Sminthopsis leucopus 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Dasyuromorphia Dasyuridae

Scientific Name: Sminthopsis leucopus
Species Authority: (Gray, 1842)
Common Name(s):
English White-footed Dunnart
French Souris marsupiale à pieds blancs
Antechinomys leucopus Gray, 1842

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2014-03-17
Assessor(s): Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J.
Reviewer(s): Hawkins, C.
Contributor(s): Driessen, M., Menkhorst, P. & Murray, A.

While generally uncommon, the White-footed Dunnart is widespread and occurs in Tasmania, on several Tasmanian offshore islands, extensively in coastal and near-coastal Victoria and southern New South Wales, plus an isolated subspecies in northern Queensland. It occurs in a variety of habitats and, while it fluctuates in some habitats due to vegetation successional change, there is no evidence of extreme fluctuations, it has not declined in extent of occurrence and there is no compelling evidence of an ongoing population decline.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

The White-footed Dunnart occurs in Tasmania (except the south west), southern Victoria, and far south-eastern New South Wales, with a highly disjunct subpopulation in the Wet Tropics of north Queensland. In Victoria it occurs along the coastline and in adjacent plains and foothills and extends inland along some major river valleys (Menkhorst 1995). It occurs on five Tasmanian offshore islands: Bruny (367 km2 ha), Cape Barren (462 km2), Clarke (84 km2) and West Sister (7.1 km2); it has been introduced to East Sister Island (5.2 km2) (Abbott and Burbidge 1995). There are relatively few location records for this species and the area of occupancy (AOO) calculation is likely to be a significant under-estimate.

Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:1000-5000Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:930000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:10-50Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


The total population is suspected to be fewer than 10 000 mature individuals, with fewer than 1000 in New South Wales, fewer than 2000 in Victoria, and probably fewer than 5000 individuals in Tasmania (Lunney et al. 2008); however, these figures are not based on statistically valid projections from sampling and given the recent detections by camera traps in Victoria (P. Menkhorst pers. comm.), the widespread occurrence in Tasmania and five offshore islands plus difficulty in detecting the species, the Tasmanian figure, at least, is likely to be an under-estimate. The Queensland subpopulation is represented by only a very few specimens, and its size there is unknown but likely to be low (Lunney et al. 2008). Subpopulations in Victoria and New South Wales undergo fluctuations in abundance due to habitat successional change (Lunney 2008) but there is little evidence that the population size ‘varies widely, rapidly and frequently, typically with a variation of greater than one order of magnitude’. There is no information concerning fluctuations in Tasmania or its offshore islands.

Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:8000-10000Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

In Tasmania, the White-footed Dunnart is widely distributed in most vegetation types including sclerophyll forest, heath and rainforest at altitudes up to 810 m, but is infrequently recorded (Rounsevell et al. 1991; Lunney 2008). In Victoria, it occurs in a range of habitats including coastal tussock grassland and sedgeland, wet heath, and forest or woodland with a dense (>50% cover) heathy understorey or mid-story vegetation (Menkhorst 1995). In New South Wales its habitat includes heathy woodlands and forest, coastal scrub and coastal dune grassland. There it has been recorded in early- to mid-successional vegetation and in post-fire and post-logging coastal forests (Morton et al. 1980; Lunney 2008). In north Queensland, the species has been recorded only occasionally and records are from mature or regenerating notophyll vine forest at altitudes of >750 m.

In the Otway Ranges of southern Victoria, it has been recorded in regrowth 4-16 years post-fire (Wilson and Aberton 2006). In New South Wales a study found that it bred in disturbed habitat but did not persist when the vegetation regrew and became dense (Lunney and Ashby 1987). Another study (Lunney and Leary 1989) found that females occupied small home ranges, and capture sites did not overlap with those of other females. Males did not have exclusive capture sites and the home ranges overlapped. Their movement patterns fell into two groups: explorer males and resident males. The largest movement of an explorer male was 1025 m in 24 hours. It was concluded that suitable habitat, such as recently disturbed forest, may occur naturally only as disjunct and temporary patches, hence the ability to travel long distances enables this species to utilise these suddenly abundant and transient resources and that the pattern of habitat selection identified showed the White-footed Dunnart to be ecologically distinct from the other species of small mammals in the forest and thus in need of special consideration in management programs (Lunney and Leary 1989; Lunney et al. 1989). However, in Victoria, the evidence for a preference for disturbed sites or regenerating vegetation is less clear (Menkhorst 1995).

White-footed Dunnarts prey on a wide variety of invertebrates of up to 18 mm in length, including skinks of up to 1.5 g. They nest in tree hollows, and under logs and strips of bark (Lunney 2008).

In New South Wales and Victoria, mating occurs in late July and August. Up to 10 young are born, occupying the rudimentary pouch until eight weeks of age when they are left in a nest and suckled for a further month (Lunney 2008). In Tasmania breeding commences in early spring, young being carried in the pouch during September and October (Green 2007). White-footed Dunnart females appear to have only one short breeding season during their lifetime and males apparently do not survive to breed in a second year (Menkhorst 1995). Longevity is up to 2.5 years (Jones et al. 2009), but is probably less on average in the wild. Generation length is here assumed to be one year.

Generation Length (years):1
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This is an early-mid successional stage post-fire and post-logging species. Inappropriate fire regimes may result in some declines. Logging may affect abundance in the short term. Predation by feral cats and Red Foxes may be an issue but data are lacking.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The White-footed Dunnart is present in a number of protected areas. The Queensland subpopulation is within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. There is a need to delineate distribution and ecology of this northern Queensland population and to research its taxonomic status. Subpopulations in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania should be monitored, particularly in areas subject to disturbances which promote dense regrowth (Maxwell et al. 1996).

Citation: Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J. 2016. Sminthopsis leucopus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T20297A21947619. . Downloaded on 24 October 2016.
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