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 Dasycercus cristicauda
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice on Dasycercus hillieri (Ampurta) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2013ej) [Listing Advice].
 
Commonwealth Conservation Advice for Dasycercus cristicauda (Crest-tailed Mulgara) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2013fp) [Conservation Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Environment Australia (EA), 1999a) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats (Environment Australia (EA), 1999b) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for Competition and Land Degradation by Feral Rabbits (Environment Australia (EA), 1999c) [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] as Dasycercus hillieri.
 
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] as Dasycercus cristicauda.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (150) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013ac) [Legislative Instrument] as Dasycercus hillieri.
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:Mulgara - profile (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW OEH), 2013m) [Internet].
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Crest-tailed Mulgara (Ampurta) Dasycercus cristicauda (Pavey, C., J. Cole & J. Woinarski, 2006) [Information Sheet].
QLD:Enhancing biodiversity hotspots along Western Queensland stock routes (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009a) [Management Plan].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Extinct (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list) as Dasycercus cristicauda
NT: Listed as Vulnerable (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012 list) as Dasycercus cristicauda
NT: Listed as Vulnerable (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012 list) as Dasycercus hillieri
QLD: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list) as Dasycercus cristicauda
SA: Listed as Endangered (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011 list) as Dasycercus cristicauda
WA: Listed as Vulnerable (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list) as Dasycercus cristicauda
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Least Concern (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Dasycercus cristicauda [328]
Family Dasyuridae:Polyprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Krefft, 1866)
Infraspecies author  
Reference Maxwell, S., Burbidge, A.A., and Morris, K. (eds) (1996). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian marsupials and monotremes
Other names Dasycercus hillieri [66639]
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.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/animals/threatened/pdf/mammals/brushtailed_mulgara_vu.pdf

Dasycercus hillieri was removed from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) list of threatened species on 14 December 2013. 

As of July 2013, this profile has followed Woolley's (2005) treatment of Dasycercus cristicauda. This treatment is conventionally accepted (AFD 2013; Masters 2008; Woolley 2008a). Woolley (2005) investigated the taxonomic status of mulgaras and concluded on morphological and genetic grounds that there are two species: the Crest-tailed Mulgara (D. cristicauda) and the Brush-tailed Mulgara (D. blythi). D. hillieri is a synonym of D. cristicauda (Woolley 2005). Dasycercus blythi is not listed under the EPBC Act.

Between the 1960s and early 2000s only one species, Dasycercus cristicauda, had been recognised. During that time, there has been confusion about the names for the two genetically distinct forms identified on the basis of unpublished information by M. Adams of the South Australian Museum in the 1990s. In the Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes, Maxwell and colleagues (1996) called the two clades D. cristicauda (Mulgara) and D. hillieri (Ampurta). Woolley has now determined that D. hillieri is a synonym of D. cristicauda and that D. cristicauda sensu Maxwell and colleagues (1996) is really D. blythi. Woolley also notes that it is impossible to tell which species was known as Ampurta by Aboriginal people (Woolley 2005). See also Woolley (2006).

The Crest-tailed Mulgara is a carnivorous marsupial with a distinctive fin-like crest of black hairs on the tail. The coat is tan to ginger above and creamy white on the belly. Females have eight nipples in the pouch. The hindfoot has long hair that folds over a third of the sole from lateral side. Males are up to 230 mm long with a 125 mm long tail and weigh up to 185 g. Females are up to 170 mm long with a 110 mm long tail and weigh up to 120 g (Masters 2008).

The Crest-tailed Mulgara has been recorded in the southern Simpson Desert, where the borders of the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia (SA) converge, and the Tirari and Strzelecki Deserts of SA (Masters 2008). Records since 1990 indicate that the crest-tailed mulgara has a more restricted contemporary range than previously known, although a lack of survey effort in suitable habitat may be a factor (Woolley et al., 2013).

Historically, the species was known from the Canning Stock Route and near Rawlinna on the Nullarbor Plain in Western Australia, Ooldea on the eastern edge of the Nullarbor Plain and the Musgrave Ranges in South Australia, and Sandringham Station in Queensland (Woolley et al., 2013). The Brush-tailed Mulgara (D. blythi) has been misidentified as the Crest-tailed Mulgara in the Little Sandy Desert (Start et al. 2013, cited in Woolley et al. 2013) and the Pilbara (Thompson & Thompson 2008, cited in Woolley et al. 2013).

Systematic surveys have found evidence of the Crest-tailed Mulgara at 137 of 289 sites in the central portion of the Simpson Desert north of Lake Eyre in south-west Queensland and north-east SA (Foulkes & Canty 2000). The species was recorded from Purni Bore and Horses Hill area in SA in 1990. The "Mulgara" population studied at Ethabuka Station (WA) may possibly be this species (Chen et al. 1998). The species was last recorded in Sandringham Station (Queensland) in 1968 and subsequent surveys in 1971 and the 1990s were unsuccessful (Woolley 1990; Masters 2012).

