Rock-Haunting Ringtail Possum, Petropseudes dahlia
The rock-haunting ringtail possum or the rock ringtail possum (Petropseudes dahlia) is a species that is native to Australia. Its range includes Kimberly, Groote Eylandt, and the area just past the Queensland border, and extends from Arnhem Land and Gulf of Carpentaria to the Northern Territory in Western Australia. It prefers a habitat within rocky areas. This species is the sole member of its genus, Petropseudes.
The rock-haunting ringtail possum differs in size depending upon the sex, with females growing slightly larger than males. Females can reach an average body length between 13.7 and 15 inches while males reach an average body length between 13.1 and 14.7 inches. Both males and females can reach an average weight between 2.8 and 4.4 pounds. The coloring of this species can vary from reddish black to grey, with a light cream underbelly. White patches of fur occur just below the ears and around the eyes. It holds a black stripe of fur that extends from the top of the head to the lower back. Although it has the prehensile tail that is common to possum species, this tail is not covered with fur at the tip.
The rock-haunting ringtail possum gathers in close-knit familial groups of up to ten individuals, although four is more common. Adults will remain close to their young staying within 6.5 and 9.8 feet. The family can be seen spending most of its time within rock crevices, emerging at night to forage for food. This species uses scent markings to communicate. All adults of this species have a gland on the chest, and males bear a paracloacal gland on the belly. Using these glands, as well as urine and feces, the rock-haunting ringtail possum can strictly mark its home range. It is known to use quiet grunts and screeches to communicate as well.
Both male and female rock-haunting ringtail possums will hold a territory of about 22.2 acres on average. Most home ranges are shared by one female and one male, which hold a strong monogamous bond. The bond is known as obligate monogamy, which is displayed when both sexes take control of rearing young and controlling where and when a familial group moves. This type of bond is also seen by the strength of the bond between parents and young. Both males and females will hug their young, and females will “bridge” their bodies across branches to allow the young to cross, which is a unique trait to this species. Older siblings also take part in raising young possums.
There is no defined breeding season for the rock-haunting ringtail possum, although females have been seen carrying a large baby in their pouch and a smaller baby on their back in March, July, August, and September. The pregnancy period of this species is not known, but relatives are known to be pregnant for sixteen to thirty days. The first five weeks of the newborn’s life are spent within the pouch, while older possums will ride on the mother or father’s back. Parents will protect their young by keeping them close, watching for predators, and displaying defensive behaviors like beating their tails on trees.
The diet of the rock-haunting ringtail possum consists of leaves, flowers, and fruits of trees within its range. It is also known to consume termites. When feeding, it will remain as close as possible to its rocky shelter. Dingos, owls, feral cats, domestic dogs, and humans, among other creatures, can hunt this species. This possum will try to deter any possible threats, instead of waiting to defend itself against predators, beating a tree with its tail and causing it to shake violently. If it encounters danger, its first reaction is to run and hide its head in a rocky crevice, leaving its body exposed. The rock haunting ringtail possum appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”
Image Caption: Pseudochirus dahli. Credit: Shyamal/Wikipedia