Antechinus is a genus of marsupials in the Dasyuridae family that can be found in Australia and New Guinea. Its range includes Tasmania and other outlying areas of Australia. Common names for members of this species include pouched mice, broad-footed marsupial mice, and antechinus shrews, but these names are often considered outdated or limited to certain regions of the species’ range. They can reside in a number of habitats including temperate rainforests, healthy woodlands, swamps, and arid and moist eucalypt forests. Species classified within this genus include the tropical antechinus and the dusky antechinus.
Antechinuses are small, reaching an average body length between 3.1 and 4.7 inches and a weight between .5 and 5.9 ounces. Males are typically larger than females, displaying a sexual dimorphism, and the smallest of all species within this genus is the agile antechinus. Members of this genus have sort fur that varies in color from black or brown to grey or cinnamon. They resemble shrews with their long pointy snouts, long whiskers, and large ears. All of the species within this genus are carnivores, consuming invertebrates like spiders and weevils. Some species prefer to reside on the ground while others primarily move about in trees, but most are found nesting in tree hollows.
Both males and females of most Antechinus species are semelparous, which means that each individual lives only long enough to breed once. The breeding season for most species occurs between the months of August and September. Males are territorial and will spend as much as twelve hours breeding without a break, which causes a massive die-off of males after breeding is completed. After breeding, females store sperm for up to four days and they will not allow the egg to be fertilized until the end of the breeding season. The number of young produced depends upon the number of teats within the female’s pouch, which can range from four to ten, although eight is common. Females can live to be three years old, but most only live until their first litter is weaned.
Image Caption: Antechinus. Credit: Achim Raschka/Wikipedia