There are two species of dusky antechinus in Tasmania
Tasmanian dusky antechinus Antechinus swainsonii
Tasman Peninsula dusky antechinus Antechinus vandycki
The Tasman Peninsula dusky antechinus was first decribed in 2015. Both species are restricted to Tasmania and it is difficult to tell them apart in live animals. Both species are similar in colour (greyish-brown to black) and in size (males about 65 grams and females about 40 grams). Features of the skull and genetics were used to describe the two species.
Little is known about the ecology of the Tasman Peninsula dusky antechinus. The information provided below is based on research on the Tasmanian dusky antechinus.
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
Both species are restricted to Tasmania where they occur in rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests. The Tasmanian dusky antechinus occurs widely in Tasmania in suitable habitat. The Tasman Peninsula dusky antechinus is only known from the Tasman Peninsula and its distribution has not been well surveyed.