Autecology of a new species of carnivorous marsupial, the endangered black-tailed dusky antechinus (Antechinus arktos), compared to a sympatric congener, the brown antechinus (Antechinus stuartii)

Abstract

The carnivorous marsupial Antechinus are one of the few mammal genera known to exhibit the phenomenon of semelparous reproduction, where all males die at the end of a frenetic annual mating period. The genus Antechinus has recently been revised, seeing four new species named and one existing subspecies raised to species status. Here, we present the first ecological assessment of one new species, the endangered black-tailed dusky antechinus (Antechinus arktos), based on a 2-year mark-recapture study of two proximate sites within the cloud forest of Springbrook National Park, south-east Queensland, Australia. We also present comparative ecological data from a sympatric congener, Antechinus stuartii. In total, 103 A. arktos (49 male; 54 female) and 2125 A. stuartii (1229 male; 896 female) captures were made over 16,630 trap nights at the two sites. The occurrence and synchrony of reproductive events observed in A. arktos closely parallel the semelparous reproductive strategy exhibited by all congeners studied to date. The A. arktos populations mate during mid-September, with birth of up to six young occurring during mid-October. The low abundance and fecundity, together with a limited and apparently retracting distribution, suggest A. arktos is under threat of climate-induced extinction in the coming decades.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by grants from Australian Geographic, Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment and Gold Coast City Council. The School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences at the Queensland University of Technology provided access to vehicles and field equipment. ELG was financially supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award for doctoral research. We thank Ian Gynther (EHP) and Harry Hines (QPWS) who loaned us Elliott traps and freely shared their expertise. We thank Aila Keto (Australian Rainforest Conservation Society) and the rangers at Springbrook National Park (QPWS) who provided support and accommodation. Finally, we thank the residents of Springbrook for their interest and the many volunteers who ventured out with us to Springbrook to help collect this data. Comments provided by reviewers improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Emma L. Gray.

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All aspects of the study were carried out following the American Society of Mammologists’ guidelines (Sikes et al. 2011) and with approval from the Queensland University of Technology ethics department (approval number: 1400000005) and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife service (approval number: WITK14454114).

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Communicated by: Jeremy Herman

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Gray, E.L., Baker, A.M. & Firn, J. Autecology of a new species of carnivorous marsupial, the endangered black-tailed dusky antechinus (Antechinus arktos), compared to a sympatric congener, the brown antechinus (Antechinus stuartii). Mamm Res 62, 47–63 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-016-0281-1

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Keywords

  • Breeding biology
  • Conservation
  • Dasyuridae
  • Mark-recapture
  • Population dynamics