Like its close relative, the little pygmy-possum
, the eastern pygmy-possum (Cercartetus nanus
) has some special adaptations to cope with the cold of Tasmanian winters. Both species go into torpor during cold spells. Its small size means that the animal has, in comparison to its body volume, a lot of skin through which to loose body heat. In other words, it has a high surface area to volume ratio. Torpor is a means by which an animal is able to reduce energy expenditure by lowering its metabolism. Its body temperature can drop to near that of its surroundings. Unlike true hibernation, torpidity generally only lasts for a few days at a time.
The eastern pygmy-possum is found throughout the wetter forests of the western half of the state.
Unlike its relative, the little pygmy-possum
, which was erroneously once thought to be a nectar feeder, the eastern pygmy-possum was once erroneously thought to be primarily insectivorous. It is in fact largely a nectar and pollen feeder, although invertebrates are also taken. This uncertainty about the diet of these small possum reflects the relatively little information we have been able to glean about the life histories of these diminutive species.
Breeding is similar to the little pygmy-possum
. It occurs from late winter to spring, with four young being the usual litter size and pouch occupancy lasting about six weeks.