Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Dietary composition and prey preference of a new carnivorous marsupial species, the buff-footed antechinus (Antechinus mysticus), at the northern and southern limits of its range

Coral Pearce A D , Chris J. Burwell B C and Andrew M. Baker A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences School, Queensland University of Technology, 2 George Street, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.

B Biodiversity Program, Queensland Museum, PO Box 3300, South Brisbane, Qld 4101, Australia.

C Environmental Futures Research Institute and Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: coral.pearce@connect.qut.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 65(3) 148-164 https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO16028
Submitted: 5 April 2016  Accepted: 30 June 2017   Published: 6 November 2017

Abstract

The buff-footed antechinus (Antechinus mysticus) is a newly described carnivorous marsupial from eastern Australia. We examined the diet composition and prey preference of this little known dasyurid in the southernmost (Brisbane) and northernmost (Eungella) populations. Animals were captured over three months (July–September) during 2014 encompassing the breeding period (late July and August) of the species. Seasonal sampling carried over into a second year which followed the succeeding cohort of juveniles as they dispersed from their maternal nest (summer), through their maturation (autumn), to the beginning of breeding (winter), sampling across one complete generation. The diet of A. mysticus consisted predominantly of invertebrates, with 16 prey orders identified (11 Insecta, two Arachnida, two Myriapoda, one Crustacea). Vertebrate (Family Scincidae) consumption was recorded in low abundance at both sites. The diet of A. mysticus was dominated by Araneae (spiders), Blattodea (cockroaches) and Coleoptera (beetles). Comparison of identified prey consumption in scats with prey availability in pitfall traps showed A. mysticus to be a dietary generalist, opportunistically consuming mostly invertebrate prey with supplementary predation on small vertebrates. Juvenile A. mysticus preyed predominantly on Blattodea (33.4% mean percentage volume) and Coleoptera (31.6% mean percentage volume), potentially suggesting a preference for larger, easier to catch, prey items. Further exploration into the relationship between prey and body size is required to determine this.

Additional keywords: Australia, D’Aguilar National Park, Dasyuridae, diet, Eungella National Park.


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