Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Pseudocheiridae
Subfamily: Hemibelideinae
Genus: Hemibelideus
Species: Hemibelideus lemuroides

AKA the Lemur-like ringtail possum and the Brushy-tailed ringtail.

The Lemuroid Ringtail Possum is a possum native to the the tropical rainforests of the Great Green Way region of North Queensland and the Mount Carbine Tablelands areas in Australia. Their total range is equal to only about 300,000 hectares. They live in the treetops, eat leaves, and generally look cute.

Lemuroid Ringtails are small climbing marsupials with opposable thumbs on their hind feet, large eyes, and bushy tails. Despite being bushy, the tails are also prehensile, having a bare, padded tip to help grip tree branches. They spend most of their lives in the canopy of the rainforest, at an average height of 16 meters above the ground. They grow up to 1k (2lb.) in weight and 38cm (15 inches) in length. Lemuroid ringtails are 100% arboreal, eat the leaves of only certain types of trees, and furthermore they only feed in old growth trees.

The average Lemuroid Ringtail is covered in long brown-gray fur, with a yellow underbelly. There is/was a white variety, particularly in the Mount Carbine area, although it is probably now extinct. Because they are nocturnal, one of their primary identifying features is their eyeshine; when shining a light into their eyes, the returning gleam is bright yellow, a color unique among species in this area.

They are social creatures, and not territorial. Multiple families may forage together, but they usually have individual dens, leaf-lined holes in logs and tree trunks. They form monogamous pairs to mate and take care of their young, but we don't know how long these pairings usually last. They may dissolve at the end of a mating season. A 'mating season', however, is not just the time it takes to mate. The father stays around until the young is born and raised. The pup (usually only one) is born in August, spends four months in the mother's pouch, to finally comes out and be raised by the parents for another five months before it reaches maturity.

As you might guess, the Lemuroid Ringtail looks a little more lemur-like than the other species of ringtail possums. They are particularity lermurish in the shape of their face, having short snouts, large forward-facing eyes, and smaller ears than other possums.

They also share some characteristics with the greater glider, a cat-sized marsupial that glides in the same fashion as a flying squirrel. Lemuroid ringtails may actually be more closely related to the great gliders than to the ringtails. (Great gliders, by the way, are genus genus Petauroides, while the better known sugar gliders are genus Petaurus). The lemuroid ringtails have many adaptations in their skeleton and musculature to help them adapt to an arboreal, leaping lifestyle, but they have only a very small membranes between their legs, which is insufficient for them to really glide. They use their tails as a primitive rudder, and can leap for up to three meters, landing heavily. Listing for the commotion of landing ringtails in the canopy above you is a good way to locate these animals.

The lemuroid ringtails have few predators (the carpet python and the rufous owl are the only animals that hunt them). Likewise, the plots of rainforest where they live have thus far been spared from extensive logging, and the future looks good -- except for one thing. In the summer of 2005 there was an Australian heat wave, and many of the lemuroid ringtails died. It appears that they are very sensitive to heat, and can die if exposed to temperatures above 30°C (85°F) for period greater than five hours. While most populations are still healthy, the rarer white variation of the lemuroid ringtail seems to have gone extinct, as no one has seen any for the past three years. This does not bode well for the lemuroid ringtails as a species; a few more hot years and we might see the species disappear.


References:
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hemibelideus_lemuroides.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemibelideus
http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/38805

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