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Bandicoots and Bilbies: Peramelidae - Physical Characteristics

true toes ears fur

Peramelidae are Australian bandicoots and bilbies. This family is sometimes referred to as the true bandicoots to distinguish it from the Peroryctidae, or rainforest bandicoots of New Guinea. True bandicoots are small marsupials with long, pointed snouts. They range in size from 6.5 inches (17 centimeters) and 5 ounces (140 grams), or about the size of a mouse, to 23 inches (60 centimeters) and 10.5 pounds (4.8 kilograms), or about the size of a cat.

Bandicoots live and feed on the ground. They have claws to dig for food, and in the case of bilbies, digging burrows. Their front feet have five toes. The middle three toes have strong claws. Toes one and five are either small or absent. On the hind feet, the bones of the second and third toes are joined, but each toe has a separate claw. Bandicoots look something like a cross between a rat and a rabbit. Their hind legs are longer than their front legs and are strong and well developed for hopping and leaping. They are also able to gallop.

Most bandicoots have short rounded ears and a thin, short tail. However, the extinct pig-footed bandicoot had both long ears and a long tail, and the bilby's ears are very large. All bandicoots have good hearing and a good sense of smell, but poor eyesight. They are nocturnal, or active at night, when their sense of smell and hearing are important in helping them locate food.

True bandicoots live mainly in dry areas. Their fur ranges from dark brown to gray and they are normally darker on their back than on their belly, allowing them to blend into the deserts and dry grasslands where they live. Most bandicoots are solid colored, although a few, such as the eastern barred bandicoot, are striped. The fur of true bandicoots is soft when compared to the harsh, spiky fur of the rainforest bandicoots.

Bandicoots and Bilbies: Peramelidae - Diet [next]

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