Native to Australia, bandicoots are small marsupials belonging to the families Peramelidae and Thylacomyidae. Most of them have rough gray or brown fur and range in size from that of a large rat to that of a rabbit and have long, pointed snouts and many small incisors well-suited to a mainly insectivorous diet.
The bandicoot has a specialized foot structure. The second and third toes are bound together and appear as one toe. Their slender forefeet have long sharp claws, and their large hind feet may have two, four, or five toes, depending upon the species. They have at least three pairs of incisor teeth in the lower jaw.
Bandicoots are native to Australia, New Guinea, and adjoining islands in the South Pacific. They live in hollow logs or tunnels in the ground, coming out at night to dig insects, larvae, grubs, slugs and worms from the ground. They also eat vegetables, mice, and lizards.
They can be quite destructive, burrowing under roots and destroying plants in its quest for worms and grubs.
Species of Bandicoot
All bandicoots have long noses but in some species the nose is comparatively short. For convenience they are therefore often placed in four groups, namely: the long-nosed bandicoots, the short-nosed bandicoots, the rabbit-eared bandicoots and the pig-footed bandicoot (which is probably extinct).
Of the long-nosed bandicoots there are six known varieties; the common "long-nose" inhabits eastern Australia from Queensland to Victoria.
The long-nosed bandicoots are represented in Australia by two genera but one of these, Echymipera, is known only from a single specimen found in dense rainforest in Cape York. Four species belong to the other genus, Perameles. The long-nosed bandicoots are not as robustly built as the short-nosed species, and their ears are longer.
The fur is rather coarse. They are solitary animals, except when mating, and nocturnal, and their food consists mainly of invertebrates but berries are also eaten.
The common long-nosed bandicoot, P. nasuta (head and body 41cm; tail 13cm), of coastal eastern Australia, lives in forests and woodlands of varilus kinds, including rainforest. It is grey or greyish-brown with white on the legs, but the body is unbarred.
Gunn's bandicoot, or the striped bandicoot, P. gunnii, of Tasmania and southern Victoria, is similar but has distinct bars on the hindquarters. It lives in woodland and open country with ground cover. The presence of long-nosed bandicoots can often be detected by the characteristic conical pits which they dig when searching for prey.
The short-nosed bandicoot, hoodon obesulus (head and body 36cm long; tail 13cm long), is a solitary, nocturnal species, has harsh, rather spiny fur which is easily detached. The snout is relatively short and pointed, and the ears are short and rounded. Its colour is a grizzled greyish- or yellowish-brown above and yellowish-white below.
It is a widespread species, being found wherever there is good ground cover in coastal areas from southern New South Wales to south-eastern South Australia, Tasmania, Cape York, and south-western Western Australia. The short-nosed bandicoots make flattened heaps of sticks and rubbish as nests into which they burrow.
The rabbit-eared bandicoots (family Thylacomyidae) are the most attractive of the bandicoots for the soft hair is long and silky, and the tail is black and white. They are mainly desert animals which escape the heat by digging spiral burrows from 1 meter to 2 meters long. They seem to have suffered in competition with the rabbits introduced into many areas.
The Bilby (also known as the Rabbit-Eared Bandicoot, Dalgyte or Common Rabbit Bandicoot) belongs to the genus Macrotis. This nocturnal bandicoot with long ears, long, silky blue grey fur and a long tail ending in a spur, which was once plentiful in western New South Wales and in the wheat-belt of Western Australia, is now confined to the arid interior of the continent.
The name "bandicoot" was originally given to these animals before 1800, probably by people who had lived in India, for all over that country a large native rat is called "bandicoot" by Anglo-Indians, the word being a corruption of the Telugu "pandi-kokku" (pig-dog).
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