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Bandicoots and Bilbies: Peramelemorphia

Physical Characteristics

Peramelemorphia is an order of small ground-dwelling marsupials known as bandicoots and bilbies. All species in this order live either in Australia, New Guinea, or a few nearby Indonesian islands. Although some of the species in this order have been classified differently in the past, current genetic evidence has led scientists to divide this order into two families, the Peramelidae and the Peroryctidae. The Peramelidae include the true bandicoots of Australia and the bilbies. The Peroryctidae are made up of the spiny bandicoots of the New Guinea rainforest.

Bandicoots and bilbies look like a cross between a rabbit and a rat. They range in size from 6.5 to 23 inches (17 to 60 centimeters), excluding tail length, and weigh from 0.3 to 10.5 pounds (0.1 to 4.8 kilograms). Their tails are usually short in proportion to their bodies.

Bandicoots and bilbies have small pointed snouts and ears that are usually short and rounded. One exception is the greater bilby which has long rabbit-like ears. Most species have thin, rat-like tails, and their fur is usually solid earth tone colors. The fur of the rainforest bandicoots is harsh and spiny.

The front legs of most species in this order are adapted for digging. The front feet have strong claws on toes two, three, and four. Toes one and five are either absent or very small and clawless. The hind limbs are strong and muscular, allowing these animals to leap and hop like a rabbit. However, they are also able to run at a fast gallop. On the hind legs, the bones of the second and third toe are fused, joined into one, but still have separate claws. This pattern of fused toes suggests that these animals may have evolved from the Diprotodonta family.

Bandicoots and bilbies are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Members of this order have teeth that are adapted to this diet. Their tooth pattern suggests that they may have evolved from the Dasyuromorphia order (Australasian carnivorous marsupials). Because of the conflicting physical evidence, scientists remain unsure exactly which other marsupial families are their closest relatives.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsBandicoots and Bilbies: Peramelemorphia - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Bandicoots, Bilbies, And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT