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Red-legged pademelon 
The Red-legged Pademelon is active through the day and night in rainforest.
Red-legged pademelon 
Red-legged Pademelons may venture onto pasture near forest edge in late evening returning to cover at dawn.
Lakeside habitat of red-legged pademelon 
Dense rainforest habitat fringing Lake Barrine where Red-legged Pademelons are found in their northern range.
Geographic distribution of the Red-legged Pademelon 
Geographic distribution of the Red-legged Pademelon (in Australia, also found in New Guinea) 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 Pademelons are small, compact, short-tailed wallabies that typically inhabit wet sclerophyll and rainforests from Tasmania to New Guinea. The genus is equally diverse in New Guinea (4 species) and Australia (3 species) with one of the latter, the Red-legged Pademelon (T. stigmatica), in both regions.  The Pademelons occupy an interesting taxonomic position and may have been the ancestors of both Tree-kangaroos and Rock-wallabies a few million years ago. Given the absence of Rock-wallabies from New Guinea but presence of Pademelons in both Australia and New Guinea, Tree-kangaroos likely evolved first, probably in New Guinea, and two species entered the far north through Cape York. Rock-wallabies evolved later in Australia, probably on the east coast where Pademelons are found, and when no suitable habitat breached the Torres Strait or Bass Strait given their absence from Tasmania.

Reddish coloured fur is something of a theme with red-bellied, red-necked and red-legged in the species common names. They emerge from forest cover at night to eat succulent grasses and take some browse. They have remained common over much of their geographic range but the Tasmanian Pademelon was once found in south-eastern South Australia and Victoria. Dense thickets of vegetation are required for shelter and so habitat fragmentation and clearing reduce the viability of populations.

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Species

Red-legged Pademelon (North Queensland)

Thylogale stigmatica stigmatica ('pricked [pattern] pouched-weasel')

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Best place to see

Lake Barrine, Crater Lakes National Park, Queensland

The Lake Barrine section of the Crater Lakes National Park is a short 60 km drive from Cairns along the Gillies Highway. Rainforest surrounds the lake formed in the crater of an extinct volcano. Lake Barrine has no camping facilities and accepts day visitors only. There is a privately owned campground near the Lake Eacham section and many levels of accommodation in Cairns and on the Atherton Tableland. The best way to see wildlife is to take the 5 km Lake circuit track and the short 600 m rainforest walk.

The Lakes are fringed by rainforest where the Musky Rat-Kangaroo can also be seen by day. At night, Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo may be viewed along the various walking trails at each Lake.

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Identification

Males to 6.8 kg (average 5.1 kg) and females to 4.2 kg (average 4.1 kg). The Red-legged Pademelon has a slender body covered in short, soft fur giving it a sleek appearance. The primary colour is red- grey on the back, with the grey dominating the forequarters and a red-brown colour on the lower back.  The face likewise becomes redder towards the top of the head starting with a grey muzzle through to a rust-red colour on the cheeks and bases of the ears. There is a pale indistinct cheek stripe highlighted by a red bar below it.  The backs of the ears and head, and the neck are brown with a faint dark dorsal stripe.  The sides are a rich red bleeding into a white abdomen.  The hip is marked by a yellow stripe.  The species gets its common name from the brilliant rust-red colour on the outsides of the legs. The arms are red-brown, the hands and feet are red-grey, and the digits dark brown.  The short thick tail is a uniform grey-brown above and lighter below. There is some variation in colour amongst the sub-species with a grey abdomen in southern populations. Rainforest inhabiting populations also tend to be darker.

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Habitat

The Red-legged Pademelon prefers tropical and sub-tropical rainforest but can be found in other moist habitat like wet sclerophyll forest, vine thickets and areas around swampland. It has a broad latitudinal range from northern NSW to Cape York and lowland rainforest in New Guinea. The geographic ranges are disjunct and this separation has lead to genetic divergence and sub-speciation. In the southern part of its range it is sympatric with Red-necked Pademelons.

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Foraging behaviour

The diet of the Red-legged Pademelon is diverse and includes little grass in the northern part of its range where it consumes other climbing monocotyledons, ferns and various dicotyledons including herbs and leaves taken from the plant or on the ground. They also eat seeds and fruit like figs and Burdekin Plum (Pleiogynium timorense). In the north, the diet is supplied within the rainforest whereas in the south where they overlap with Red-necked Pademelons they may graze grasses, native and introduced, out from the forest edge.

 

They can be active throughout the day and night with a deeper rest period around midday through to mid-afternoon. In the day they forage in the shelter of the rainforest and emerge onto open habitat out from the forest edge only at night.

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Reproductive behaviour

Breeding is continuous. The pouch life is around 6.5 - 7 months. Gestation is about 28 - 30 d with a post-partum oestrus and mating within 2-12 h of birth. Embryonic diapause occurs if the pouch is occupied. Young are weaned at about 9 months. Females mature at 11 months and males at 15 months.

 

The species is sexually dimorphic with males larger and more muscular in the forelimbs and chest than females. Males court females with a soft clucking vocalisation typical of many macropods. In aggressive encounters within and between the sexes a harsh rasping vocalisation is uttered. Individuals are usually solitary but may aggregate on nocturnal foraging areas where sexual interactions may occur.

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Social organisation

Home ranges are relatively small at 1-4 ha and include distinct daytime areas in the forest and smaller night-time areas on pasture at the forest edge. The Pademelons stay in or close to cover at all times and rarely venture more than 70 m from the forest edge. They are hunted by dingoes but also fall prey to large pythons and foxes in the southern part of their range. Individuals are usually solitary in the forest but may aggregate in loose intermingling groups at night when in open habitat.

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Further readings

Johnson PM, Vernes K (1994) Reproduction in the red-legged pademelon, Thylogale stigmatica Gould (Marsupialia: Macropdodidae) and age estimation and development of pouch young. Wildlife Research 21, 553-558.

Vernes K (1995) The diet of the red-legged pademelon Thylogale stigmatica Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) in frgamented tropical rainforest, north Queensland. Mammalia 59, 517-525.

Vernes K, Marsh H, Winter J (1995) Home-range characteristics and movement patterns of the Red-legged Pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica) in a fragmented tropical forest. Wildlife Research 22, 699-708.

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