The Lesser Bilby - Australia's Desert Omnivore

Lesser bilbyThe Lesser bilby (macrotis leucura), also known as the yallara, the lesser rabbit-eared bandicoot, or the white-tailed rabbit-eared bandicoot, was a desert animal native to the center of the Australian continent. Similar in size to a juvenile rabbit, this animal was a marsupial, meaning females have no placenta and wean their young in an external pouch after birth. Unfortunately, this creature has been listed as extinct as early as 1950.

It was first discovered in 1887, observed to inhabit the Gibson and Great Sandy deserts of Australia. Its diet consisted of insects such as native ants and termites and plant roots. Full grown, it reached a weight of between 300 and 450 grams, or less than a pound (10.58 to 15.87 ounces). This tiny animal had a body of grayed brown that receded to a light gray and white on the tail. It made its home in dunes burrowed between two and three meters (about 6.6 to 9.8 feet) in, covering the opening with loose sand during the day and emerging during night. The burrows protected the animal not only from its main predators, birds and foxes, but also from the harsh sun. Females typically gave birth to two young, most likely on a seasonal basis.

It is unknown if this animal’s habitat extended beyond the central deserts.
Trappers, predators, including the Aboriginal population, and territorial competition from rabbits forced the lesser bilby into extinction before it could be fully studied. The last living specimens, about a dozen in number, were collected in Cooncherie Station in 1932. The last specimen, a skull bone, was collected near an eagle’s nest in 1967. Dating revealed these bones to be less than 15 years of age, placing the extinction date around 1950.

The lesser bilby gained its fame for its omnivorous diet, eating both animals and plants, and its survival in a harsh desert climate. The greater bilby, a close relative in the bandicoot family, still exists but is now endangered. Unlike the greater bilby, known to be a docile creature, the lesser bilby was a temperamental creature, resisting handling by researchers by hissing and biting. Sadly, despite its varied diet and its relatively safe habitat, the lesser bilby lost its place in the animal world.

Keywords: white

The Lesser bilby, lesser rabbit-eared bandicoot, white-tailed rabbit-eared bandicoot, yallara is listed as Extinct (EX), there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died, on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species


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