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The behaviour in captivity of the dasyurid marsupial Phascogale tapoatafa (Meyer)
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posted on 09.02.2017by Cuttle, Peter
The aim of this study was to investigate the behaviour in
captivity of the dasyurid marsupial Phascogale tapoatafa. Each behaviour
was initially described and defined in terms of its observed effect,
whether on the animal itself, on a conspecific, on a prey species or on an
object or structure.
Locomotor, exploratory and grooming behaviour of solitary
animals is described. Movements involved in prey catching are defined, and
their sequential relationships in encounters with various prey are examined.
Movements do not occur randomly, but are ordered on the basis of facilitation
of one movement by another, and of feedback to the animal from the situation
and the behaviour of the prey. Prey are not divisible into classes on the
basis of the predator's responses to them. Data available for other
dasyurids is compared. The adaptive value of prey-catching behaviour is
discussed in terms of the ability of the prey to resist predation.
The reproductive strategy is examined with both field and
laboratory studies. P. tapoatafa exhibits a life-history strategy similar
to that of Antechinus stuartii, in which all males die after first breeding.
The adaptive value of this strategy is discussed in terms of reproductive
effort and the predictability of the environment. Nest-building and
copulatory behaviour are briefly described. The development of behaviour
is described in terms of the acquisition by the young of sensory modalities
and locomotor skills, and of the changing relationships amongst the litter-mates
and between the mother and her offspring.
The daily pattern of activity is described. On short nights,
the animal may be active for most of the night. During winter, the night
is divided into periods of activity and periods of inactivity. The
survival value of this strategy is discussed in terms of feeding and
Communication is described in terms of the sensory modalities
used, the signals observed and the observed effect on other animals.
P. tapoatafa shows a small range of auditory signals which may form a
graded communication system. Olfactory marking by males is pronounced
during the breeding season. Olfactory cues may signal physiological state
and assist in individual recognition. Agonistic behaviour is briefly
described in relation to dispersal of the animals for breeding.