Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Environment Australia (EA), 1999a) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011j) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
QLD:Enhancing biodiversity hotspots along Western Queensland stock routes (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009a) [Management Plan].
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): July 2012)
Scientific name Sminthopsis douglasi [305]
Family Dasyuridae:Polyprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Archer,1979
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images
http://www.qmuseum.qld.gov.au/nature/endangered/html/dunnart.html

Scientific name: Sminthopsis douglasi

Common name: Julia Creek Dunnart

This species is conventionally accepted (AFD 2010).

The Julia Creek Dunnart is a small carnivorous nocturnal marsupial. It is the largest of the 19 species of Sminthopsis found in Australia. The species has a body that is 13.5 cm long, a tail 12–13 cm long and weighs up to 70 g (Strahan 1998). The species can store food in its tail as fat, and individuals will have a swollen base to their tail when food is abundant (QPWS 2005).

The Julia Creek Dunnart is sandy brown in colour, speckled with grey above and almost white below. The face has reddish-brown hair on the cheeks and at the base of the ears. A darker face stripe runs from behind the nose to the top of the head and there is a fine ring of darker hair around the eyes (QPWS 2005).

The Julia Creek Dunnart is the only dunnart confined entirely to Queensland. This species is found only in the Mitchell Grasslands of north-west Queensland (Kutt 2003). Recent surveys have shown it to be patchily distributed in the downs country east of Cloncurry extending south-east to Barcaldine (BAAM 2011). The species is known from 25 sites (Qld DERM 2009d).

The Julia Creek Dunnart was described by Archer (1979) and, prior to 1990, it was only known from four museum specimens lodged between 1911 and 1972 (Lundie-Jenkins & Payne 2000), all from the vicinity of Julia Creek and Richmond in north-west Queensland (Archer 1979; Woolley 1998). In 1990, a new survey program began and revealed a number of new specimens from owl pellets (i.e. the indigestible remains of an owl's prey that are disgorged as pellets) and Cat (Felis catus) kills. In 1991 and 1992, the first live specimens were caught (including one rescued from a cat) (QPWS 2005).

A captive population of Julia Creek Dunnarts was held at La Trobe University (Melbourne) between 1995 and 1999 and the David Fleay Wildlife Park (Gold Coast) from 2001 onwards (Qld EPA 2007b).

The Julia Creek Dunnart total population size is unknown (Maxwell et al. 1996) and the species is suggested to have a patchy distribution made up of small populations scattered over the Mitchell Grasslands (QPWS 2005). Climatic conditions may influence abundance patterns of the species and recorded seasonal increases in population numbers at Proa station were possibly due to above average rainfall and subsequent ground cover growth which may have enhanced juvenile survival rates by providing shelter from predators (Mifsud 1999).

A number of important populations have been identified: Bladensburg National Park (NP), Moorrinya NP, Toorak Research Station and Julia Creek Aerodrome (Qld DERM 2009d). These sites have been identified as important due to their tenure, habitat quality and low grazing intensity (Qld DERM 2009d).

The Julia Creek Dunnart is protected within Bladensburg NP and Moorrinya NP (QPWS 2005).

The Julia Creek Dunnart occurs in the Mitchell Grasslands, which are characterised by heavy clay soils (cracking clay) of two types (ashy and stony) dominated by grass (Mitchell Grass (Astrebla spp.) and Flinders Grass (Iseilema spp.)). Following rain, which generally occurs in summer, the clay soil swells and there is flush of vegetative growth. As the soil dries, it contracts and forms deep cracks (Qld DERM 2009d). The species utilises cracks in the ground as habitat when the soil is dry and ground cover is sparse. They use vegetation cover when the cracks and holes close up after rain (Mifsud 1999).

Habitat selection appears to be based on edaphic (substrate) features such as soil crack/hole density as this is a more reliable and predictable source of shelter than vegetation cover (Mifsud 1999). Although the Julia Creek Dunnart has been recorded on both ashy and stony soil types, in areas of sparse and dense ground cover, and where no soil cracks or holes remained, the species has been located more frequently in habitats on ashy soils exhibiting high crack and hole densities, and in areas of dense vegetation cover (Mifsud 1999). Habitat modelling suggests that highly suitable potential habitat is largely restricted to stock routes, road reserves and protected areas (Smith et al. 2006). However, there are many records outside of such areas (BAAM 2011).

Sminthopsis spp. have a lifespan of two to three years (Pollock et al. 2006). The Julia Creek Dunnart breeds in spring and summer. They build nests within grass tussocks, amongst dense cover (BAAM 2011). Two litters of eight young may be produced over an extended season if environmental conditions are suitable (Bjursell 2005). The gestation period is 13 days (Woolley 1998a).

In captivity, female offspring reach sexual maturity between 17–27 weeks and males between 28–31 weeks, with females always maturing prior to males of the same litter. This later maturity in males may be a way of limiting inbreeding within small populations. Females may extend breeding into a third year (Woolley 2008).

