Notoryctes typhlops 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Notoryctemorphia Notoryctidae

Scientific Name: Notoryctes typhlops
Species Authority: (Stirling, 1889)
Common Name(s):
English Itjaritjari, Southern Marsupial Mole, Marsupial Mole
French Grande taupe marsupiale
Psammoryctes typhlops Stirling, 1889

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2014-03-15
Assessor(s): Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J.
Reviewer(s): Hawkins, C.
Contributor(s): Benshemesh, J., Copley, P., Johnson, K., McGilvray, A. & Ward, S.

Evaluated as Least Concern because the Itjaritjari is widespread and there is no evidence of a continuing decline.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Itjaritjari (Southern Marsupial Mole) occur in the Great Victoria Deserts of Western Australia and South Australia and the western half of the Simpson Desert in southern Northern Territory and Queensland. Their distribution follows that of the sand dune habitat that they prefer. The Itjaritjari may be sympatric with Kakarratul (Notoryctes caurinus) in northern parts of the former’s range.
Countries occurrence:
Australia (Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:20000-40000Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:620000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:10-50
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


There is no robust estimate of population size, nor any data that suggest decline. However, evidence can be found in most areas of suitable habitat (stable dunes) within the species’ distribution. Indices of levels of activity have been developed, but these are not yet correlated with abundance.

Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:10000-100000Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Itjaritjari inhabit sand dunes and adjacent swales where there is suitable deep, loose sand. They spend almost their entire lives underground, only very occasionally coming to the surface, and only remaining on the surface for a short time. Most specimens and sightings come from animals found on the surface. However, it appears they rarely come to the surface, which makes them less prone to predation by Red Foxes, Cats and other predators.

When underground, marsupial moles virtually swim through the soil. The sand is packed in behind the animal as it progresses and no empty tunnel is formed. Nevertheless, where one has passed through a soil profile, an oval shaped differentiation in soil texture and colour can be seen (Johnson and Walton 1989). Where Itjaritjari are known to occur, their underground backfilled tunnels are often very common and these may represent an important source of soil disturbance (biopedturbation) (Whitford and Kay 1999). Evidence of 30-60 kilometres of backfilled tunnel per hectare is usual in these areas (Benshemesh 2004), representing about 40-80 m3 of turned-over soil per hectare, or up to 1% of the soil within one metre of the surface.

Itjaritjari are insectivorous, capturing their prey while underground. Examination of gut contents of preserved specimens and of the habitat they occupy, has revealed a generalist diet comprising two main prey types: social insects (ants and termites) and the larvae of beetles. Ants, termites and beetle larvae were also the main invertebrates captured in soil cores on sandridges; other invertebrates combined contributed <5% to abundance (Pavey et al. 2012).

Recent studies suggest that marsupial moles may be common prey items of larger mammalian predators. Paltridge (1998) found remains of marsupial moles in predator scats at five of her six study sites in the Tanami Desert. Her study revealed that 10% of Red Fox scats, 3% of Cat scats and 5% of Dingo scats contained signs of moles (n= 82, 111 and 59 respectively). Signs of marsupial moles have also been found in Red Fox and Dingo scats from the Anangu-Pitjantjatjara / Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia (Benshemesh 2004), and in other areas of the Northern Territory (Paltridge 1998), although not as frequently. Benshemesh et al. (2010) examined nearly 1800 predator scats from both southern and northern dunefields and found little difference between the likelihood of finding marsupial mole signs in scats of Red Foxes, cats and Dingoes, but major differences between northern and southern areas. In southern areas inhabited by Itjaritjari, only 1% of predator scats contained traces of marsupial moles, compared with 8% in northern areas largely inhabited by Kakarratul, a difference they attributed to the higher abundance of marsupial moles in the north and shallower burrowing habits. It is uncertain whether these predators take marsupial moles on the surface or dig them up, or indeed whether they are actually killing moles or taking dead animals. Dead or severely debilitated moles have been recorded on the surface on several occasions (Benshemesh 2004), but it seems most likely that these predators prey upon living moles that are on or just under the surface. R. T. Maurice, who travelled widely in the Great Victoria Desert between 1897 and 1903, reported that local Aboriginal people were able to capture Itjaritjari after hearing them when they were under the surface (Gara 1996 cited in Benshemesh 2004), and larger mammalian predators may do likewise. Benshemesh et al. (2010) found some evidence that Dingoes, at least, hunted marsupial moles in northern areas, where it was common to find the remains of more than one marsupial mole in each scat. On the surface, marsupial moles are vulnerable to a wide range of predators including birds of prey, snakes and goannas.

A study of the metabolic physiology of a single Kakarratul concluded that it differs in some aspects of thermal and metabolic physiology from other marsupials, most likely reflecting its almost completely fossorial existence (Withers et al. 2000). Itjaritjari are likely to be similar.

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):10-15
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): While several possible threats have been identified (predation by introduced species, inappropriate fire regimes), recent data suggests Itjaritjari remain widespread and relatively abundant.

Citation: Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J. 2016. Notoryctes typhlops. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T14879A21965004. . Downloaded on 20 October 2016.
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