches. Since they are strict quadrupeds, I find it important to inform you that they have a shoulder height of 24 inches.

Thylacines are strict carnivores. They hunt other marsupials such as kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats. Although they have a mountain cat look to them, they have something of a stiff gait. Because of this, they cannot run very fast. Instead, the thylacines will sneak up on their prey and perform a bipedal hop upon the unfortunate animal. Standing on back legs is not hard for marsupials in general. It comes naturally to this marsupial too; however, they prefer walking on all-fours.

Like most marsupials, the thylacine has a pouch. They breed all year; although, they prefer doing it in winter and spring. They have 4 cubs per litter and will carry their children in their pouch for up to 3 months.

Now, I have been a little deceptive in how I've been writing this blog. It's time to come clean. Firstly, let me just say that I really like this animal. I have watched a lot of videos of them. They have a spring to their step which is cute. They make little barking sounds which are described as "yip-yap," "cay-yip," or "hop-hop-hop!" Their stripes are awesome. I love everything about them and long to write stories about them; I probably will too. But there is a problem.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has the thylacines listed under the rating of EX. As of 1939, the thylacine is extinct. There is nothing I can do about that, but when I see those videos of them while they were still alive, they still seem like a very real and living creature. At the very least, this creature was documented in modern times, and I was able to learn about them as if they were still around.

Guess what! The thylacine has been immortalized in fiction as well! To name a few, there is a video game called "Ty the Tasmanian Tiger" which features a very cool looking thylacine who wields a boomerang. I have not played the game... yet. I want to though. The title is totally appropriate. Thylacines were often called Tasmanian tigers. The game has had two sequels since it came out in 2002, and the original game has been remade in HD recently for modern systems. Needless to say, it did well.

In the recently mentioned TV show "Taz-Mania," there was a living thylacine character named Wendell T. Wolf. He claimed to be the last surviving Tazmanian wolf. He did not like being alone despite being so lonely in the world. I think that is actually kind of sad. Despite officially being a thylacine, he looked nothing like them.

Lastly, there was a thylacine in literature. In the children's book called "Tiger Tales" by Steve Isham, you will learn an Aboriginal story about how the thylacine gained his stripes. It sounds very interesting. After all, I love those stripes!

For me, I see the thylacines as a tribal race of silly warriors. If you watch the videos of them, they are very jumpy. I see them as very talkative and friendly with those they are allied with, but if you are not among their clique, they will try and kill or capture you... and, I don't know... maybe put you in a cage and make fun of you or something. That sounds about right.

Even though I was not around when the thylacines were, I do love them. I wish they were still around. Pull up a video of them sometime and watch how they act. It's very peculiar and even fun! As long as we enjoy their memory, we can keep creating with them. An active imagination never lets anything cool fade away forever.

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

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger

Wendell T. Wolf

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Fat-Tailed Dunnart

The fat-tailed dunnart is very small when compared to its other marsupial cousins. They usually don't get much bigger than 3.5 inches long. Marsupials are known for being very big, but this little mouse-like creature is a strong exception to that rule. They do, however have nice, big ears and, of course, their tails are quite special as you shall soon see. They can be found in a very good portion of Australia and are closely related to the quoll and Tasmanian devil.

Fat-tailed dunnarts are strict carnivores. They are known to devour beetles, spider larvae. small reptiles, and also amphibians. It is a little surprising to see a marsupial so tiny keep away from plant life, but there it is.

It must also be said that this marsupial generally lives in some extreme, semi-arid environments; although, it can live just fine in a nicer place. It has a a sort of daily plan programmed into it so that it knows how to react to every part of the day. It usually rests at night when the temperatures are low. High temperatures can cause energy loss problems, and it's body takes heavy advantage of this lull. In the day time, it spends as much time eating as it can. If there are food shortages, it will go on a far more intense feeding frenzy in order to make up for it. If there is food out there, the fat-tailed dunnart WILL find it.

The fat-tailed dunnart is all about balancing exertion with rest--basically energy management. That is also where the fat tail comes in. The dunnart's tail is swelled at the base and thins out towards the tip. Fat is stored here to make up for unforeseen imbalances in nature. It allows the marsupial to adapt easier whenever it needs to. Remember that, in the wild, animals are more likely to have a problem with a loss of resources than with an overabundance. The fat tail is a good safeguard against the more likely problem. After all, the fat-tailed dunnart is, by its very nature, a model survivor.

And here we come to the fiction portion of the blog. No, I could not find any dunnarts in any books or movies. Few marsupials get the literary treatment, but here, I think there may just be a missed opportunity. By now, you must see that the fat-tailed dunnart represents the epitome of the survivalist. To make a "Tremors" reference, they are the "Burt Gummer" of the marsupial class. Put them into almost any environment, and they will do everything and anything to stay alive, and you can imagine how hard that can be when your only 3 inches big. Nothing is wasted; every last resource will be used to its fullest. A hardcore survivalist--that is the fat-tailed dunnart as a person.

I do find it strange that I am inventing such a strong-willed character after something so small, but you have to remember that all sizes are relative to their unique environments. Even we have, in the past, had to deal with creatures larger than ourselves. We have also thrived in the most unfriendly of environments. We adapt better than anything else, but the fat-tailed dunnart is not that far off. In fact, they live every day under the oppressive world that surrounds it... and it lives.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Ringtail Possum

The ringtail possum is this odd combination of cute and weird. I am not talking so much about their habits as much as I am about how they look. I'll get back into that after dropping a few details about this interesting marsupial.