The Crest-tailed Mulgara is sparse but widespread in southern parts of the Simpson Desert, Tirari and Strzelecki Deserts in the NT, SA and Queensland (Masters 2008).

The Crest-tailed Mulgara occurs in higher densities in the central part of the Simpson Desert, where vegetation cover is low and surface water is scarce, compared with surrounding pastoral properties on the fringes of the Simpson Desert (Masters 2012). Population densities fluctuate seasonally and populations may persist at locations at very low densities during periods of depressed resource availability.

The Crest-tailed Mulgara occurs on sand dunes with a sparse cover of Sandhill Canegrass (Zygochloa paradoxa) or areas around salt lakes with Nitre Bush (Nitraria billardieri) (Masters 2008). 

The Crest-tailed Mulgara maintains complicated, extensive burrows with multiple entrances (Woolley 1990). The burrows are predominantly on the eastern side of dunes (Foulkes & Canty 2000). Latrines are commonly located near the burrow entrance, with scats being up to 90 mm long and 6 mm wide (Masters 2012).

The Crest-tailed Mulgara has a lifespan in captivity of five years, but under natural conditions they are likely to live for only 2-3 years. Based on knowledge of the Brush-tail Mulgara (Dasycercus blythi), females probably mature in their first year but produce litters of up to eight, rather than a maximum of six recorded for the Brush-tail Mulgara (Masters 2012). The species is a seasonal annual breeder, producing one litter of two to eight in early winter to early spring (Woolley 1990; Masters 2008). At Uluru, Brush-tail Mulgara pouch young (mean litter size 5.1, mode = 6, n=9) were recorded in August and September and juveniles were captured from August to December (Masters 1998).

The Crest-tailed Mulgara is an opportunistic or non-specialist carnivore, feeding on a range of invertebrates, lizards and small mammals. It forages along the dune crests and flanks, with forays down onto swales. Scat samples (recorded as Dasycercus hillieri) contained remains of vertebrates (reptiles, birds, mammals), centipedes and insects (Orthoptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Formicidae) (Queale et al. 2000). Birds and frogs are eaten less frequently (Chen et al. 1998). They have also been observed eating plant food (fruits and seeds) (Anon. 2000b; Masters 1998).

Home range and movement data are limited, but the species is probably sedentary.

The Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals (DSEWPaC 2011j) includes survey design principles when planning a mammal survey and includes recommendations for survey methods for the Crest-tailed Mulgara (as Dasycercus hillieri) and habitat that it occurs in (DSEWPaC 2011j).

The Crest-tailed Mulgara and Brush-tailed Mulgara (Dasycercus blythi) are known to co-occur in the Simpson Desert (Masters 2008). Pavey and colleagues (2011) successfully used tail morphology as the primary trait for identification where the species are sympatric. They are distinguished as follows (Masters 2008; Woolley 2008a):

  Crest-tailed Mulgara Brush-tailed Mulgara
Coat Tan to ginger and described as "more brightly coloured" Light sandy brown above, greyish white below
Tail Dorsal fin-like crest of black hairs Reddish on base of tail, black on distal two-thirds
Nipples 8 6
Hindfoot long hair folding over a third of the sole from lateral side long hair folds over 75% of the sole from both sides of the foot
Habitat Sand dunes with sparse cover of Sandhill Canegrass or areas around salt lakes with Nitre Bush Generally Spinifex (Triodia spp.) grassland with medium to dense cover
Burrow sites On dunes, mostly at the base of large Sandhill Canegrass On swales or the lower slopes of dunes where Spinifex dominates

The extent and reasons for the decline of the Crest-tailed Mulgara are unclear (Masters 2012). The Cat (Felis catus) and the Fox (Vulpes vulpes) may periodically exert excessive predation and decimate, and possibly extirpate, populations. Predation pressure is probably greatest a few years after heavy summer rainfall when predators have increased in numbers and rodent populations begin to crash (Masters 2012).

Grazing by the Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), the Camel (Camelus dromedarius) and livestock may cause declines at certain thresholds. Research has found that the abundance of the Crest-tailed Mulgara declines as that of the Camel increases, although not so with the Rabbit (Reid et al.1993). Cattle also damage dunes and vegetation, which may cause detrimental habitat change (Masters 2012). A site’s cumulative grazing history has been observed to alter flora composition within arid dune systems (Frank et al. 2013), which is detrimental to the species.

The main threat to breeding success is lack of prey due to climatic variance, fire or disturbance. The species is more sedentary than many other desert insectivore/carnivores and therefore more sensitive to temporal fluctuation in food or habitat (Masters 1998). The strict annual breeding cycle with only a single litter could make the species particularly sensitive to threatening processes such as fire or drought.

Climate change could have catastrophic effects in the next 50 years, and may lead to higher mean temperatures, decrease in effective rainfall and increase in occurrence of extreme weather (Masters 2012).

