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 Vulnerable as Phascogale pirata
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ai) [Conservation Advice].
 
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, the approved conservation advice for the species now provides sufficient direction to implement priority actions and mitigate against key threats (13/07/2010).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for predation by feral cats (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzp) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (98) (13/07/2010) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010h) [Legislative Instrument] as Phascogale pirata.
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale, Phascogale pirata (Woinarski, J. & S. Ward, 2012) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
NT: Listed as Endangered (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012 list) as Phascogale pirata
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Vulnerable (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Phascogale pirata [82954]
Family Dasyuridae:Polyprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Thomas, 1904
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Other names Phascogale penicillata pirata [85372]
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

Scientific name: Phascogale pirata

Common name: Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale

Conventionally accepted as Phascogale pirata (AFD 2010).

The Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale is a carnivorous marsupial approximately 15–21 cm long, with silvery to dark grey fur and long dark hairs on the tail, which form a distinctive brush. The hairs can be stiffened when alarmed, giving a bottle-brush appearance. The species has a notably pointed snout, large ears and eyes and weighs about 150–200 g (NT NRETA 2007).

The Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale is restricted to eucalypt forests in the top end of the Northern Territory. It has been recorded from Melville Island (Tiwi group) and West Island (Sir Edward Pellew group), Cobourg Peninsula and Gove Peninsula. Almost all other records are concentrated in a restricted area bounded by Kakadu, Katherine Gorge and Litchfield National Parks (Woinarski et al. 2007). Populations on West Island and north-east Arnhem Land may be extinct (NT NRETAS 2009a; Ward et al. 2006).

The estimated extent of occurrence for the species is 57 000 km2, though suitable habitat is not continuous through this range (TSSC 2010w).

The estimated area of occupancy is less than 9 000 km2 with populations discontinuous throughout this area (NT NRETAS 2009a).

Extensive biodiversity surveys across the Northern Territory in the 2000s have resulted in fewer than ten captures of the Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale from over 350 000 trap-nights. The species may have some aversion to traps (NT NRETA 2007; Taylor et al. 2004), though this would not fully account for the paucity in recordings.

Historically considered 'common', the total population of this species may now be less than 2500 mature individuals (IUCN 2011).

The population trend is thought to be declining. The species was recorded commonly in areas such as Kakadu National Park approximately 30 years ago, but is now recorded infrequently or absent in regular surveys (Woinarski et al. 2011).

The Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale has been recorded in Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, Kakadu National Park and Litchfield National Park (NT NRETA 2007).

The Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale is recorded from tall open forests dominated by Darwin Woollybutt (Eucalyptus miniata) and Darwin Stringybark (E. tetrodonta) (NT NRETA 2007). The species is solitary in nature and arboreal, though nocturnal foraging occurs both on the ground as well as in trees. The species utilises hollows in trees for nesting during the day (IUCN 2011).

Like other Phascogale spp., the Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale breeds at one year of age. All males die after the breeding period, and most females only live for 2–3 years (Soderquist 1993).

Studies on captive and wild populations of Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa) in Victoria give some indication of the reproductive strategies of the Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale, with both species exhibiting similar life-history traits (NT NRETA 2007; Soderquist 1993). The gestation length is suggested to be approximately 30 days (Soderquist 1993), with Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale births peaking in July (Taylor et al. 1982 cited in Soderquist 1993). The number of young can vary from one to eight, and weaning begins at about 100 days of age, with many young still being given milk feeds by mothers up to 170 days of age (Soderquist 1993). Young may weigh up to 3 times the weight of the mother at independence (Soderquist 1993). Males disperse from the home ranges of their birth, with females remaining or moving only short distances. In some instances, breeding females that survive often abandon home ranges to their surviving daughters (Soderquist 1993).

The Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale primarily consumes invertebrates and some small vertebrates (NT NRETA 2007).

Habitat clearing

The Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale is threatened by the loss of hollow-bearing trees from within eucalypt forests. Populations on Melville Island and on private land in the Batchelor-Litchfield area are said to be 'variably' affected by loss of vegetation for forestry plantations and development (TSSC 2010w).

Disease and introduced fauna

Whilst the impacts of disease, predation and poisoning by exotic pest species is not well documented, the probable local extinction of the Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale from West Island corresponds to the introduction to the island of the domestic Cat (Felis catus) and Cane Toads (Bufo marinus), the latter of which the Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale may try to eat (NT NRETA 2007; Taylor et al. 2004).

Weeds

The recent increase in the extent and dominance of invasive pasture grasses, particularly Mission Grasses (Cenchrus spp.) and Gamba Grass (Andropogon gayanus), may also threaten the species. These grasses have an adverse impact on habitat by affecting: vegetation structure and composition; hunting efficiency and on-ground movement (NT NRETAS 2009a); and fire regimes.

Altered fire regimes

Increased fire frequency regimes are likely to simplify forest structure (Liedloff & Cook 2007) and reduce the availability of suitable tree hollows (Williams et al. 1999) that the species relies on.

