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Honey Possums

Honey Possums

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Published by draculavanhelsing
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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: draculavanhelsing on Jun 12, 2013
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01/19/2014

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1
FAUNA
 of 
 AUSTRALIA
33. TARSIPEDIDAE
ELEANOR M. RUSSELL &MARILYN B. RENFREE
 
33. TARSIPEDIDAE2
 
33. TARSIPEDIDAE3
DEFINITION AND GENERAL DESCRIPTION
The single species of the Family Tarsipedidae, the Honey Possum,
Tarsipesrostratus
, is differentiated from all other small marsupials on the combined basisof its long pointed snout, three longitudinal dorsal stripes and its teeth which,other than the procumbent lower incisors, are reduced to tiny pegs.
HISTORY OF DISCOVERY
Paris Museum specimens, as
Tarsipes rostratus
, were described by M. PaulGervais who, in his own name and that of M. Jules Verreaux, read a lengthydescription and presented illustrations at the Scientific Meeting of theZoological Society of London on January 11, 1842 (Gervais & Verreaux 1842).Specimens sent to the British Museum by Capt. George Grey, later Governor of South Australia, were described as
T. spenserae
by J.E. Gray, also in 1842 (Gray1842). Mahoney (1981) showed that the senior synonym is
rostratus
as thedescription given by Gervais & Verreaux to the Zoological Society of London
appeared in the account of the 19th February meeting of the SociétéPhilomatique de Paris published in
 L’Institut, Paris
on March 3, 1842, (Anon1842), thus preceding Gray's published description by a mere 5 days.Gould (1845a) illustrated the Honey Possum in his work on Australianmammals, having directed his collector Gilbert to obtain several specimens fromSwan River and King George Sound. Gilbert apparently had difficulty obtainingspecimens.‘The Tarsipes is generally found in all situations suited to its existence fromSwan River to King George's Sound, but from its rarity and the difficultywith which it is procured, notwithstanding the high rewards I offered, thenatives only brought me four specimens; one of these, a female, I kept alivefor several months, and it soon became so tame as to allow itself to becaressed in the hand without evincing any fear or making any attempt toescape. It is strictly nocturnal, sleeping during the greater part of the day andbecoming exceedingly active at night: when intent upon catching flies itwould sit quietly in one corner of its cage, eagerly watching theirmovements, as, attracted by the sugar, they flew around; and when a fly wasfairly within its reach it bounded as quick as lightning and seized it withunerring aim, then would eat it at leisure, sitting tolerably erect and holdingthe fly between its fore-paws, and always rejecting the head, wings and legs.The artificial food given it was sopped bread made very sweet with sugar,into which it inserted its long tongue precisely in the way in which theHoney-eaters among birds do theirs into the flower-cups for honey; everymorning the sop was completely honey-combed, as it were, from themoisture having been drained from it by the repeated insertion of the tongue;a little moistened sugar on the end of the finger would attract it from one partof the cage to the other; and by this means an opportunity may be readilyobtained for observing the beautiful prehensile structure of the tongue, whichI have frequently seen protruded for nearly an inch beyond the nose; theedges of the tongue near the tip are slightly serrated. The tail is prehensile,and is used when the animal is climbing precisely like that of the Hepoona.The eyes, although small, are extremely prominent and are placed very neareach other; the ears are generally carried quite erect. When sleeping theanimal rests upon the lower part of the back, with its long nose bent downbetween its fore-feet and its tail brought over all and turned down the back.Mr. Johnson Drummond shot a pair in the act of sucking the honey from the

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