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Spout Crew

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Spout Crew

Bec Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a passion for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviors and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, his subjects celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live among us can be.

By Bec Crew

May 2, 2022


Like a biting miniature kangaroo, the kultarr is one of Australia’s most fascinating carnivorous marsupials.

Built with strong hind legs, huge ears and a feather duster tail, this rare and elusive species is our version of the jerboa, a bizarre hopping mouse from the deserts of North Africa and Asia.

In fact, the kultarr (Antechinomys laniger) looks so much like the jerboa (which looks like this), you may hear it called the marsupial jerboa. They both have an incredible ability to leap and leap vast distances, which is perfect when living in expensive desert environments.

Here is a kultarr showing off its incredible hops:

Don’t let the kultarr’s sweet face fool you – thanks to special adaptations, it’s as tough as it gets, able to withstand the extreme temperatures and fluctuating food supplies of Australia’s central desert.

The species belongs to the family Dasyuridae, a group of marsupials native to Australia and New Guinea, which also includes quolls, Tasmanian devil, ningaui, mulgara and dunnarts. But kultarrs are so unusual that scientists had to create the genus Antechimomys just for them (although they were originally thought to be a type of phascogale, another type of small, biting Australian marsupial).

The Kultarrs have a wide range across central and southern Australia, with some of the most stable populations recorded in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. In Queensland and New South Wales populations are more threatened and in some places the species has been driven to extinction due to habitat loss and preaching by wild animals such as foxes and cats.

In 2015 National Parks and Wildlife Service staff were shocked to discover kultarr at the Nombinnie Nature Reserve in west central New South Wales – the first sighting in the area in 20 years.

Here is one found in the Goldfields-Esperance area of ​​Western Australia:

It’s no wonder kultarr are hard to spot in the wild. As nocturnal animals, they hide in cracks in the ground or in underground burrows abandoned by trapdoor spiders, goannas and other species of hopping mice during the day. At night, they hunt all kinds of insects and invertebrates, such as cockroaches, spiders and crickets.

They can also spend a lot of time in a state of sleep called torpor, which resembles hibernation. By curling up and allowing their body temperature and metabolism to drop, they can significantly reduce their energy expenditure when food and water are scarce.

Kultarr can live relatively long for a small mammal, and scientists believe this is because of their ability to quickly enter a state of torpor. The oldest known kultarr is said to have survived 67 months in the wild, while the oldest in captivity is said to have lived 48 months. They can even enter a state of torpor with a pouch full of young, as this vulgar dunnart demonstrates.

Learn more about the adorable inhabitants of the Australian desert.