Climate change

Some of the known populations of the species occur in coastal areas known for a high incidence of cyclones (such as Cobourg Peninsula and Melville Island). Cyclones may be detrimental to the species through destruction of tree hollows and changes to forest structure (NT NRETAS 2009a). The incidence of severe cyclones is expected to increase in this region as a consequence of climate change (NT NRETAS 2009a).

Minister's Reasons for Recovery Plan decision

There should not be a recovery plan for the Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale as the approved conservation advice (TSSC 2010ai) for the species provides sufficient direction to implement priority actions and mitigate against key threats.

Commonwealth Conservation Advice

Refer to the Commonwealth Conservation Advice (TSSC 2010ai) for information on research priorities and recovery priority actions to mitigate threats including habitat loss, disturbance and modification, animal predation, weeds and fire. Raising awareness of the species and enabling recovery of additional populations are also encouraged in the Advice.

Management documents for the Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale can be found at the start of this profile. Other management documents relevant to the species include:

  • Draft Weed Management Plan for Gamba Grass (Andropogon gayanus) (NT NRETAS 2009b)
  • Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2007-2014 (DNP 2007)
  • Litchfield National Park Plan of Management (CCNT 1992).

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
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate change altering atmosphere/hydrosphere temperatures, rainfall patterns and/or frequency of severe weather events Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Storms and Flooding:Natural events such as storms and cyclones leading to habitat destruction and flora/fauna mortality Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Andropogon gayanus (Gamba Grass) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Pennisetum polystachion (Mission Grass, Perennial Mission Grass, Missiongrass, Feathery Pennisetum, Feather Pennisetum, Thin Napier Grass, West Indian Pennisetum, Blue Buffel Grass) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Rhinella marina (Cane Toad) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate prescribed regimes and/or vegetation management to control fire regimes Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].
Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Land reclamation and soil dumping due to urban and industrial development Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010w) [Listing Advice].

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].

Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory (CCNT) (1992). Litchfield National Park Plan of Management. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/parks/manage/plans/index.html.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008zzp). Threat Abatement Plan for predation by feral cats. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/cats08.html.

Director National Parks (DNP) (2007). Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2007-2014. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/publications/kakadu/management-plan.html.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) (2011). Red List of Threatened Species - Phascogale pirata. [Online]. Available from: http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/16889/0.

Liedloff, A.C. & G.D. Cook (2007). Modelling the effects of rainfall variability and fire on tree populations in an Australian tropical savanna with the FLAMES simulation model. Ecological Modelling. 201:269-282.

Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts (NT NRETA) (2007). Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale, Phascogale (tapoatafa) pirata. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/animals/threatened/pdf/mammals/brush-tailed_phascogale_vu.pdf.

Northern Territory Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NT NRETAS) (2009a). Unpublished information provided to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra.

Northern Territory Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NT NRETAS) (2009b). Draft Weed Management Plan for Gamba Grass (Andropogon gayanus). [Online]. Available from: http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/natres/weeds/find/gamba/pdf/draft_weedmgmtplan.pdf.

Soderquist, T.R. (1993). Maternal Strategies of Phascogale-Tapoatafa (Marsupialia, Dasyuridae). 1. Breeding Seasonality and Maternal Investment. Australian Journal of Zoology. 41(6):549 - 566.

Taylor, R., J. Woinarski, A. Charlie, R. Dixon, D. Pracy & S. Rhind (2004). Report on mammal survey of the Pellew Islands 2003. Darwin, Northern Territory: Lianthawirriyarra Sea Ranger Unit, Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment, and Tropical Savannas CRC.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2010ai). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/82954-conservation-advice.pdf.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2010w). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Phascogale pirata (Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/82954-listing-advice.pdf.

Ward S., D. Hooper, B. Rankmore, K. Brennan, S. Templeton, G. Friday, T. Simon, D. Pracy, A. Charlie, B. Friday, D. Harvey, F. Chapman, D. Wurst, B. Senge & S. Evans (2006). Mammal surveys of the Sir Edward Pellew Islands - 2004/05. Report to the Threatened Species Network.

Williams, R.J., G.D. Cook, A.M. Gill & P.H.R. Moore (1999). Fire regimes, fire intensity and tree survival in a tropical savanna in northern Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology. 24:50-59.

Woinarski, J., C. Pavey, R. Kerrigan, I. Cowie & S. Ward (2007). Lost from our landscape: threatened species of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Northern Territory Government.

Woinarski, J.C.Z., S. Legge, J.A. Fitzsimons, B.J. Traill, A.A. Burbidge, A. Fisher, R.S.C. Firth, I.J. Gordon, A.D. Griffiths, C.N. Johnson, N.L. McKenzie, C. Palmer, I. Radford, B. Rankmore, E.G. Ritchie, S. Ward & M. Ziembicki (2011). The disappearing mammal fauna of northern Australia: context, cause, and response. Conservation Letters. 4(3):192-201.

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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). Phascogale pirata in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sun, 24 Aug 2014 05:33:28 +1000.