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Family: Burramyidae Dwarf Couscous

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An archaic family of 4 genera and 6 species of mouse-like animals that lead a tree lifestyle.

Dwarf marsupial flying squirrel (Acrobates pygmaeus) - a small animal capable of planning flights, inhabits the eucalyptus forests of Eastern Australia. This nocturnal species, feeding on nectar and termites, builds a circular nest from eucalyptus leaves. Mother for a long time “stores” her four cubs in a bag. These animals are nocturnal and therefore rarely come across the eyes of a person. Most often they are brought to the cat villages.

The second genus (Burramys) was until recently considered extinct. It included animals living in the Pleistocene (about 20 thousand years ago), they were known to Australian scientists from the caves of New South Wales and Victoria. In 1966, K. D. Shortm and discovered a beast of this genus. He found him in the kitchen of the ski base of the University of Melbourne on Mount Hotam (Victoria). The animal was named V. parvus. Body length 10 cm, tail 15 cm. Entered in the IUCN Red List.
Pygmy Possums, or marsupial Sonya, belong to 3 species of the genus Cercartetus. Europeans were called sleepwalkers for their resemblance to the animals of their distant homeland. Like sleepyheads, Possum pygmies sleep soundly during the day and fall into partial hibernation in the cold season. In terms of nests and methods of obtaining food, they are also similar to sleepyheads.

The only representative of the last genus of the family is the feather-tailed Posum, or feather-tailed couscous (Distoechurus pennalus). This is a New Guinean species inhabiting mountain forests at heights of up to 1850 m.

Dwarf possums (Latin: Burramyidae) - a family of marsupial mammals, including only 2 genera and 5 species that are found in East Australia and New Guinea:
Dwarf couscous were relatively recently isolated in an independent family from the family Possum (Phalangeridae). These are small animals, whose weight is from 6 to 80 g with a body length of 6-12 cm and a tail of 6-17 cm. They are characterized by a conical head with a short muzzle, large eyes and short rounded ears. The tail is long, thin and grasping. On the hind limbs, the thumbs are opposed. The coat is soft and thick. In females, a well-developed brood pouch opens forward, fertilized eggs, like in many bivalve marsupials, go through a period of diapause.
Dwarf couscous are insectivorous; they also feed on nectar and lizards. These are nocturnal animals that lead a tree lifestyle. Mountain couscous (Burramys parvus) living in the mountains is the only known species of marsupials that falls into prolonged hibernation. / (Wikipedia)

Genus: Acrobates Desmarest, 1818 = Dwarf Volatile Couscous

Genus of dwarf volatile couscous = Acrobates Desmarest, 1817 The genus is the only species: dwarf volatile couscous - A. pygmaeus Shaw, 1793. The smallest sizes in the family. Body length 6–7 cm. Tail length 6–9 cm. It resembles hazel dormouse in appearance. A narrow skin fold stretches along the sides of the body. The tail is long with combs of elongated hair on the sides. The tip of the tail from the bottom has no hair and in this part is grasping. End phalanges of fingers with greatly expanded pads. The fourth finger on the fore and hind legs is the longest and has a particularly sharp claw. A well-developed brood bag. Nipples 4. The color of the upper side of the body varies from gray to brown. The eyes are surrounded by a brown or black ring. The belly is gray-yellow or white. The ears are covered with sparse hair and at the base have a bundle of elongated hair. The inhabitant of eucalyptus forests. We have a woody lifestyle. The activity is nocturnal. In hollows arranges nests of dry leaves. Able to do planning jumps between trees. In cold weather falls into sleep. Held by family groups of up to 16 individuals. It feeds mainly on insects (adults and their larvae), as well as plant nectar. The breeding season is in July - August. In the litter of 2-4 cubs. Distributed in eastern Australia and on a small nameless island off the north coast of New Guinea. Another species is sometimes isolated (Haltenort, 1958): New Guinean dwarf flying couscous — A. putchellus Rotschield, 1893.

Genus: Distoechurus Peters, 1874 = Tailed Couscous

Species: Distoechurus pennatus Peters = Tailed Couscous.

