Kangaroos are marsupials and belong to the Family Macropodidae (i.e. big feet) that is grouped with the Potoroidae (potoroos, bettongs, rat-kangaroos) and Hypsiprymnodontidae (musky rat-kangaroo) in the Super-Family, Macropodoidea. This comprises around 50 species in
Two of the four species of Hare-wallabies that were identified at European colonisation of Australia are extinct. The only species which retains a broad geographic range is the Spectacled Hare-wallaby which also has a small population is southern New Guinea. The genus was once common in the deserts and tropics and south-west of Western Australia. Pastoralism and the introduction of livestock grazing and concomitant changes in fire management and release of rabbits, foxes and cats have wrought a devastating impacts on the attractive small wallabies. A characteristic, emphasised in the Spectacled Hare-wallaby, is the rufous fur around the eye. The Hare-wallabies have long feet with long claws but the fore-limbs are very delicate and short.
Lagorchestes conspicillatus leichardti ('Leichardt's spectacled hare dancer')
Daly Waters region, Northern Territory
Daly Waters is a small township of about 23 people, 620 km south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway. The town is known to travellers because of its historic pub which has an interior decorated by the tokens of the many people who have sat at the bar. The pub dates from 1893 and was an important stopover for drovers taking cattle north-south or from the Kimberley to Queensland. It was a key point in the overland explorations of John McDouall Stuart, the overland telegraph and a Qantas stopover on early flights to Singapore. Accommodation is available at the Pub and Hi-Way Inn and there is a campground and caravan park. You will need to explore the hinterland and take access along some of the old airstrips to view the Spectacled Hare-wallaby. There is a reserve, the Bullwaddy Nature Reserve, about 30 km along the Carpentaria Highway. The Hi-Way Inn sits at the junction of the Stuart and Carpentaria Highways. The latter is part of a tourist route known as the Savannah Way which spans northern Australia linking Cairns in Queensland to Broome in Western Australia.
The Spectacled Hare-wallaby is found in tropical grasslands, especially tussock-forming species including spinifex, which may be overlain by a variety of vegetation (tall shrubland, open woodland, open forest in Queensland; Acacia shrublands and tropical savanna in the Northern Territory; spinifex grasslands in Western Australia). The tussocks provide protection and the hare-wallabies tunnel into these and may have several shelters in their home-range. The tussocks also provide thermoregulatory benefits under hot ambient temperatures. This refuge behaviour is coupled with exceptionally efficient physiological mechanisms to conserve water leading to one of the lowest water turnovers (5.3% of total body water per day) of mammals of its size. Its eco-physiology allows it to inhabit dry, hot climates and not drink free-water.
Breeding can occur throughout the year. Gestation is 29-31 d and oestrus follows shortly after birth with post-partum mating. Embryonic diapause occurs in this species. Births are clumped on Barrow Island around the late Dry season (September) and towards the end of the Wet season (March). Pouch life is about 150 d and sexual maturity is reached within a year.
The species is typically solitary but small aggregations of around three individuals have been observed feeding in the same area. Thus home ranges are likely not exclusive and only shelter sites defended. THis deserves further study.
Burbidge AA, Johnson PM (2008). Spectacled Hare-wallaby. In The Mammals of Australia 3rd Edition, (Van Dyck S, Strahan R eds.) pp. 314-316. (New Holland Reed, Chatswood).
Ingleby S, Westoby M (1992) Habitat requirements of the spectacled hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes conspicillatus) in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Wildlife Research 19, 721-741.
Short J, Turner B (1991) Distribution and abundance of spectacled hare-wallabies and euros on Barrow Island, Western Australia. Wildlife Research 18, 421-429.