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Rat-Kangaroos: Potoroidae

Northern Bettong Bettongia Tropica; Species Account

Physical characteristics: Northern bettongs are about the size of a rabbit, except that their tails are nearly as long as its head and body combined. The length of the head and body is usually about 15 inches (38 centimeters) and the length of the tail is usually about 14 inches (36 centimeters). Northern bettongs weigh about 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms). The back legs are much larger and stronger than the front legs. The head tapers to a pointed snout, and they have small, slightly pointed ears. The fur on the belly is much lighter in color than the rest of the fur. Female northern bettongs have four nipples and a forward-opening pouch.

Geographic range: The northern bettong lives on the northeast coast of Australia.

Northern bettongs eat mainly truffles, a type of fungus that grows underground. They use their well-developed sense of smell to find the fungus, and then dig for it using their sharp claws. (Illustration by Bruce Worden. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Northern bettongs usually live in areas of forest that are open and have grass on the forest floor. These areas are often found along the edge of tropical rainforests.

Diet: Northern bettongs, like many rat-kangaroos, eat mainly truffles, a type of fungus that grows underground. It also eats cockatoo grass.

Behavior and reproduction: The young of the northern bettong are born after twenty-one days and are immature, like the young of all marsupials. The young then move into the pouch where they remain for 106 days (about three and a half months) before they are mature enough to live outside the pouch.

Northern bettongs and people: Northern bettongs do not have any known significance to humans, except to the scientists who study them.

Conservation status: Northern bettongs are Endangered, which means that they face a high risk of going extinct in the wild. The main reasons it is endangered are loss of habitat due to clearing of land for agriculture and the destruction of habitat through fires. The red fox, which is not native to Australia, may also prey on the northern bettong, leading to reduced numbers. Conservation measures are being taken through the maintenance of two captive breeding populations of northern bettongs. ∎



Triggs, Barbara. Tracks, Scats and Other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Woods, Samuel G. Sorting Out Mammals: Everything You Want to Know About Marsupials, Carnivores, Herbivores, and More! Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Marketing, 1999.

Other sources:

Berry, Ruth, and Mark Chapman. ABC TV Documentaries: Hypsi: The Forest Gardener Aired: January 16, 2001. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/documentaries/stories/s231600.htm (Web site accessed on June 30, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsRat-Kangaroos: Potoroidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Rat-kangaroos And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT