Are Ampurtas making a comeback?
17 November 2015
Posted 24 November 2015.
The recent discovery of the Ampurta (or Crest-tailed Mulgara) in the Strzelecki Desert has demonstrated a massive range expansion for this rare marsupial, which has previously suffered historical declines across inland Australia.
During the 1990s the Ampurta was only known from the Simpson Desert in South Australia, but records over the last 15 years or so have demonstrated a southerly range expansion. During the 2000s it was recorded at new sites outside the Simpson Desert such as west of Lake Eyre and the southern Birdsville Track
Accordingly it was exciting, but not totally unexpected when the distinctive tracks and burrows of this critter were stumbled upon near Lake Callabonna and at Montecollina Bore on the Strzelecki Track in January this year.
Montecollina Bore was a previous small mammal study site during the 1990s and 2000s with intense study suggesting that the species was not there during that time and has therefore arrived quite recently.
Follow-up surveys across a broader area of the surrounding Cobbler Sandhills and Strzelecki Desert dunefields during July resulted in the capture of several individuals, suggesting that the species has established in a relatively large area of this dunefield habitat, which lies approximately 180 kilometres to the south-east of previous records.
Stay tuned for a future edition of Across The Outback where we plan to bring you more on the possible role of rabbit calicivirus (otherwise known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, RHDV) in triggering the expansion of the Ampurta range along with the range of a number of other small native animals.
What is an Ampurta?
The Ampurta (Dasycercuscristicauda) is a small carnivorous marsupial in the Dasyurid family (the same group as larger species such as the Quoll and Tasmanian Devil). Individuals are about the size of a small guinea pig, with a short, fat tail. Their body fur ranges from pale blonde fawn to arufous brown, with dark black hair along their tail forming a crest-like‘mohawk’ near the tip.
What they lack in size, Ampurtas make up for with ferocity, tackling almost any prey smaller than themselves. Their diet consists of a range of large insects and arthropods. They also prey on geckos, skinks, small birds, and even rodents, and will scavenge the carcasses of larger animals such as rabbits.
Like to know more about the Ampurta or have an interesting critter sighting to share? Contact Natural Resources SA Arid Lands Scientific Services team 8648 5300.
SAAL NRM Board, Natural Resources SA Arid Lands, Australian Government
Article originally published in Across the Outback (November 2015) by Reece Pedler, Community Fauna Officer