Mastacomys fuscus 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Muridae

Scientific Name: Mastacomys fuscus
Species Authority: Thomas, 1882
Common Name(s):
English Broad-toothed Rat, Broad-toothed Mouse
Pseudomys fuscus (Thomas, 1882)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Menkhorst, P., Denny, M., Ellis, M., Driessen, M., Broome, L. & Dickman, C.
Reviewer(s): Lamoreux, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team) & Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority)
Listed as Near Threatened because this species has been, and continues to be, in significant decline (but probably at a rate of less than 30% over ten years) because of widespread habitat loss through much of its range (largely due to introduced species), predation (by introduced foxes), thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable under criterion A. Climate change is also likely to adversely affect this species in a number of ways.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic to Australia, where it is distributed on the mainland in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, in Barrington Tops, New South Wales, and in the Eastern Highlands, Victorian Alps, Otway Ranges, and Wilsons Promontory in Victoria. It also occurs in western Tasmania. It has been recorded from sea level up to 2,200 m asl (Driessen 2002; Green and Osborne 2003; Happold 2008; L. Broome pers. comm.).
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2200
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In general, it is not a common species and is patchily distributed throughout its range. In the alpine areas of Victoria and New South Wales it can be locally common, but still patchily distributed. It has not been recorded in the Otway Ranges for the last 30 years, and it has declined in large parts of its range. The isolated population at Barrington Tops is listed as an endangered population under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales). There has been a significant decline (>50% of the previous 13 year average) in the Mount Kosciuszko area since 1999 likely due to low snow cover and early snow melt (K. Green pers. comm.), which may cause low survival due to low temperatures and higher levels of predation by foxes and in some areas cats. This was exacerbated by bush fires in January 2003 that burned approximately 70% of the alpine area where the species occurs. Recent population trends in Victoria are unknown. There has been no formal monitoring of populations in Tasmania, apart from a 12-year survey at Lake St. Clair (M. Driessen pers. comm.).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It occurs in alpine and subalpine heathland, in clearings in wet sclerophyll forests and in wet sedgelands along streams. Primary requirements appear to be high rainfall and a cool climate, some form of cover in the form of boulders, shrubs or grass tussocks and access to grasses that form the major part of its diet. Leaves of shrubs, seeds, fungi, and bark are also eaten. Females give birth to probably two litters per season of between one and four young after a gestation period of about five weeks (Happold 2008).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is generally restricted by the sparseness of suitable habitat, and is threatened by predation from introduced foxes (Bubela and Happold 1993, Green 2002) and cats (L. Broome pers. comm.). Bushfires are also a threat as well as habitat destruction and modification by feral horses, rabbits, hares, pigs, and ski resort developments in some parts of its range (L. Broome pers. comm.). Introduced weeds (e.g., broom Cytisus species and an exotic grass Holcus lanatus) are invading habitat at Barrington Tops and willow Salix species is a threat in alpine Victoria. The root rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi is causing dieback of heath in some areas. In Tasmania, inappropriate fire regimes are a potential threat to the species (Hocking and Driessen 2000). The recent introduction of foxes in Tasmania could be a major threat. Foxes have been shown to selectively prey on this species (Green 2002). Marginalisation of habitat due to drought and increased fire frequency and loss of protective snow cover in winter with subsequent increased predation in alpine areas is predicted to occur with global warming. This may also increase competition with native Rattus species (R. lutreolus, R. fuscipes) that co-occur in the habitat.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is present in the Kosciuszko National Park, Barrington Tops National Park, Victoria's Alpine National Park, Wilsons Promontory National Park and possibly Great Otway National Park, as well as several other protected areas in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. In Tasmania, M. fuscus is well protected as more than half of its habitat is within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which incorporates several contiguous national parks (Hocking and Driessen 2000).

Recovery plans are in preparation for the Barrington Tops (DEC 2005) and Kosciuszko populations. Fox control programs have been carried out each winter in the Kosciuszko area since 1999 and Barrington Tops since 2001 and cat control is conducted around ski resorts. Monitoring of M. fuscus populations at Kosciuszko has occurred at one site since 1978, and another seven sites (with and without fox control) since 1999, and at Barrington Tops since 2002. Pig and weed control is also carried out at Barrington Tops and feral horse removal and predator proof fencing is being considered. Further research is needed on the population status and range of this species, especially in Victoria and Tasmania. Other research priorities include: ecology, genetics, the ability to repopulate vacant habitat patches, impacts and control measure for feral animals, competition with Rattus species and research leading to reliable population viability, habitat, and climate change models.

Citation: Menkhorst, P., Denny, M., Ellis, M., Driessen, M., Broome, L. & Dickman, C. 2008. Mastacomys fuscus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T18563A8449729. . Downloaded on 30 August 2016.
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