Northern quoll

The northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), also known as the northern native cat, the North Australian native cat or the satanellus is a carnivorous marsupial native to Australia.

Northern quoll[1]
In Queensland, Australia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Dasyuromorphia
Family: Dasyuridae
Genus: Dasyurus
D. hallucatus
Binomial name
Dasyurus hallucatus
Gould, 1842
Northern quoll range


The northern quoll is a member of the family Dasyuridae, and is often stated to be the most distinctive Australian quoll. It was first described in 1842 by naturalist and author John Gould, who gave it the species name hallucatus, which indicates it has a notable first digit. This species has sometimes been placed in a separate genus, Satanellus.

Life history

The northern quoll is the smallest of the four Australian quoll species.[4] Females are smaller than males, with adult females weighing between 350 and 690 g (12 and 24 oz) and adult males 540 and 1,120 g (19 and 40 oz). Head and body length ranges from 27–37 cm (11–15 in) for adult males and 25–31 cm (9.8–12.2 in) for adult females. The tail length ranges between 20 and 35 cm (7.9 and 13.8 in).

Northern quolls feed primarily on invertebrates, but also consume fleshy fruit (particularly figs), and a wide range of vertebrates, including small mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, and frogs. They also scavenge on roadkills, around campsites, and in garbage tins.

A remarkable feature of this species is that the males show complete die-off after mating, leaving the females to raise the young alone. Females have eight teats in a pouch, but apparently give birth to more than eight young which must wriggle their way to the pouch and compete for a teat to survive.[5] In a study in Western Australia's Kimberley region, the testosterone levels of males peaked in July, and females gave birth in July or August.[6]

In the wild, males live for about one year, while the maximum recorded for a wild female was about three years of age.[4] In rocky habitats, the lifespan of both sexes appears to be increased to two or three years, and individuals are larger than those living in savanna habitats, possibly due to better habitat and reduced predation.[4]

Range and habitat

The northern quoll occurs from the Pilbara region of Western Australia across the Northern Territory to south east Queensland. Their historical range extended uninterrupted from S.E Queensland to the Kimberleys in Western Australia.[7] There are several disjunct populations. This quoll species is most abundant in rocky ranges and open eucalypt forest.

Conservation status

1863 illustration by Elizabeth Gould (illustrator)

The northern quoll is currently classified as Endangered by the IUCN.[2]

The species is now absent from many parts of its former range, particularly the savanna country. In 2005 it was listed as Endangered under Australian Commonwealth legislation (EPBC Act). Threats are predation by feral cats, dingoes and foxes, particularly after fire or grazing has removed protective ground cover. Destruction, degradation, and fragmentation of the quoll's habitat due to land clearing, grazing, pasture improvement, and mining are also significant.[4] Quolls are also susceptible to being run over on roads.[4]

The current major threat to the northern quoll in the northern and western portion of its range is the spread of cane toads. Like many other native Australian species, northern quolls are poisoned after eating or mouthing cane toads.[8] Cane toads were originally introduced in Queensland, but have now occupied the Top End of the Northern Territory, including Kakadu National Park and the Darwin area, and entered the Kimberley region of Western Australia, where they are established around Kununurra and Lake Argyle.

Immediately after cane toad invasion of Kakadu, quolls became extinct at one study site and declined from 45 individuals to five at another site. The northern quoll may cease to exist in most areas in the Top End once the cane toad population completely overlaps the northern quoll's range. However, remnant populations of northern quolls still persist in Queensland where cane toads have been present for decades. These persisting Queensland quoll populations are naturally toad averse (as observed on remote cameras). One of the northern quoll populations studied in Kakadu during the recent cane toad invasion, had a few individuals survive the invasion. These individuals were, likely similar to the Queensland quolls, genetically averse to the toads.[9] In 2003, to help protect northern quolls, numerous quolls were transferred to the toad-free English Company Islands (Astell and Pobassoo Islands), off the coast of Arnhem Land. Quolls thrived on these islands, with an estimated population of 2193 female northern quolls on Astell Island by 2014.[10] In 2017, quolls from Astell Island were collected, trained via conditioned taste aversion to avoid attacking cane toads and reintroduced to Kakadu National Park. This reintroduction attempt saw the release both toad-trained (22) and toad-naive (9) northern quolls to an area of Kakadu that previous had quolls but where they had recently gone locally extinct due to the invasion of cane toads. Although the toad-trained quolls survived longer than those that received no toad training, ultimately this reintroduction population rapidly went extinct because of dingo predation.[11] Subsequently, research comparing antipredator behaviours of quolls from Astell Island and mainland Queensland determined that quolls conserved on this island had lost their ability to recognise and avoid both dingo and cats, predators they have co-evolved with on mainland Australia for at least 3500 and 150 years respectively. This study suggests that animals conserved in complete isolation from predators can rapidly lose evolved antipredator behaviours, in this case in only 13 generations, when they are no longer maintained via natural selection.[12]

