Tiny marsupial likes natural mess

Wednesday 4 January, 2023
The Yellow-footed Antechinus is featured as part of the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority’s Grey Box Grassy Woodlands wildlife awareness campaign, supported by the Goulburn Broken CMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

GB CMA project officer, Janice Mentiplay-Smith, said the Yellow-footed Antechinus was a carnivorous marsupial that relied on tree hollows, fallen timber, branches and logs to hide and forage.

“Not only is this feisty little critter a joy to watch dart about the logs and trees, it’s also an important link in the food chain, as it is food for larger predators such as goannas and birds of prey,” Ms Mentiplay-Smith said.

“Although quite tiny, all antechinus are marsupials. They are all members of the dasyurid family, whose relatives include the carnivorous Tasmanian devil, brush-tailed phascogale, quoll and dunnart.”

There are 10 species of antechinus in Australia, with three found in the Goulburn Broken catchment - the agile antechinus (Antechinus agilis), the yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) and the dusky antechinus (Antechinus swainsonii). The Yellow-footed Antechinus is only found in Grey Box Grassy Woodland habitat.

“Currently, the Yellow-footed Antechinus is classified as ‘non-threatened’ in Victoria, however as with many of our native species, we need to remain vigilant, as its survival greatly depends on the actions of humans,” Ms Mentiplay-Smith said.

“Antechinus need natural, messy habitats consisting of logs, branches, sticks, rocks and leaf litter, as this is where its food lives.

“A tidy, cleaned-up, neatly mown habitat with no places for insects to live and no places to dart about and hide, mean no interesting native critters.”

Unlike many marsupials, the Yellow-footed Antechinus forages during the day, feasting upon eggs, small reptiles, insects, nectar, small nestlings and feral house-mice.

Male Antechinus die soon after mating due to stress and lack of nutrients. This is thought to be nature’s way of ensuring sufficient food resources for the next generation as there are no males left to compete with the females and their young.

The Yellow-footed Antechinus may look very much like a non-native house-mouse, but this is where the similarities stop. Antechinus have many sharp teeth, whilst house-mice have chisel-shaped front teeth.

Antechinus have five clawed toes on their front feet and four clawed toes on their back feet. House-mice have four clawed toes and a clawless ‘thumb’ on their front feet, and five clawed toes on their back feet. Antechinus have a furred tail and ‘layered’ round crinkly ears, while house-mice have a bald tail and ‘single layered’ ears.

Read more about the Yellow-footed Antechinus and the 29 other mammal species present in the Goulburn Broken catchment’s Grey Box Grassy Woodlands environments in “The Mammal Book”, a 58-page booklet featuring beautiful photographs – including the Yellow-footed Antechinus on the front cover - and informative text. 

To view, visit the website The Mammal Book - GB CMA - Goulburn Broken CMA

Yellow-footed Antechinus. Photo Chris Tzaros

Yellow-footed Antechinus in a nesting box. Photo GB CMA