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Long-footed potoroo
The Long-footed Potoroo was first known to mammalogists from an individual caught in a dingo trap in 1967. (Image: © Jiri Lochman/ Lochman Transparencies)
Habitat of long-footed potoroo
Moist gully habitat in Errinundra National Park. (Image: Tourism Victoria)
 
Geographic distribution of the Long-footed Potoroo represented by coverage of 1:250,000 map sheets of Australia (see www.ga.gov.au for Australian maps).
 
 
 
 
 
 

General information

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 Australia and a dozen or more in New Guinea.  Some of the smaller species, such as Yellow-footed Rock-Wallabies, Burrowing Bettongs, accompanied Pig-footed and Golden Bandicoots, Bilbies and possibly Hairy-nosed Wombats into extinction with the advent of pastoralism. However, the largest species remain in much of their original range with the grey kangaroos expanding inland as grazing habitat increased and coastal habitat was lost in clearance for agriculture. The defining feature of the kangaroo family is that they are the largest vertebrates to hop (both currently and from what we know from palaeontology).

 

The Bettongs, Potoroos and Musky Rat-Kangaroo are collectively known as the Rat-kangaroos. In fact, they form two families, the Potoroidae, which includes all the potoroos and bettongs, and, the Hypsiprimnodontidae, whose sole living representative is the Musky Rat-kangaroo. They are observationally distinguished from the kangaroos and wallabies by their diminutive body size but the largest species, the Rufous Bettong, eclipses the smallest Rock-wallabies, the Monjon and Narbelek. In general, they retain more 'primitive' ancestral characteristics with a partly prehensile tail to entrap grasses and sticks for nesting and a simpler stomach (and consequently richer diet). The forelimbs and hindlimbs are more similar in size than the gross differences in the kangaroos and wallabies, and so bounding as well as hopping is a mode of progress. Perhaps possum-kangaroo is more accurate but the first European observers were more familiar with rats than possums.

 

The Potoroos are in the critical weight range (<5.5 kg) that have suffered range contraction and extinction following the introduction of European farming practices and invasive species like foxes and cats. One species, the Broad-faced Potoroo (Potorous platyops) from the southern coasts of Western and South Australia quickly became extinct and was last collected from the wild in 1875. Gilbert's Potoroo also from Western Australia was thought to have suffered the same fate but was rediscovered in 1994. Equally surprising was the late discovery of a new species, the Long-footed Potoroo, in Victoria in 1967. The only widespread species, first described to Europeans from Botany Bay in 1789, is the Long-nosed Potoroo which is found in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

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Species

Long-footed Potoroo

Potorous longipes ('long-footed potoroo')

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Best place to see

Errinundra National Park, Victoria

Errinundra National Park is located 90 km north-east of Orbost. Melbourne is a further 372 km away and so by vehicle it is about 6 hours from Melbourne. There is limited access to the Park in winter when rain and snow render unsealed roads impassable. The main feature of the Park is the large stand of cool temperate rainforest, dominated by Southern Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum) and Black Oliveberry (Elaeocarpus holopetalus). Tall wet eucalypt forests clothe the plateau. The Park has diverse vegetation types encompassing more than 600 plant species.  The Long-footed Potoroo prefers sheltered sites with deep, moist gullies and dense groundcover and so will be challenging to see.

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Identification

Males to 2.2 kg (average 2.1 kg) and females to 1.8 kg (average 1.7 kg). The Long-footed is the largest of the Potoroos. The general colour of the back, the top of the head and the back of the ears is a grizzled grey-brown. This colour extends down to the upper parts of the legs,.  The sides of the head are greyer and there is a distinct dark facial stripe.  The abdomen is generally pale grey.  The hind feet are relatively long (as the common name suggests) and sparsely haired with a pale brown fur. The length is longer than the head in contrast to the other Potoroo species. The tail is thick and also sparsely haired with dark-brown fur above and a paler brown beneath.  The front claws are long and stout.  The pads on the feet are also distinctive. They are present at the bases of the hind-claws like the other Potoroos but there is an extra (post-hallucal) pad in an equivalent position to the (absent) big toe of a human foot.

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Habitat

To be added

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Foraging behaviour

 

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Reproductive behaviour

 

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Social organisation

 

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Further readings

Claridge AW, Seebeck JH, Rose R (2007) 'Bettongs, Potoroos and the Musky Rat-kangaroo.' (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)

Green K, Mitchell AT, Tennant P (1998) Home range and microhabitat use by the long-footed potoroo, Potorous longipes. Wildlife Research 25, 357-372.

Green K, Tory MK, Mitchell AT, Tennant P, May TW (1999) The diet of the long-footed potoroo (Potorous longipes). Australian Journal Of Ecology 24, 151-156.

Serena M, Bell L, Booth RJ (1996) Reproductive behaviour of the long-footed potoroo (Potorous longipes) in captivity, with an estimate of gestation length. Australian Mammalogy 19, 57-62.

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