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

Diet of the western pygmy possum, Cercartetus concinnus Gould (Marsupialia: Burramyidae), at Innes National Park, South Australia, and evaluation of diet sampling methods

Angela J. L. Pestell A B and Sophie Petit A C

A School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia.

B Current address: Department for Environment and Heritage, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Zoology 55(5) 275-284
Submitted: 28 June 2007  Accepted: 4 October 2007   Published: 8 February 2007


The diet of a population of western pygmy possums, Cercartetus concinnus Gould (Marsupialia: Burramyidae), at Innes National Park, South Australia, was examined using faecal and fur pollen swab samples in relation to monthly plant phenological data. Eucalyptus pollen was the most abundant in both faeces and in fur swab samples, followed by Melaleuca pollen; plant exudates could not be examined by this study. Moth scales were found in 26% of the scat samples. Faecal samples comprised most plant species identified (15 of 17), but up to 25% of plant species recorded from fur pollen swabs were not recorded from faeces. The relatively high frequencies of plant species represented in fur pollen swabs indicates that this method is valuable for supplementing faecal analysis used to determine plant visitation by nectarivorous animals.


Barb Cook, Magda Kluka, Tania Martin, Kathy Penny, Annette Scanlon, and Helen Waudby kindly donated their time for scat analysis. Special thanks to Dr Phil Ainsley, Germplasm Research Coordinator, for allowing us to use the Seed Conservation Centre’s facilities to photograph pollen, and to Todd Erickson for taking the pollen microphotographs. Brian Thomson contributed valuable work as a volunteer, particularly his poems and wonderful stories? Thanks also to our other volunteers: Zane Adams, Julia Burnard, Tony Cook, Laura Fuss, Chris Havelberg, Michael Hodges, Ali Hughes, Michael Jervois, Richy Pestell, Chris Raymond, Phil Roetman, Michael Rosewarne, and Ashley Walker. Roger Clay, Chris Holden, Peggy Rismiller, and two anonymous reviewers kindly reviewed the manuscript. This study was partly funded by a Postgraduate Research Scholarship from the Nature Foundation SA, a grant from the Department for Environment and Heritage’s Northern and Yorke Regional office, an Honours Research Fund from the School of Natural and Built Environments to A. Pestell, and a summer scholarship from the Division of Information Technology, Engineering, and the Environment, University of South Australia. This research was conducted under a National Parks and Wildlife Scientific Permit S24841 1 and approval 59/04 from the IMVS Animal Ethics Committee.


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