The ringtail possum is 13 inches long with a prehensile tail that is the same length as its body. It has grey fur with white patches behind the eyes and a cream-colored belly. The tail has a white tip that commonly covers 25% of the appendage. They can been found on the east coast of Australia and also parts of Tasmania.

As far as I could tell, these guys are herbivores. They love fresh, young leaves and usually avoid the old or brittle ones. This is a good diet to have since the ringtail possum usually spends all of its time up in trees. They even build nests up there where they take care of their young similar to birds. But there is something else you may or may not want to know about their eating habits.

The ringtail possum does not digest food in the same way as most animals. I know this is kind of gross, but just hear me out. They will only partially digest a meal and then defecate. After a little nap, they will re-ingest the faeces and finish digesting it to get the most out of the nutrients in the food. Sound strange? Rabbits do this too.

These marsupials are known for being gregarious and even form large treetop communities called dreys. They all get to know each other and sometimes they form into mates. If a ringtail possum shows up from a strange drey, they are NOT welcome and are driven off. This is, after all, a gated treetop community. There is even a neighborhood watch.

Like all possums, the ringtail possum is not a macropod, but they do have pouches. They have 1 to 2 offspring per litter, and this is usually once a year. The young will remain in the pouch feeding off mother's milk which changes in formula as the child needs different kinds of nutrition. They will leave the pouch in about 130 days in search of more solid food.

Now, what I was referring to at the beginning of this blog was that the ringtail possum looks both cute and weird at the same time. They have fluffy bodies which is cute, but their eyes are kind of wonky and have a habit of staring into your soul. But they also are kind of goofy, so it's not entirely creepy. I like looking at them regardless, and that is reason enough to write a spotlight about them.

In fiction, I see them living like Ewoks up in treetop villages. They occasionally have little javelin battles with other dreys, and honestly the whole idea is super cute. Violent, but cute. I mean how could I NOT pick this for their fictional selves. How awesome would it be to live like that?

Yes, I am sure there are more interesting marsupials out there, but this guy still caught my attention. Having lived in a treehouse myself, I had to give this fellow a say.

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Marsupial Spotlight: Numbat

I recently ran into information about a marsupial called a numbat. The name jumped out at me, and I dug deeper to see if it would be interesting. For your information, I do not spotlight all species of a type. I only pick out the ones that catch my attention. In this case, my attention was indeed captured.

The numbat is a marsupial found in Western Australia and is also used as their local emblem. They are small with very vibrant colors and varying patterns that delight the eye. They can be as big as 18 inches long. They also have a very pointed snout which is why they are sometimes referred to as the marsupial anteater. Honestly, I find them to be very pretty creatures--very lovely to look upon. How much fun would it be to have one of these cuties for a pet?

Numbats may look similar to anteaters, but they do not eat ants at all. In fact, their diet is rather unusual. They ONLY eat termites, and that is all. I have never before seen an animal have such an exclusive diet. They shun all other things entirely--even water. Surprised? Numbats live in very arid environments where water is scarce. They get all the water they need from the bodies of those termites. It isn't much, but it is all he actually needs to survive.

Now, in this region, termites live in little concrete castles that they build themselves. These structures are extremely hard, and despite the numbat having sharp claws, they cannot break into them. For this reason, the numbat will simply adjust his wake schedule to fit in with the termite's active cycles. The marsupial may have a different wake period depending on a number of factors which include temperature, location, and season. Once the termites are accessible, the numbat will use his sticky tongue to probe the colony for their treats.

This may be a callback to my Mustelidae Spotlights, but did you know the numbat has a scent gland? It is not really used for defense at all, however. It is a territory marker. Male numbats dislike other males, but they will allow in the opposite sex for obvious reasons. Two numbats can produce one litter of four per year; however, if something unfortunate happens to this litter, they can produce a second to make up for it.

Another remarkably unusual aspect of the numbat is the lack of a pouch. This is quite uncommon. Pouches and marsupials almost always go together. Instead, the numbat seems to mimic a more traditional mammal by having its teats on the outside; although, they are modestly covered by some crimped, golden hairs that grow over them. Good to see they still keep their dignity in check.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has given the numbat a rating of EN which means they are now officially endangered. Although, this is troublesome to hear, there are three worse ratings then that. The numbat is struggling in the same manner as the woylie due to the unfortunate introduction of foxes into the region. It already was struggling with its natural predators such as the little eagle, brown goshawk, collared sparrowhawk, and carpet python, yet the numbat was still thriving quite well taking up much of the whole of Southern Australia. The foxes caused an imbalance which offset the whole thing, and now they are in trouble.

Other then some mostly unheard-of children's books, there really is no good fiction for the numbat. I am quite fascinated by their pretty looks and their religious diet. Yes, they are loners, but that does not mean others will fail to admire them. I mean... I admire them. I can't stop looking at them. They have a sort of lovely symmetry that I find appealing. And those colors and stripes! I think that as fictional characters they will be adored, and the numbats will accept said adoration. And this may work in their favor when a restaurant does not serve the one thing they want to eat. Sometimes clout comes with beauty. I am sure the waiter will go out of his way to provide the finest termite stew in all the country for something as lovely as Miss Numbat.

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