Bettongs Potoroos and Musky Rat-Kangaroos.
Andrew Claridge/John Seebeck/Randy Rose (CSIRO Publishing)
have not coped well with the impact of European settlement in Australia. Of the
11 species present in 1788, two are extinct, two are either mostly or totally
restricted to offshore islands and the range of all other species has been much
reduced. Habitat alienation, altered fire regimes, grazing, predation by
introduced carnivores, competition from rabbits and timber harvesting have
variously taken their toll on these little-seen animals.
The rat-kangaroo was one of the first Australian marsupials to be seen alive in
Europe. Collected close to the settlement at Sydney Cove, a pair of them were
exhibited in London in 1789. These animals were called by the local Aboriginal
people 'Pot-o-roo', and by the European settlers, 'Kangooroo rat'. They were
the Long-nosed Potoroo, Potorous tridactylus, the first of what we now
call 'Rat-kangaroos' to be discovered.
Bettongs, Potoroos and the Musky Rat-kangaroo provides an extraordinary
glimpse into the secretive lives of these unusual marsupials. It also reveals
little-known facts about the critical functional role these creatures play in
maintaining the forest and woodland habitats in which they live