The Julia Creek Dunnart feeds on insects (silverfish, cockroaches, crickets and slaters), spiders, centipedes, scorpions, skinks and Long-tailed Planigales (Planigale ingrami) (Mifsud 2001; QPWS 2005).

The Julia Creek Dunnart is nocturnal, sheltering during the day in the cavities in cracking clay soils and in vegetation (Woolley 1998, 1998a). The species appears to be highly mobile, although it occupies stable home ranges that range from 0.25 ha to 7.125 ha in size (Mifsud 1999). Movement appears to occur in response to rainfall, with records of individuals travelling up to 10 km into areas that had recently received rain (DEH 2005 cited in BAAM 2011). Populations presumably follow the flush of invertebrate resources and grass cover that appears after rain (BAAM 2011).

The Julia Creek Dunnart is morphologically similar to the Red-cheeked Dunnart (S. virginiae) and has a prominent facial stripe like the Stripe-faced Dunnart (S. macroura) but is distinguished by dark hairs in rings around the eyes and on the outer mesial (medial, situated in the middle) edge of the ears (Woolley 1995). Recommended survey methods are available in the Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals (DSEWPaC 2011j).

The Julia Creek Dunnart has a low abundance and sparse distribution. It is threatened by the Cat (Felis catus) predation, invasion of habitat by Prickly Acacia (Vachellia nilotica) and heavy grazing (Qld DERM 2009d). Potential threats include inappropriate fire regimes, climatic factors and small population size (Qld DERM 2009d).

Predation

The Cat is a significant predator of the Julia Creek Dunnart (Qld DERM 2009d), with the species found in the stomach contents of feral Cats. Cat predation may have been responsible for the disappearance of species from Lyrian station (Woolley 1998). The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) (Lundie-Jenkins & Payne 2000) and the Fox (Vulpes vulpes) (Qld DERM 2009d) may also predate the Julia Creek Dunnart.

Weeds

Prickly Acacia is out-competing understorey plants and changing the structure of the habitat required by the Julia Creek Dunnart (QPWS 2005). Prickly Acacia was introduced to Queensland from Pakistan in the late 1890s to provide shade and fodder for livestock. It was declared a noxious weed in 1957 under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1985 and more than seven million hectares of the Mitchell Grasslands are now infested (Qld DERM 2009d). The increased tree density of Prickly Acacia outcompetes much of the understorey vegetation for water and light. There is also a gradual change in the botanical composition of the pastures as perennial grasses are replaced by short-lived, less stable annual plants (Milson 1995).

Heavy Grazing

The Mitchell Grasslands are resilient to moderate grazing pressure, however excessive grazing places stress on plants and can lead to the loss of large tracts of grassland. The loss of vegetation cover and associated trampling can also lead to soil erosion, or compaction that does not allow the natural process of cracking and drying. Loss of topsoil, associated with devegetation due to grazing pressures, can also alter floristic diversity (McAlpine & Howes 2006).

The Recovery Plan for the Julia Creek Dunnart (Qld DERM 2009d) aims to secure and enhance the species' status through on-ground conservation management that targets known threats and investigates aspects that improve knowledge and informs management decisions. Identified actions include:

  • conduct surveys to clarify the extent of the species distribution
  • negotiate voluntary conservation agreements/management agreements for key Julia Creek Dunnart sites and encourage landholders to protect and manage such sites
  • integrate Julia Creek Dunnart habitat into local government Stock Route Network Management Plans
  • continue and expand implementation of pest animal and plant control programs, and Julia Creek Dunnart population monitoring programs
  • investigate interactions between predators, water sources and grazing management
  • investigate interactions between Julia Creek Dunnart and sympatric species of small mammals
  • conduct media campaigns and continue to produce/distribute educational material
  • establish a recovery team with representatives from key stakeholder groups and develop consultative protocol for Traditional Owner engagement. 

There was significant progress on actions identified in the 2000 Recovery Plan (Lundie-Jenkins & Payne 2001). Full details are available in the 2009 Recovery Plan (Qld DERM 2009d).

Management documents relevant to the Julia Creek Dunnart are available at the start of the profile.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Recovery Plan for the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi) 2000-2004 (Lundie-Jenkins, G. & A. Payne, 2000) [State Recovery Plan].
The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes (Maxwell, S., A.A. Burbidge & K. Morris, 1996) [Cwlth Action Plan].
National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat alteration (vegetation, soil, hydrology) due to trampling and grazing by livestock National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Acacia nilotica subsp. indica (Prickly Acacia) Weeds of National Significance Prickly Acacia (Acacia nilotica subsp. indica) Strategic Plan (Agriculture & Resources Management Council of Australia & New Zealand, Australian & New Zealand Environment & Conservation Council and Forestry Ministers, 2001e) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Recovery Plan for the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi) 2000-2004 (Lundie-Jenkins, G. & A. Payne, 2000) [State Recovery Plan].
National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Parkinsonia aculeata (Parkinsonia, Jerusalem Thorn, Jelly Bean Tree, Horse Bean) National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Prosopis spp. (Mesquite, Algaroba) National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Ecology of the Julia Creek Dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi: habitat requirements and the impacts of predators (Woolley, P.A., 1998) [Report].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) Recovery Plan for the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi) 2000-2004 (Lundie-Jenkins, G. & A. Payne, 2000) [State Recovery Plan].
National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Competition and/or predation by birds Recovery Plan for the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi) 2000-2004 (Lundie-Jenkins, G. & A. Payne, 2000) [State Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Other Ecosystem Modifications:Loss of lower stratum vegetation National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009d) [Recovery Plan].

