1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dasyure

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

DASYURE, a bookname for any member of the zoological family Dasyuridae. (See Marsupialia.) The name is better restricted to animals of the typical genus Dasyurus, sometimes called true Dasyures. These are mostly inhabitants of the Australian continent and Tasmania, where in the economy of nature they take the place of the smaller predaceous Carnivora, the cats, civets and weasels of other parts of the world. They hide themselves in the daytime in holes among rocks or in hollow trees, but prowl about at night in search of the small living mammals and birds which constitute their prey, and are to some extent arboreal in habit. The spot-tailed dasyure (D. maculatus), about the size of a cat, inhabiting Tasmania and Southern Australia, has transversely striated pads on the soles of the feet. These organs are also present in the North Australian dasyure (D. hallucatus) and the Papuan D. albopunctatus, and are regarded by Oldfield Thomas as indication of arboreal habits; in the common dasyure (D. viverrinus) from Tasmania and Victoria, and the black-tailed dasyure (D. geoffroyi) from South Australia, these feet-pads are absent, whence these species are believed to seek their prey on the ground. The ursine dasyure (Sarcophilus ursinus), often called the “Tasmanian Devil,” constitutes a distinct genus. In size it may be compared to an English badger; the general colour of the fur is black tinged with brown, with white patches on the neck, shoulders, rump and chest. It is a burrowing animal, of nocturnal habits, intensely carnivorous, and commits great depredations on the sheepyards and poultry-lofts of the settlers. In writing of this species Krefft says that one — by no means a large one — escaped from confinement and killed in two nights fifty-four fowls, six geese, an albatross and a cat. It was recaptured in what was considered a stout trap, with a door constructed of iron bars as thick as a lead pencil, but escaped by twisting this solid obstacle aside.