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FAMILY 78.—MYRMECOBIIDÆ. (1 Genus, 1 Species.)
The only representative of this family is the Myrmecobius fasciatus, or native ant-eater, a small bushy-tailed squirrel-like animal, found in the South and West of Australia.
FAMILY 79.—PERAMELIDÆ. (3 Genera, 10 Species.)
The Peramelidæ, or bandicoots, are small insectivorous Marsupials, having something of the form of the kangaroos. They range over the whole of Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Papuan Islands. The genus Perameles (8 sp.), has the range of the family, one species being found in New Guinea and the Aru Islands (Plate XI., vol. i. p. 440); Peragalea (1 sp.), inhabits West Australia only; and Chæropus (1 sp.), a beautiful little animal with something of the appearance of a mouse-deer, is found in both South, East, and West Australia.
FAMILY 80.—MACROPODIDÆ. (10 Genera, 56 Species.)
NEOTROPICAL NEARCTIC PALÆARCTIC ETHIOPIAN ORIENTAL I AUSTRALIAN SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS.
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The well-known Kangaroos are the most largely developed family of Marsupials, and they appear to be the form best adapted for the present conditions of life in Australia, over every part of which they range. One genus of true terrestrial kangaroos (Dorcopsis), inhabits the Papuan Islands, as do also the curious tree kangaroos (Dendrolagus) which, without much apparent modification of form, are able to climb trees and feed upon the foliage. The genera, as established by Mr. Waterhouse, are as follows: Macropus (4 sp.), West, South, and East Australia, and Tasmania (Plate XII, vol. i. p. 441); Osphranter (5 sp.), all Australia ; Halmaturus (18 sp.), all Australia and Tasmania ; Petrogale (7 sp.), all Australia ; Dendrolagus (2 sp.), New Guinea (Plate X., vol. i. p. 414); Dorcopsis (2 sp.) Aru and Mysol Islands, and New Guinea; Onychogalea (3 sp.), Central Australia; Lagorchestes (5 sp.), North, West, and South Australia ; Bettongia (6 sp.), West, South, and East, Australia, and Tasmania ; Hypsiprymnus (4 sp.), West and East Australia, and Tasmania.
Extinct Macropodidæ.- Many species of the genera Macropus and Hypsiprymnus have been found in the cave-deposits and other Post-Tertiary strata of Australia. Among the extinct genera are Protemnodon and Sthenurus, which are more allied to the tree-kangaroos of New Guinea than to living Australian species; the gigantic Diprotodon, a kangaroo nearly as large as an elephant; and Nototherium, of smaller size.
FAMILY 81.--PHALANGISTIDÆ. (8 Genera, 27 Species.)
The Phalangistidæ, or phalangers, are one of the most varied and interesting groups of Marsupials, being modified in a variety of ways for an arboreal life. We have the clumsy-looking tail-less koala, or native sloth; the prehensile-tailed opossum-like phalangers; the beautiful flying oppossums, so closely resembling in form the flying squirrels of North America and India, but often no larger than a mouse; the beautiful dormouse-like Dromicic, one species of which is only 21 inches long or less than the harvest-mouse; and the little Tarsipes, a true honeysucker with an extensile tongue, and of the size of a mouse. These extreme modifications and specializations within the range of a single family, are sufficient to indicate the great antiquity of the Australian fauna; and they render it almost certain that the region it occupied was once much more extensive, so as to supply the variety of conditions and the struggle between competing forms of life, which would be required to develop so many curiously modified forms, of which we now probably see only a remnant.
The Phalangistidæ not only range over all Australia and Tasmania, but over the whole of the Austro-Malayan sub-region from New Guinea to the Moluccas and Celebes. The distribution of the genera is as follows :-Phascolarctos (1 sp.), the koala, East Australia; Phalangista (5 sp.), East, South, and West Australia, and Tasmania ; Cuscus (8 sp.), woolly phalangers, New Guinea, North Australia, Timor, Moluccas and Celebes ; Petaurista (1 sp.) large flying phalanger, East Australia ; Belideus (5 sp.), flying opossums, South, East, and North Australia, New Guiana and Moluccas; Acrobata (1 sp.), pigmy flying opossum, South and East Australia; Dromicia (5 sp.), dormouse-phalangers, West and East Australia, and Tasmania; Tarsipes (1 sp.), West Australia.
Thylacoleo, a large extinct marsupial of doubtful affinities, seems to be somewhat intermediate between this family and the kangaroos. Professor Owen considered it to be carnivorous, and able to prey upon the huge Diprotodon, while Professor Flower and Mr. Gerard Krefft, believe that it was herbivorous.
FAMILY 82.—PHASCOLOMYIDÆ. (1 Genus, 3 Species.)
The Wombats are tail-less, terrestrial, burrowing animals, about the size of a badger, but feeding on roots and grass. They inhabit South Australia and Tasmania (Plate XI. vol. i. p. 439).
An extinct wombat, as large as a tapir, has been found in the Australian Pliocene deposits.
General Remarks on the Distribution of Marsupialia.
We have here the most remarkable case, of an extensive and highly varied order being confined to one very limited area on the earth's surface, the only exception being the opossums in America. It has been already shown that these are comparatively recent immigrants, which have survived in that country long after they disappeared in Europe. As, however, no other form but that of the Didelphyidse occurs there during the Tertiary period, we must suppose that it was at a far more remote epoch that the ancestral forms of all the other Marsupials entered Australia; and the curious little mammals of the Oolite and Trias, offer valuable indications as to the time when this really took place.
A notice of these extinct marsupials of the secondary period will be found at vol. i. p. 159.
The OrnitTiorhynchus, or duck-billed Platypus, one of the most remarkable and isolated of existing mammalia, is found in East and South Australia, and Tasmania.
NEOTROPICAL NEARCTIC PALÆARCTICI ETHIOPIAN I ORIENTAL I AUSTRALIAN SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS. SUB-REGIONS. SCB-REGIONS.
The Echidna, or Australian Hedgehog, although quite as remarkable in internal structure as the Ornithorhynchus, is not so peculiar in external appearance, having very much the aspect of a hedgehog or spiny armadillo. The two species of this genus are very closely allied; one inhabits East and South Australia, the other Tasmania.
Extinct Echidnido.— Remains of a very large fossil species of Echidna have lately (1868) been discovered at Darling Downs in Australia.
Remark on the Distribution of the Monotremata. This order is the lowest and most anomalous of the mammalia, and nothing resembling it has been found among the very numerous extinct animals discovered in any other part of the world than Australia.