The filling of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre (Lake Eyre) is one of Australia’s great natural spectacles. In recent days, Lake Eyre has received its greatest inflow of water since 2011.Read more...
Their recent reclassification as two distinct species has made it difficult to map their distribution as older records did not distinguish between the two species. However, a number of records for the Crest-tailed Mulgara are known from the Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert and north of South Australia. The Brush-tailed Mulgara also has records from the Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert, as well as the Western desert, and parts of southern Northern Territory. Historically there are widespread records across central desert regions of Australia, with steep declines since the 1930s. Whether this applies to one or both species is unclear but both have suffered significant population reduction and fragmentation over the past 80 years.
Mulgaras are small carnivorous marsupials with short round ears, sandy coloured hair on their backs, light grey hair on their underside and a short tapering tail with a reddish tinge near the body and black. Brush-tailed Mulgara tails taper to a round sharp point, but Crest-tailed Mulgaras have a prominent Mohican fringe towards the ends of their tails. Males are larger than females, and both appear to keep growing throughout their lives. The largest males reach about 22cm (head and body) with a 12cm tail and weigh up to 190grams. Females reach about three quarters of these dimensions. Mulgara store fat in their tails, which can be very thick at the base.
Mulgaras shelter in burrows up to 50cm deep during the day and emerge at night to hunt large invertebrates and small vertebrates, including mammals, reptiles and birds. They are found in a range of vegetation communities but Crest-tailed Mulgaras may prefer sand dunes with Sand Hill Cane-grass (Zygochloa paradoxa), and the favoured habitat of Brush-tailed Mulgaras is spinifex grasslands. However it is possible that both species occur in close proximity to each other. Both species are insectivorous and carnivorous and will feed on a range of insects, scorpions, centipedes, rodents, small marsupials and reptiles. Mulgara breed in late winter. Crest-tailed Mulgara have a litter of up to 8 young, and Brush-tailed Mulgara litters are up to six; the difference reflects the difference in nipple number between the two species. The young suckle for 12 to 15 weeks, hanging below the female’s body since the pouch is reduced to a pair of lateral flaps.
Like almost all small native mammals in the desert regions of central Australia, the decline of the Crest-tailed Mulgara is at least partly due to habitat degradation from changed fire regimes and grazing, and predation by cats and foxes.
AWC protects significantly large areas of habitat for both species. Kalamurina is the largest non-government reserve in Australia and one of the largest in the world; it covers nearly 7,000 square kilometres, linking Lake Eyre National Park and Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert Regional Reserve. The property is a stronghold for the Crest-tailed Mulgara.
AWC is engaged in an active management program to restore appropriate fire regimes and limit the depredations of feral animals to deliver a measurable improvement at Newhaven in the health of the landscape and the populations of vulnerable species such as the Brush-tailed Mulgara.
Unlike many other small dasyurids (carnivorous marsupials), males do not die after breeding and captive Crest-tailed Mulgaras of both sexes have remained reproductive for 6 years, indicating they may be fairly long lived. Another difference between the two species is that the Crest-tailed Mulgara has three upper premolars, whereas the Brush-tailed Mulgara has only two!