Peramelemorphia – Bandicoots & bilbies

Nocturnal, omnivorous marsupials with rodent-like appearance: short legs and necks, stocky bodies and pointy nose

Bandicoots and bilbies, belonging to the order Peramelemorphia, are unique marsupials native to Australia and New Guinea. These small to medium-sized nocturnal creatures are distinguished by their pointed snouts and hunched posture, which aids in their primary activity: foraging. Unlike other marsupials whose pouches open upward, the marsupium of peramelemorphs opens to the rear, an adaptation that prevents the pouch from filling with soil as they dig.

As solitary foragers, bandicoots and bilbies are fiercely territorial. They mark their domains with scent and are quick to drive away competitors, seeking company solely for the purpose of reproduction. The reproductive rate of these marsupials is surprisingly high for their size, with some species capable of breeding multiple times a year and young ones maturing rapidly, sometimes in as little as 12 weeks.

Despite their robust breeding capabilities, bandicoots and bilbies have not fared well against the changes brought by urban expansion and agricultural development. Their ventures into suburbs, while indicative of their adaptability, have earned them the label of pests. They are often found digging up lawns and tearing through gardens in a relentless search for their varied diet, which includes insects, worms, tubers, and seeds. This behavior, while a nuisance to gardeners, is actually a sign of the ecological role they play in soil aeration and the control of insect populations.

The presence of bandicoots and bilbies in human-altered landscapes also exposes them to domestic pets and vehicular traffic, contributing to a significant decline in their numbers. Furthermore, the parasites they carry, such as ticks, lice, and fleas, can be vectors for diseases that affect both wildlife and domestic animals, creating an intersection of environmental and public health concerns.