Quolls!

March 1, 2013 • 10:07 am

by Matthew Cobb

As a special 5000th-post-day present to you all, here are some True Facts About the Quoll. How can you resist an animal called a quoll? The quoll – a carnivorous marsupial – is about the size of a cat, and apparently occupying a similar niche in Australia. Here’s one:

This quoll is spotted – hence its name, Dasyurus maculatus. For reasons best know to Aussies, it used to be called the Tiger Cat. The spotted tail quoll (above), Dasyurus maculatus maculatus, is found in eastern Australia, down to Tasmania, mainly in rainforest and wet forest. Another subspecies lives in northern coastal regions.

Quolls are currently endangered because of habitat fragmentation (which includes its den sites), competition from feral mammals and its unfortunate habit of eating cane toads, a giant introduced species that is poisonous. Conservationists are trying to condition the quolls not to eat cane toads.

Quolls prey on birds as well as toads, and will fight with the extremely scary Tasmanian Devil over food. They are nocturnal (hence the spots, I would guess) and will utter a very scary piercing scream if disturbed. (Photos from ARKive):

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They have two colour phases – ginger/brown (above) and black:

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Here’s a video of someone bottle feeding a baby spotted tail quoll:

There is another quoll, the Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus), which now appears to be limited to Tasmania. You can find more about the last mainland Australian sightings of the Eastern Quoll here. Here’s a video of an Eastern Quoll, complete with inappropriate music:

There is also a Northern Quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus. And the compass being what it is, there is also a Western Quoll called a Chudditch. Here’s a baby Chudditch:

There are also two species of quoll found in New Guinea – the New Guinea Quoll and the Bronze Quoll.

Quolls do not have pouches like a kangaroo, but an area of skin around the teats grows to create a flap of skin that contains the young. To tell the reproductive status of a female quoll, you  look into the ”pouch”. In the follicular phase, the area turns red, while post-ovulation it becomes wet and deep. This is also true of the Tasmanian Devil, though probably a bad idea, as the Devil has Very Big Teeth. This abstract describes the procedure in more detail… I wouldn’t try it at home, though.

If you’re in Australia and spot a quoll (or want to!), go here.

[Based on a post at Z-letter.com from 2009]

17 thoughts on “Quolls!

      1. I don’t know all that many blue headed people so the question never came up. I have known a few Blueys though. And a really tall guy will often be known as “Shorty”. Australians like irony.

  1. I am not sure I had ever heard of quolls before. I learned something new today. Thank you. And thank you for mentioning Macdonald’s Encyclopedia of Mammals in a previous post. Bought myself a copy the other day and it is truly great. I’ll be spending some time reading about marsupials later tonight.

    Australia does have some of the most wonderful fauna (and flora) on this planet. One reason it’s right up there at the top of my “places to absolutely visit” list, together with Madagascar and New Zealand.

  2. Some years ago, my local youth soccer league was running out of names for teams, and requested suggestions for names. Names were supposed to be related, so that it would be easy to associate teams in a particular age division. I suggested marsupiont mammals: Possums, Opossums, Koalas, Devils, Wallabies, Wallaroos, Kangaroos, Dibblers, Gliders, Thylacines, Wombats, Bandicoots, Platypuses, Echidnas, Yapoks, Duckbills, and, of course, the Quolls.

    1. Yes indeed (Spotted-tailed). Other continents have their lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!) but Australia is a bit depauperate in large mammalian carnivores. The dingo (early east-Asian wolf domesticate, imported about 5000 years back) is the closest we have, as a kind of stand-in for the lately departed thylacine.

      It might not be obvious from the outside (it’s charitable to pretend…), but marsupial brains are significantly smaller than those of analogous placental mammals; this leaves space for a greater quantity of jaw adductor muscles, and they have the strongest bites for mammals of their size. I was bitten by a phascogale once – much smaller relative of the quolls – and it cracked a thumbnail. Much more powerful than any bite from a d-g or cat in my experience. If I ever trap a quoll, even the small northern species (which is expected as part of my current job) I’ll be very careful near those jaws.

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