Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Meet Cuscus The Rarely Seen Marsupial

The cuscus is a marsupial which is native to the Northern forest of Australia, the island of Papua New Guinea and on other nearby islands. The 23 species of cuscus differ in size, color, and habitat. Length can be from 14 to 16 inches long, and they can weigh between 3.3 to 13 pounds. Their incredibly long tails are from 13 to 24 inches.

Only the male spotted cuscus has spots
Photo: From FactZoo

With a rounded head, small ears, and large round eyes, this arboreal (lives in treetops) animal has five strong opposable digits whose nails ensure stability and a strong grip on the tree branches. The cuscus’s nails are also used for grooming. The tail, which lacks hair at the top, is both long and prehensile which helps to facilitate movement throughout the trees functioning as another limb.

White Cuscus
Photo:  From The Featured Creature

Biologist Muse Opiang holds a Bosavi silky cuscus, a newly discovered marsupial from central Papua New Guinea, in early 2009.

Muse Opiang and Bosavi Silky Cuscus
Photo:  Kristofer Helgen

While originally considered to be a close relative to the monkey, the cuscus’s closest relative is actually the opossumA nocturnal animal, the cuscus sleeps during the day in dense vegetation and is very shy. Seeing one in the wild is a rare event.

Ground Cuscus
Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, Oxforshire

Being a marsupial, the undeveloped babies crawl into the mother’s pouch after a couple of weeks to continue their development for six to seven months. While the female will usually give birth to two to three babies, usually only one baby survives.

Two-month old baby who ventured out of the pouch
Photo:  Twycross Zoo

While considered a newly discovered species, this shy, solitary animal is shown in a drawing of the spotted cuscus on a page from The Royal Natural History, Volume 3, edited by Richard Lydekker, dating 1894-1895.

Spotted Cuscus 1894-1895 Animal Print, Page 257
The Royal Natural History, Volume 3
Available on Amazon.com

The cuscus populations are declining due to deforestation and loss of their habitat. 

Would you like to see a spotted cuscus?