In Aboriginal language and culture

The Northern Quoll is known as njanjma[13] in the Indigenous Kundjeyhmi, Kundedjnjenghmi and Mayali languages, djabbo in Kunwinjku,[14][15][16] and wijingarri in Wunambal.[17] The Kunwinjku people of Western Arnhem Land (Northern Territory) regard djabbo as "good tucker".[18][19]


Cited references

  1. Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. OCLC 62265494.
  2. Oakwood, M.; Woinarski, J.; Burnett, S. (2016). "Dasyurus hallucatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T6295A21947321. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T6295A21947321.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  3. "Dasyurus hallucatus — Northern Quoll, Digul [Gogo-Yimidir], Wijingadda [Dambimangari], Wiminji [Martu]".
  4. "Dasyurus hallucatus — Northern Quoll" (website). Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 13 March 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  5. Nelson, John E.; Robert T. Gemmell (2003). "Birth in the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia : Dasyuridae)". Australian Journal of Zoology. 51 (2): 187–198. doi:10.1071/ZO02016.
  6. Schmitt, L.H.; Bradley, A.J.; Kemper, C.M.; Kitchener, D.J.; Humphreys, W.F.; How, R.A. (April 1989). "Ecology and physiology of the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia, Dasyuridae), at Mitchell Plateau, Kimberley, Western Australia". Journal of Zoology. 217 (4): 539–558. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1989.tb02510.x.
  7. Menkhorst. P, Knight. F "A field Guide to the Mammals of Australia" Oxford University Press South Melbourne, 2001, p. 48 ISBN 0-19-550870-X
  8. "New populations of endangered species found". Australian Geographic. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  9. Kelly, Ella; Phillips, Ben L (2018). "Targeted gene flow and rapid adaptation in an endangered marsupial". Conservation Biology. 33 (1): 112–121. doi:10.1111/cobi.13149. PMID 29896894.
  10. Woinarski, John C. Z.; Brennan, Kym; Rankmore, Brooke; Griffiths, Anthony D. (21 August 2017). "Demographic evaluation of translocating the threatened northern quoll to two Australian islands". Wildlife Research. 44 (3): 238–247. doi:10.1071/WR16165. ISSN 1448-5494. S2CID 89771753.
  11. Jolly, Christopher J.; Kelly, Ella; Gillespie, Graeme R.; Phillips, Ben; Webb, Jonathan K. (2018). "Out of the frying pan: Reintroduction of toad-smart northern quolls to southern Kakadu National Park". Austral Ecology. 43 (2): 139–149. doi:10.1111/aec.12551. ISSN 1442-9993.
  12. Jolly Chris J.; Webb Jonathan K.; Phillips Ben L. (30 June 2018). "The perils of paradise: an endangered species conserved on an island loses antipredator behaviours within 13 generations". Biology Letters. 14 (6): 20180222. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2018.0222. PMC 6030597. PMID 29875211.
  13. "njanjma". Bininj Kunwok Dictionary. Bininj Kunwok Regional Language Centre. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  14. Garde, Murray. "djabbo". Bininj Kunwok Online Dictionary. Bininj Kunwok Regional Language Centre. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  15. Chaloupka, G. (1993). Journey in Time. Reed. p. 229. ISBN 0-7301-0310-2.
  16. Goodfellow, D. (1993). Fauna of Kakadu and the Top End. Wakefield Press. p. 20. ISBN 1862543062.
  17. "Wunambal Gaambera Partnership". Bush Heritage Australia. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  18. Reverend Peterson Nganjmirra, personal comment
  19. Goodfellow, D. (1993). Fauna of Kakadu and the Top End. Wakefield Press. p. 20. ISBN 1862543062.

General references

  • Braithwaite, R.W. & R.J. Begg (1995), "Northern Quoll", in Strahan, Ronald, The Mammals of Australia, Reed Books
  • Oakwood, M. 2000. Reproduction and demography of the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus, in the lowland savanna of northern Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology 48, 519–539.
  • Oakwood, M. and Spratt, D. 2000. Parasites of the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in tropical savanna, Northern Territory. Australian Journal of Zoology 48, 79–90.
  • Oakwood, M., Bradley, AJ., and Cockburn, A. 2001. Semelparity in a large marsupial. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B. 268, 407–411.
  • Oakwood, M. 2004. Death after sex. Biologist 51, 5–8.
  • Oakwood, M. 2004. Case of the disappearing spots. Nature Australia 26, 26–35.
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