Archer, M. (1979). Two new species of Sminthopsis Thomas (Dasyuridae: Marsupialia) from northern Australia, S. butleri and S. douglasi. Australian Zoologist. 20:327-345.

Australian Faunal Directory (AFD) (2010). Australian Faunal Directory. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/fauna/afd/home. [Accessed: 30-May-2010].

Biodiversity Assessment and Management Pty Ltd (BAAM) (2011). CopperString Project SEIS - Terrestrial Ecology Assessment Report. Report prepared for CopperString Pty Ltd.

Bjursell, A. (2005). Identifying reproductive state of the Julia Creek Dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi by behavioural observations. M.Sc. Thesis. Brisbane: University of Queensland.

Commonwealth of Australia (2000). Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes. [Online]. F2005B02653. Canberra: Federal Register of Legislative Instruments. Available from: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2005B02653.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011j). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5. [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement: Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-mammals.html.

Environment Australia (EA) (1999a). Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox. [Online]. Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/foxes08.html.

Kutt, A.S. (2003). New records of the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi in central-north Queensland. Australian Zoologist. 32(2):257-260.

Lundie-Jenkins, G. & A. Payne (2000). Recovery Plan for the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi) 2000-2004. [Online]. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Brisbane QNPWS. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/juliacreek-dunnart/index.html.

Maxwell, S., A.A. Burbidge & K. Morris (1996). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. [Online]. Wildlife Australia, Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/action-plan-australian-marsupials-and-monotremes.

McAlpine, C. & A. Howes (2006). Identification and Mapping of Critical Habitat for the Julia Creek Dunnart (Smithopsis douglasi). The final report submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the research agreement between the University of Queensland and the EPA.

Mifsud G. (2001). Impact of fire on Julia Creek dunnart populations in Mitchell Grass habitats on Bladensburg National Park and surveys to determine the extent of the species on the park and nearby properties. Report to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.

Mifsud, G. (1999). Ecology of the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). M.Sc. Thesis. La Trobe University.

Milson, J. (1995). Plant identification in the Arid Zone. Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.

Pollock K., S. Johnston & R. Booth (2006). Characterisation of oestrous cycle activity, pregnancy and lactation in the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi) using a combination of behavioural oestrus, urogenital cytology and a faecal EIA. Unpublished report. Gatton: University of Queensland. Burleigh: David Fleay Wildlife Park.

Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM) (2009a). Enhancing biodiversity hotspots along Western Queensland stock routes. [Online]. DERM. Available from: http://www.southwestnrm.org.au/ihub/enhancing-biodiversity-hotspots-along-western-queensland-stock-routes-report.

Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM) (2009d). National recovery plan for the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi. [Online]. Brisbane, Queensland. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/juliacreek-dunnart/index.html.

Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (Qld EPA) (2007b). Ministerial media statement: Dunnarts go wild at Julia Creek. [Online]. Available from: http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/projects/media/?release=1126.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) (2005). Threatened plants and animals: Julia Creek Dunnart. [Online]. Available from: http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/threatened_plants_and_animals/endangered/julia_creek_dunnart/.

Smith C.S., A.L. Howes, B. Price & C.A. McAlpine (2006). Using a Bayesian Belief Network to predict suitable habitat of an endangered mammal - the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi). Biological Conservation . 139:333-347.

Strahan, R. (Ed.) (1998). The Mammals of Australia, Second Edition, rev. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum and Reed New Holland.

Woolley, P.A. (1995). Julia Creek Dunnart. In: Strahan, R., ed. The Mammals of Australia. Page(s) 134-135. Reed Books, Sydney.

Woolley, P.A. (1998). Julia Creek Dunnart. In: Strahan, R, ed. The Mammals of Australia. Page(s) 134-135. Sydney: Reed Books.

Woolley, P.A. (1998a). Ecology of the Julia Creek Dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi: habitat requirements and the impact of predators.

Woolley, P.A. (2008). Julia Creek Dunnart. In: Van Dyck, S. & R. Strahan, eds. The Mammals of Australia. Page(s) 136-137. 3rd edition. New Holland Publishers.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Sminthopsis douglasi in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Mon, 21 Apr 2014 05:54:07 +1000.