The Honey Possum: the nectar eater

Honey Possum
Courtesy: Wikipedia

This little marsupial no more than 6 cm in length, Tarsipes rostratus, is a remnant of a very old family with no real connection to possums or any other living marsupials today. It is also called tait or noolbenger in it’s native Western Australia.

It is the only living member of its family and has found a great ecological niche because it’s primary food, nectar, is available all year only in South West Australia. Recent DNA research suggests that this creature probably most closely related to the Monito del Monte of South America.

This animal feeds almost exclusively on nectar and  pollen. It also needs to feed almost continuously because of its nutrient poor diet; very much like the hummingbird. It has to pee a lot and can urinate it’s body weight on any given day. It will not make a good pet, I bet. So let’s stick to the low maintenance hamster.

It has a long snout with bristles to catch pollen. It’s teeth are peg-like, transparent and mostly evolved to get out of the way of a darting tongue. This organ  measures 1.5 cm and is brush-tipped to be inserted inside the flowers and soak up the nectar. The Honey Possum particularly likes Banksias and other plants of this family found in the Western Australian coastlands. It has a prehensile tail to hang on to branches and stabilize the body. It’s feet have opposable digits to hang on to branches better and have rough pads to help again in gripping the boughs better.

The remarkable creature has another interesting adaptation. The size of the semen is the largest among mammals. It is perhaps because a female mates often with a lot of males and so the semen have to be large to fight off others and fertilize the egg cells. The young are usually born as twins and are the smallest mammal at birth, weighing in at 0.0005g. They are out of the pouch within a couple of months though. Impressive growth, hunh?

At this time, these creatures are not in danger but the scourge of habitat destruction can make their situation very dire at anytime so they are a protected species in Australia.

About mammal 61 Articles
I blog about mammals and all the interesting and fun-filled facts about them will be welcome additions to this blog.

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