The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Dasyure

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Dasyure
Edition of 1920. See also Dasyuridae on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

DASYURE, dăs'ĭ-ūr, a mariupial native to Australasia; and belonging to the family Dasyuridæ. Dasyures are the survivors of the fossil forms found in Tertiary strata in South America, and elsewhere; and are allied to the opossum. The hind and fore legs are about equal in length, and the toes are furnished with claws; the long hairy tails are not prehensile. The teeth are fitted for tearing flesh, and there are eight upper incisors. There is no cœcum. The pouch is often rudimentary, and in Myrmecobius is absent. The dasyures are chiefly strong, fierce creatures of cat-like propensities, whose depredations have caused heavy losses in farming and ranching districts, so that the colonists of Australasia, more especially those of Tasmania, have nearly exterminated them, by persistent effort. Among them we find the Tasmanian zebra-wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus), a wolf-like creature, rather smaller than the common wolf, with short fur, a long smooth tail and rounded ears. Its color is brownish, and it is barred at tbe hinder portion of the back and the roots of the tail with dark stripes. It prowls about by night, making raids upon unguarded sheep-folds. By day, it skulks in caverns among the rocks. Another foe to the flocks is the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus ursinus). This creature, in size like a badger, in appearance like a bear, is ponderous, powerful, dark-colored, and covered with a coat of long fur. It sleeps by day; and, like the zebra-wolf, seeks its prey at night. It is very strong and ferocious; but despite this, has been successfully put down by the colonists; in fact, it has been nearly exterminated. Another species is the Australian “native cat,” a spotted creature, almost as large as a house-cat. It belongs to the genus Dasyurus, in which are also several other and smaller species. Perhaps the most interesting of the small Dasyures, is the banded ant-eater (Myrmecobius fasciatus) found in western and southern Australia. It is a reddish brown in color, banded posteriorly with white; is about the size of a squirrel, and has a long protrusile tongue for gathering its insect food. It is considered as a practically unmodified representative of certain extinct marsupials found in the Secondary rocks of Europe. It lives in sandy plains, where it finds food in plenty. Other species, small as rats and mice, and living chiefly on insects, birds, eggs, etc., are found in the genus Phascogale, and allied genera; and the jerboa-like creature (Antechinomys laniger) constitutes another genus, of a single species. It is native to Queensland and New South Wales, but is very rare. See Marsupials.