Common Planigale, Planigale maculate

The common planigale (Planigale maculate), also known as the coastal planigale or the pygmy planigale, is a marsupial that can be found in Australia. Its range is larger than that of its relatives, extending from the Hunter River valley to just north of Sydney, along the coast to Cape York. Its range also includes the area from Kimberley to the Top End of Australia, Great Keppel Island, and Groote Eylandt. It resides in a number of habitats including grasslands, rainforests, marshlands, and sclerophyll forests. The species was described in 1851 by John Gould and holds two subspecies. It has a stable population in a large range, so it appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”

The common planigale is small, although it is the largest species in its genus, reaching an average body length of 3.9 inches and a weight of .53 ounces in males. Its body shape resembles that of a shrew and a mouse, so it is sometimes called a mouse marsupial. Its fur is light grey-yellow on the underbelly, but can vary from a reddish brown color to grey along the rest of the body, excluding the hairless tail.

The common planigale is typically nocturnal and prefers to reside on the ground, near areas with plenty of vegetation cover and a steady water source. Although nesting behavior has not been studied in the wild, in captivity, females build community nests out of plant materials like grasses and bark. During the winter season, if conditions allow, this species may search for food during the day, but if conditions are bad, it will often enter a deep sleep or torpor in order to conserve energy. The main diet of this species consists of smaller insects and arthropods, although it will sometimes consume larger insects and small animals like birds or lizards.

In captivity, the common planigale can breed many times throughout the year, individuals can only breed if they are over 290 days of age. After nineteen to twenty days, five to eleven young are born and move into the mother’s pouch, where they remain for up to twenty-eight days. Most young begin consuming solid food at around fifty-five days of age and are weaned at seventy days.

Image Caption: Planigale maculata (orig. Antechinus maculatus). Credit: John Gould/Wikipedia