The dusky antechinus (Antechinus swainsonii
) is a typically-sized carnivorous marsupial, with males averaging 65 grams (females average 41 grams). It is a dark grey to black in colour.
Diet and Behaviour
Despite its small size, the species is a voracious carnivore, feeding on soil invertebrates with seeming intensity. Its diet comprises insects, worms, lizards and, occasionally, even small birds, and is supplemented with vegetable matter.
As with most marsupials, the dusky antechinus is nocturnal, spending the day-light hours within a nest in a hollowed log or among the thick leaf litter and ground vegetation of the forest floor. Like many marsupials, the species is solitary. Interaction between individuals tend to be largely confined to mating, and the mother-young interaction.
The dusky antechinus, in common with the swamp antechinus
, has a remarkable breeding biology. Copulation occurs during a short season in winter. The males, driven to somewhat frenzied sexual activity due to raised testosterone levels compete vigorously for females. Within three weeks, almost all the males in the population are dead. This male die-off is largely brought on by the high stress levels associated with the physiological changes brought on by the breeding period.
The female gives birth after a four-week gestation period. Six to eight young are born and carried in the pouch for up to eight weeks. Young are then left in a den before becoming independent at about three months.
Distribution and Status
The species is found on the south-east coastal regions of mainland Australia. In Tasmania, the dusky antechinus prefers rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests.
The species is common in suitable habitat.