A small opossum-like marsupial native to Northern Australia, New Guinea and neighboring regions. These animals are arboreal and very slow-moving. They have wooly fur and long, prehensile tails which are naked at the tip. They were once thought to be a sort of monkey because of their prehensile tails.

Cuscuses have bodies that are from 12 to 25 inches long. They have large eyes and five fingers on each paw, four with claws, one without. They are one of the few mammals to experience distinctive sexual dimorphism, which is to say, the males are distinctively different-looking from the females. This is a property that is very common in birds, fishes and insects.

The diet of most cuscuses consists primarily of big rainforest leaves and some fruit but sometimes may include small birds and lizards, eggs and insects.

Domain Eucarya
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Superclass Gnathostomata
Class Mammalia
Subclass Theria
Infraclass Metatheria
Order Marsupialia
Suborder Diprotodontia

Like many rare mammals, the taxonomy of these creatures appears to be somewhat in dispute. Sources seem to agree that there are about 12 species in the Family Phalangeridae, which contains cuscuses, the brushtail and scaly-tailed possums. Sources disagree about which species count as cuscuses and there are between six and nine species that are counted as cuscuses at this time.

Genus Phalanger
Southern Common Cucus / Grey Cuscus / Grey Phalanger Phalanger intercastellanus (formerly known as Phalanger orientalis)–found in parts of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Borneo and Sulawesi. They are around 15-19 inches long (38-48cm) and weigh between three and eight pounds (1.5-3.5kg). Southern common cuscuses are dark to light grey with lighter underparts and usually have a darker stripe along the spine. These cuscuses are not uncommon as domestic pets.

Spotted Cuscus Phalanger maculatus (may also be classified as Spilocuscus maculatus)–the largest cuscus, it is known throughout New Guinea. The spotted cuscus is light brownish or grey and the males have light spotting patterns in their coats. The spotted cuscus is a nocturnal feeder.

Stein's Cuscus Phalanger vestitus–lives in oak forests of New Guinea at very high altitudes. Very little is known of this rare animal.

Ground Cuscus Phalanger gymnotis–found in New Guinea and the Aru Islands.

Woodlark Cuscus Phalanger lullulae–indiginous only to a small island named Woodlark.

Silky Cuscus Phalanger sericeus–native only to high mountain forests in New Guinea.

Serventy, Vincent, Wildlife of Australia (Taplinger, New York, 1972).
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., vol. (Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc, London, 2002).
The Marsupial Museum on-line: http://worldkids.net/critters/marsupials/cuscus.html
Wild Kingdoms taxonomy: http://wildkingdoms.com/taxonomy.php?id=31
Burnie, David, ed., "Animal" (Smithsonian/Dorling-Kindersley, London / New York, 2001).
Burton, John A. and Pearson, Bruce, "the Collins Guide to the Rare Mammals of the World" (Stephen Greene Press, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1987).
Strahan, Ronald "Photographic Guide to Mammals of Australia" (Ralph Curtis Books, London, 1995).
Gould, Edwin, ed. Encyclopedia of Mammals, Second Ed., (Academic Press, San Diego, 1998).
Nature Conservation on-line: http://www.nature-conservation.or.id/diproto.html

Cus"cus (?), n. [The same word as Couscous, fr. F. couscous couscous, Ar. kuskus.] (Bot.)

A soft grass (Pennisetum typhoideum) found in all tropical regions, used as food for men and cattle in Central Africa.


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