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

Birth in the northern quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus (Marsupialia : Dasyuridae)

John E. Nelson and Robert T. Gemmell

Australian Journal of Zoology 51(2) 187 - 198
Published: 30 June 2003


Birth has been observed in a number of marsupial species and, in the studies to date, the newborn have crawled up to or across to the pouch. The method of birth in the quoll, a dasyurid, differs greatly from that observed in other marsupials. Births were recorded at normal speed using hand-held digital video cameras. Birth was heralded by a release of about 1 mL of watery fluid from the urogenital sinus followed by gelatinous material contained in either one or two tubes emanating from the sinus. The newborn, still encased in their placental membranes, were in the gelatinous material within a column. To exit this column, they had to grasp a hair and wriggle about 1 cm across to the pouch. In the pouch the newborn young had to compete for a teat. Although the quolls possessed 8 teats, the number of young in the pouch immediately after birth was 17, 16, 6, 16, 13 and 11 for each of the 6 quolls filmed. While birth has been described previously in another two dasyurids, the observers did not describe birth as reported here for the quoll. Nevertheless the movement of the newborn from the sinus to the pouch is so quick that this could have previously been missed. Filming birth from beneath and from the side allowed for a greater understanding of the birth process. Further studies are required to determine whether this use of a gelatinous material is part of the birth process in all dasyurids.

© CSIRO 2003

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