The sizes are small. Body length about 10 cm. Tail length 12-15 cm. Muzzle ay. The ears are short, their width is greater than the height. The eyes are large. The tail is long with thickly covered hair at the base and the almost hairless rest, with elongated hair on each side of the comb. The lower grasping side of the tip of the tail is bare. Fingers with dilated pads on terminal phalanges. The longest finger on the forelimbs is the fourth. The claws on the fingers are curved, sharp. A well-developed bag opens forward. The hair is thick and soft, on the upper side of the body is reddish, and the bottom is white. The muzzle is white with black longitudinal stripes that stretch through the eyes to the back of the head between the ears and bend around them behind. It lives in the forests of mountainous regions at an altitude of up to 2000 m above sea level. Ecology is almost not studied. Tree animal. The activity is nocturnal. It feeds on insects. In the litter, apparently, one cub. Distributed in New Guinea.

Why do I need a bag

Despite the different body structure, size, nutrition and lifestyle, most animals in Australia have one common anatomical feature. This bag is a skin fold on the female’s belly. It can be either very deep or barely noticeable, open forward or backward. Many endemic species in Australia are united by this anatomical feature, which has disappeared in animal species living on other continents. But at the same time, the marsupial possum is found not only in Green Continent and in New Guinea, but also in South and North America. Why is this abdominal cavity needed? The fact is that cubs in marsupials are born underdeveloped. After all, pregnancy does not last long - 8-40 days. These are actually embryos. For example, in a kangaroo, a newborn reaches only three centimeters in length. But they are very tenacious. Newborns scramble along their mother’s belly for a bag. There they find the nipple and fall to it for long weeks. Even having reached maturity, young growth in case of danger seeks shelter in the mother’s bag. But possums here also showed their uniqueness. Not all of them have bags. Some of them are equipped with a rudimentary fold, while some do not even have a trace. For example, the dwarf possum does not have a brood bag.

Brief description of the family

The possum family has about eighty species. Most of them live in the equatorial forests of Central and South America. Outwardly, these small animals with a size of 7-50 centimeters resemble mice or rats. Moreover, some species have a bare, hairless tail. However, unlike rodents, this appendage plays a very important role in the life of the animal. Opossums cling to the branches of trees with their tail, they “steer” them when jumping. Sometimes it is thickened at the base with deposits of fat. Opossums most often live in the crowns of trees, but there are species that lead a land or semi-aquatic lifestyle. Mostly feed on insects, but there are those whose food is flower nectar. The dwarf possum (Marmosa murina), also called the Eney mouse, lives on trees in tropical forests between the Amazon and Orinoco rivers. These animals are active at dusk.

Dwarf possum

Despite the name, this is not the smallest member of the family. Its length can reach up to 31 centimeters, of which more than half falls on the grasping bare tail. The fur coat of the animal is yellowish-gray on top, and the abdomen is of a lighter color. Bags, as already indicated, this type of possums do not. The animal lives in the crowns of trees - in hollows, voids under the bark. Eney's mouse is truly omnivorous. Do not disdain and bird eggs. But most of all, she loves fruits, as well as a variety of crickets and other insects. The life span of this mouse reaches eight years. The female brings 10-12 cubs to the litter. For lack of a bag, the kids just hang on her nipples. And when the cubs grow up a little, they move to the mother's back.

Other types of pygmy possums

This tiny animal can be called an elf. He eats exclusively floral nectar and fruits, like a moth. Meet the eastern dwarf possum, or dormouse. Its length is 12 centimeters, and eight of them are the tail. Sony is active in the summer and inactive in the winter, for which they received their second nickname. When the possum eats well, it deposits fat at the base of the tail. A dwarf possum, living in Brazil, Argentina and Peru, also belongs to dwarfs. He has no bag, and his body length reaches 15 centimeters. And the Chak possum is considered the record holder among the midgets. The length of his body is only 68 millimeters.

Australian Dwarf Opossum

In fact, these small animals represent a completely different family - Burramyidae. Yes, and they are called posums. This name was given to animals by James Cook, who described the representative of the species at the discovery of Queensland. The captain, far from biology, compared the new animal with the American possum known to him. But in his notes he made a blot: he missed the initial letter “o”. And so the name "Possum" was assigned to the Australian animal. Now scientists distinguish five species of the Burramyidae family. They are found in eastern Australia and in New Guinea. Of these, only one species - mountain couscous - falls into hibernation. The Australian Dwarf Opossum has a well-defined, forward-opening bag. This animal has big eyes, small rounded ears and a long grasping tail.

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