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Werribee Open Range Zoo

Fat-tailed Dunnart

Don’t be fooled by the cute appearance of these tiny, mouse-like creatures. Although they only grow to an average size of 6cm – 7cm (with their tail being almost as long as their body, 5cm – 7cm), the Fat-tailed Dunnart is actually a carnivorous marsupial from the same family as the Tasmanian devil!

Fawn to brownish grey in colour, with huge black eyes and weighing between 10g –20g, the Fat-tailed Dunnart is native to Australia. It is a nocturnal animal that is widespread across southern, eastern, central and western Australia, in habitats such as open woodland, low shrubland and a variety of grassland areas. There is even a wide distribution of Fat-tailed Dunnarts found in the harsh, arid regions of the Simpson and Gibson deserts.

Primarily insectivorous feeding on beetles, slugs, worms and spider larvae, Fat-tailed Dunnarts are also known to feed on small reptiles and rodents. When food is plentiful, more often in the warmer months, this little marsupial eats an abundance of food, storing excess fat in its tail. The swollen or fat appearance of the tail gives the Dunnart its ‘fat-tailed’ name. When food becomes scarce in the colder months of the year, the Fat-tailed Dunnart uses this fat storage as a food supply to survive – much like a camel stores fat in its hump.

Although their status is currently stable, the Fat-tailed Dunnart is vulnerable to common threats faced by many native animals, such as predation by cats and foxes and loss of habitat.

  • The gestation period (pregnancy) for a female Fat-tailed Dunnart is only 13-14 days.
  • A female can give birth to 6 – 10 babies in one litter
  • A new-born Fat-tailed Dunnart is smaller than a grain of rice!
  • In captivity, as well their usual diet of cockroaches, mealworms and crickets, Fat-tailed Dunnarts love to eat hard-boiled eggs and minced meat!
  • When it is hungry, the Fat-tailed Dunnart will prey upon the common house mouse; however, when it is cold, the Fat-tailed Dunnart will snuggle up with the house mouse in its nest to keep cosy and warm!