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Tasmanian Mammals and Fungi

Tasmanian Bettongs and the Long-nosed Potoroo would have to be Tasmania's true Mycophagists! 

 

Rat Kangaroos have a foregut that allows them to be better able to digest the nutrients in the fungi compared to other mammals. Truffle-like underground fungi feature heavily in the diets of the rat-kangaroos (marsupials including bettongs and potoroos) in Tasmania. 

At least 49 species of fungi may make up 30-40% of the Tasmanian Bettong (Bettongia gaimardi ) diet throughout the year. When production of truffles is highest, Tasmanian Bettongs are almost entirely mycophagous, feeding extensively on fungi, peaking in mid-spring in November where it may make up 42% of their diet and around 6% in winter during August.

In a 2008 study, 49 fungal taxa were found in feces of Tasmanian Bettongs and 99.4% of bettong fecal samples contained two species Mesophellia glauca and Andebbia pachythrix. Studies showed no preference for certain fungal species – Bettongs ate what was available. Some fungi species only at specific times of year eg: Mesophellia tasmanica (Nov & Feb) and Thaxterogaster sp. (Nov & May) (Masen et al. 2008, p.83).

Did you know that Long-nosed Potoroos (Potorous tridactylus) can dig up to 2.4 fungi per minute?

 

A 2014 study on long-nosed potoroos showed how they can dig up to 2.4 truffles per minute, with a 76% success rate (Vernes & Jarman).

 

The long-nosed potoroo occurs in a variety of habitats: heathlands, woodlands, dry and wet eucalypt forests with a dense understory and their diet is mostly fungi, peaking in winter (80-90%) and low in early summer (70%).

The Long-nosed Potoroo may eat over 40 different species at a single site and fungi may form around 30-40% of their diet with the peak of feeding during the wetter seasons where it forages in gullies.

The high fungal diversity diet - around 50 different species (Masen et al. 2008), of the Long-nosed Potoroos is thought to support health (Claridge & Cork (1994). 

Bettongia gaimardi Tasmanian Bettong

(Bettongia gaimardi Tasmanian Bettong Freycinet, Gaimard, Quoy)

A number of Opportunistic Mycophagists  such as rats, Southern Brown Bandicoots,  Eastern Barred Bandicoots,  Long-tailed mouse, Tasmanian Pademelon,Brushtail Possum and Wombats have been shown to consume fungi seasonally or over short periods. These opportunists may eat underground truffle-like fungi or above ground macrofungi. Macrofungi in the genus Russula is popular for possums, and on several occasions over the years on my property I have seen Pademelons feed on Amanita and Russula above-ground fungi.

 

Even very small mammals routinely contain multiple fungal species in their digestive tracts at any given time (Maser et al. 1978), and fungal diversity has been shown to be important to good nutrition of mycophagists (Claridge & Cork 1994; Claridge et al. 1999).

Over 30 species of native Australian fauna have been recorded as eating fungi. Not all of the ones listed eat truffle-like fungi, but have been included here out of interest.

Bennett's Wallaby - Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus 

Bilby - Macrotis lagotis

Bush Rat - Rattus fuscipes

Common Brushtail Possum - Trichosurus vulpecula

Common Wombat - Vombatus ursinus 

Long-nosed Bandicoot - Perameles nasuta

Long-footed Potoroo - Potorous longipes 

Long-nosed Potoroo - Potorous tridactylus

Long-tailed Mouse - Pseudomys higginsi

Quokka - Setonix brachyurus

Red-legged Pademelon - Thylogale stigmatica

Southern Brown Bandicoot - Isoodon obesulus 

Swamp Rat - Rattus lutreolus

Swamp Wallaby - Wallabia bicolor

Tasmanian Bettong - Bettongia gaimardi 

Tasmanian Pademelon - Thylogale billardierii  

(Source: Claridge, Castellano & Trappe 1996)

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