Alexandria Teer 5/20/13
In Australia, the greater Bilby (Macrotis Lagotis) is known by a few names, one being rabbiteared bandicoot, another being the “Easter Bilby”. The correct name for the Bilby has been changed a couple of times due to scientists mistaking its ancestry along with its close relative, the lesser Bilby(Macrotis leucura), which became extinct in the 1950’s, but evidence shows they may have survived into the early 1960’s. The bilby, although small compared to most animals that live in the Tanami desert in Australia, is one of the largest largest members of the marsupial bandicoot family .The bilby’s long ears and long nose (as seen in figure 1), make up for the bilby’s poor sight in the wild, it’s ears pick up sounds from far distances to detect predators and its nose is able to smell it’s prey from equally far distances ,(Fact Sheet). The Tanami desert is actually one of a few deserts bilbies can be found in Australia, along with the Gibson Desert and the
Great Sandy Deserts; they all have the same savanna/ grassland feel to them, lots of rain and very sandy with shrubs, cacti and a few other plants. The reduction in bilby habitat is due to 200 years worth of change in environment and the appearance of new foreign species consuming them and competing against them; there are only a little over
600 bilbies left in the world, (The secret life of the bilby).
Figure 1 (The secret life of the
The name Bilby is a loanword and comes from the language Yuwaalaraay,the aboriginal language of New South Wales , it basically means “Longnosed rat”. Scientists changed the bilby’s family classification from Thylacomyidae to Peramelidae due to the likeness to another close relative and being the last of its classification of family. The family
Thylacomyidae basically only has 2 species within the family, the lesser and greater bilby, (Thylacomyidae ,(Bilbies)). The reason for the short (and now even shorter) list of species in this family is due to scientist being not quite sure where to put them. The bilbies characteristics were a bit off putting, so they gave them a whole family to themselves. This of course, didn’t last long, and when the lesser bilby became extinct in the 1950’s early 1960’s, it was a bit more relevant to classify the greater bilby a bit more specifically. Now, because the greater bilby showed certain characteristics and behavioral patterns (tunneling, long ears, long legs, long nose and a pouch for joeys), scientists realized it likely belonged in the Peramelidae family. The Peramelidae family are marsupials, to be more specific, they are marsupial bandicoots with traits like having short front limbs, a long tail and females having a pouch on her back instead of the front like most marsupialia (Peramelidae, bandicoots and echymipera). The bilby’s physical features are the best fit for the conditions for their biome, although they live in mostly desert plains, the land does have a lot of features a savanna would have (little rain, shrubs, grass, sand, lowlatitude climate). To be more specific, bilbies live in the Spinifex Grasslands of the Tanami desert in the Northern Territory,(Savanna).
Bilbies have very strong hind legs and short, sharp claws to dig and burrow temporary homes for themselves.They build them in the sand/ground to hide from predator and as a source of shade from the scorching heat (The Bilby). The bilby also has long ears, while the ear length may help with detecting noises from far away places, they are also used in thermoregulation. Thermoregulation is the way the bilby keeps a steady temperature without overheating quickly or freezing (although…