Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 180, Issue 6, pp 857–868 | Cite as

Comparative physiology of Australian quolls (Dasyurus; Marsupialia)

  • Christine E. CooperEmail author
  • Philip C. Withers
Original Paper


Quolls (Dasyurus) are medium-sized carnivorous dasyurid marsupials. Tiger (3,840 g) and eastern quolls (780 g) are mesic zone species, northern quolls (516 g) are tropical zone, and chuditch (1,385 g) were once widespread through the Australian arid zone. We found that standard physiological variables of these quolls are consistent with allometric expectations for marsupials. Nevertheless, inter-specific patterns amongst the quolls are consistent with their different environments. The lower T b of northern quolls (34°C) may provide scope for adaptive hyperthermia in the tropics, and they use torpor for energy/water conservation, whereas the larger mesic species (eastern and tiger quolls) do not appear to. Thermolability varied from little in eastern (0.035°C °C−1) and tiger quolls (0.051°C ºC−1) to substantial in northern quolls (0.100°C ºC−1) and chuditch (0.146°C ºC−1), reflecting body mass and environment. Basal metabolic rate was higher for eastern quolls (0.662 ± 0.033 ml O2 g−1 h−1), presumably reflecting their naturally cool environment. Respiratory ventilation closely matched metabolic demand, except at high ambient temperatures where quolls hyperventilated to facilitate evaporative heat loss; tiger and eastern quolls also salivated. A higher evaporative water loss for eastern quolls (1.43 ± 0.212 mg H2O g−1 h−1) presumably reflects their more mesic distribution. The point of relative water economy was low for tiger (−1.3°C), eastern (−12.5°C) and northern (+3.3) quolls, and highest for the chuditch (+22.6°C). We suggest that these differences in water economy reflect lower expired air temperatures and hence lower respiratory evaporative water loss for the arid-zone chuditch relative to tropical and mesic quolls.


Allometry Body temperature Evaporative water loss Metabolic rate Relative water economy Thermal conductance Ventilation 



Basal metabolic rate


Dry (non-evaporative) thermal conductance


Wet (evaporative and non-evaporative) thermal conductance


Evaporative heat loss


Oxygen extraction


Evaporative quotient


Evaporative water loss


Respiratory frequency


Metabolic heat production


Metabolic water production


Metabolic rate


Point of relative water economy


Respiratory exchange ratio


Relative humidity


Relative water economy


Student–Newman–Keuls post hoc multiple comparison test


Ambient temperature


Body temperature


Carbon dioxide production rate


Minute volume


Oxygen consumption rate


Tidal volume



We thank Malcolm and Valerie Douglas, and staff at the Malcolm Douglas Wildlife Park, Broome, Western Australia for allowing us to measure their quolls, and for providing us with accommodation and laboratory space. We also thank Helen Robertson and staff of the Australian section, Perth Zoo, for access to their tiger quolls, and for providing laboratory space. Scott and Graham Thompson kindly caught and donated a northern quoll. This study was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant (DP0665044).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental and Aquatic SciencesCurtin University of TechnologyPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Animal Biology M092University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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