Q is for Quoll.

The latin name for a Quoll is Dasyurus which translates as ‘hairy-tail’. Quolls are known as the ‘native cat’ to Australia and New Guinea. They are known as this because, from a distance, they bare a striking resemblance to a cat. They are usually found in woodland and grassland. They can climb trees, jump extraordinary distances and are usually found patrolling the ground below trees and in and around bushes. In total there are 6 species of Quoll, each ranging in size and weight. The largest, the Tiger Quoll, can weigh as much as 18 lbs. They are known for their carnivorous diet; eating small mammals and birds. In fact, the Tiger Quoll is one of the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world!

Being a marsupial, a Quoll has a pouch in which they carry their young. However, the Quoll is a little strange in that they have a pouch which is found on the back of the animal. The pouch is also not always visible and is only revealed when the female becomes pregnant. The pouch develops from folds in the female’s abdomen and becomes pronounced on the exterior back of the animal. The actual act of ‘doing the deed’ is a rather violent one. For example, in the Northern Quoll species, the females all come into heat at the same time. This means that a mass ‘free for all’ takes place amongst the males. A ‘successful’ male is one who is able to grab the neck of a female between its jaws and drag her away to a place in which to reproduce in. This ‘ordeal’ usually takes place for 3 or so hours but can take place for the entire day!

It is rather easy to identify whether or not a male and a female are ready to breed; if the two are found in the same area, then they are ready to reproduce!  This is because the Quoll genders are almost exclusively solitary. They very rarely meet up and when they do, the reason for their meeting is to have sex. Bizarrely, the only other time a male and a female Quoll may meet up is to go to the bathroom. Quolls often ‘build’ large, communal toilet areas. The toilets, like latrines in trenches, are dug into the ground and are shared by all the Quolls in a particular territory.  These group toilets can contain well over 100 separate droppings and more latrines are always being dug up for further use.

Many of the Quolls are endangered. One of the reasons for this is the introduction of invasive species into the habitats. For example, the Cane Toad (which was introduced in 1935), are extremely poisonous and have caused the death of many Eastern Quolls who have eaten them. Another invasive species is the fox. The fox not only competes with the Quolls for food like rabbits, they also prey upon the Quolls when the food supply is limited. The Quolls are also seen as ‘evolutionary backwards’ in some of their behaviours and traits. For example, the Northern Quoll have been shown to be unable to distinguish the mating call of its own species. Not only that, but they have been unable to distinguish between the call of a fox and the call of a cow!

Further, the Northern Quoll, despite producing upwards of 30 young in one birth, only has 6 nipples and therefore can only support 6 children. This means that it is only the first 6 to the mother who will survive. The final downfall of the Quoll is that it seems to have a tendency towards suicidal behaviour. It has been noted in many parts of Australia that Quolls have created their communal bathrooms in the middle of busy roads and freeways. This means that any of the Quolls who wish to use the toilet must do exceedingly quickly, or they risk becoming roadkill! I think I’m rather glad that I’m not Quoll: having foxes chase me, eating horrible toads and being chased by cars whenever I need the toilet seems like a rather stressful lifestyle!

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