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 Extinct
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
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 Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Extinct in the Wild (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list)
SA: Listed as Endangered (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Extinct (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
NGO: Listed as Extinct (The action plan for Australian mammals 2012)
Scientific name Caloprymnus campestris [215]
Family Potoroidae:Diprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Gould, 1843)
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Caloprymnus campestris

Common name: Desert Rat-kangaroo

The Desert Rat-kangaroo was a small rat-kangaroo that weighed 600–1000 g, depending upon sex and age. Females were apparently heavier than males. The head and body measured 25–28 cm, with the tail adding a further 30–38 cm. The species soft, dense fur was sandy-buff that was darker in the centre of the back and top of the head, fading to a lighter shade at the sides. The chin, sides of the chest and stomach were creamy white. Front and back legs were redder than the rest of the body, and the hands and feet paler than the rest of the body. Both sexes had a patch of bare thickened skin, about 5 cm long and 2 cm wide, between the forelimbs, but its function remains unknown. Another distinguishing feature of the Desert Rat-kangaroo was its very large, thick upper lips, which swelled outwards beyond the level of the nose (Flannery 1990a).

The Desert Rat-kangaroo lived in a small region of south-west Queensland and north-east South Australia (Flannery 1990a). The species was first discovered in the 1840s, but remained unrecorded until 1931. A sudden decline followed the rediscovery and the last South Australian record occurred near Ooroowilanie, east of Lake Eyre, in 1935 (South Australian Museum 2007a).

There was no locality recorded for the three specimens described by Gould in 1843. Gould noted they were taken from the 'stony and sandy plains of South Australia'. Fossils attributed to the Desert Rat-kangaroo were found at Lake Menindee, New South Wales (Flannery 1990a).

Although Gould made no comment of the Desert Rat-kangaroo's rarity, it seems the species was never common (Flannery 1990a).

The Desert Rat-kangaroo lived in sand ridge and gibber plain habitat (South Australian Museum 2007a). The vegetation in these regions included saltbush (e.g. Atriplex), emu bush (Eremophila) and occasional clumps of corkwood (Hakea) (Flannery 1990a).

The female Desert Rat-kangaroo had a deep pouch containing four teats but appeared to have only one young at a time. Available evidence seemed to suggest the breeding season was quite long, or perhaps the species bred only after good rain. The animals appear to have been solitary except for females accompanied by unweaned young (Flannery 1990a).

The nest was built in a shallow hole about 10 cm deep and 25 cm in diameter. The flimsy nests were constructed from leaves and grasses, which in exposed situations were thatched over with twigs and grass stems. More commonly, the nest was built under a bush (Flannery 1990a). Each nest was occupied by only one adult (South Australian Museum 2007a).

The Desert Rat-kangaroo was largely nocturnal and was thought to eat the green parts of plants rather than the roots. However, its well developed foreclaws suggest it may have dug and eaten underground food. An analysis of the gut contents of a pickled specimen in the Museum of Victoria found the remains of beetles (Flannery 1990a). This species foraged separately (South Australian Museum 2007a).

The reasons for the decline and extinction of the Desert Rat-kangaroo are unknown. However, major threats were probably related to habitat destruction by changed fire regimes and introduced herbivores such as Cattle (Bos taurus) and Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and predation by Cats (Felis catus) and Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) (Maxwell et al. 1996).

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
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Caloprymnus campestris in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ej) [Internet].

Flannery, T. (1990a). Australia's Vanishing Mammals. Surrey Hills, Australia: Readers Digest Press.

Maxwell, S., A.A. Burbidge & K. Morris (1996). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. [Online]. Wildlife Australia, Environment Australia. Available from:

South Australian Museum (2007a). Desert Rat-kangaroo, Caloprymnus campestris. [Online]. Available from:

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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). Caloprymnus campestris in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Wed, 1 Oct 2014 01:50:35 +1000.