Research and monitoring has focused on genetics, past and present distribution and habitat requirements (Masters 2012). Future research should focus on (Masters 2012):

  • comparison of the distribution and habitat separation of the two species of mulgara
  • causes of population fluctuations
  • impacts of introduced herbivores and predators on mulgara populations, with particular reference to possible threshold densities, which will allow the broader management of the landscape.

Land management practices need to be based around minimising the impacts of introduced herbivores and predators (Masters 2012). Management recommendations of more appropriate fire regimes, feral animal control and regulation of tourist activity have been made for the Brush-tail Mulgara at Uluru (Reid et al. 1993).


Government funded programs

Arid Lands Environment Centre (WA) received $19 000 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2001-02, part of which was for a three week survey along the Canning Stock Route to gather information on the distribution, status and habitat requirements of the Ampurta. Information was to be used for formulation of a joint national recovery plan and to provide information on other nationally threatened species.

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 Species threats data recorded on the SPRAT database between 1999-2002 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012i) [Database].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Impact of Global Warming on the Distribution of Threatened Vertebrates (ANZECC 1991) (Dexter, E.M., A.D. Chapman & J.R. Busby, 1995) [Report].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Dasycercus hillieri in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hd) [Internet].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:Disturbance, especially from human recreational activities and development Species threats data recorded on the SPRAT database between 1999-2002 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012i) [Database].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) Species threats data recorded on the SPRAT database between 1999-2002 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012i) [Database].
Dasycercus hillieri in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hd) [Internet].
Recovery Plan for Mulgara Species: Dasycercus cristicauda and Dasycercus hillieri (Masters, P., & L. Baker, 1996) [Recovery Plan].
Mammals. Reid, J.R. W., Kerle, J. A. & Morton, S. R., eds. Uluru fauna. The distribution and abundance of vertebrate fauna of Uluru (Ayers Rock - Mount Olga) National Park, N.T. Kowari. 4:69-78. (Reid, J.R.W., J.A. Kerle & L. Baker, 1993) [Journal].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) Species threats data recorded on the SPRAT database between 1999-2002 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012i) [Database].
Dasycercus hillieri in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hd) [Internet].
Recovery Plan for Mulgara Species: Dasycercus cristicauda and Dasycercus hillieri (Masters, P., & L. Baker, 1996) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) Species threats data recorded on the SPRAT database between 1999-2002 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012i) [Database].
Dasycercus hillieri in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hd) [Internet].
Recovery Plan for Mulgara Species: Dasycercus cristicauda and Dasycercus hillieri (Masters, P., & L. Baker, 1996) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Ovis aries (Sheep) Dasycercus hillieri in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hd) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Camelus dromedarius (Dromedary, Camel) Species threats data recorded on the SPRAT database between 1999-2002 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012i) [Database].
Dasycercus hillieri in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hd) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Bos taurus (Domestic Cattle) Dasycercus hillieri in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hd) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Dasycercus hillieri in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hd) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate prescribed regimes and/or vegetation management to control fire regimes Mammals. Reid, J.R. W., Kerle, J. A. & Morton, S. R., eds. Uluru fauna. The distribution and abundance of vertebrate fauna of Uluru (Ayers Rock - Mount Olga) National Park, N.T. Kowari. 4:69-78. (Reid, J.R.W., J.A. Kerle & L. Baker, 1993) [Journal].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Species threats data recorded on the SPRAT database between 1999-2002 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012i) [Database].

Anon (2000b). Ghost Bat - Macroderma gigas. Species Under Threat - World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Australian Faunal Directory (AFD) (2013). Australian Faunal Directory. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/fauna/afd/home.

Chen, X., C.R. Dickman & M.B. Thompson (1998). Diet of the mulgara, Dasycercus cristicauda (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae), in the Simpson Desert, central Australia. Wildlife Research. 25:233-242.

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.

Foulkes, J. & P. Canty (2000). Distribution and habitat description of the Ampurta (Dasycercus "hillieri") in the Simpson Desert. In: Newsletter of the Australian Mammal Society. November:9.

Frank, A.S.K., C.R. Dickman, G.M. Wardle & A.C. Greenville (2013). Interactions of Grazing History, Cattle Removal and Time since Rain Drive Divergent Short-Term Responses by Desert Biota. PLoS One. 8(7):e68466.

Masters, P. (1998). The mulgara Dasycercus cristicauda (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) at Uluru National Park, Northern Territory. Australian Mammalogy. 20:403-407.

Masters, P. (2008). Crest-tailed Mulgara. In: Van Dyck, S. & R. Strahan, eds. The Mammals of Australia. Page(s) 49-50. 3rd edition. New Holland Publishers.

Masters, P. (2012). Crest-tailed Mulgara Dasycercus cristicauda (Krefft, 1867). In: Curtis, L.K., A.J. Dennis, K.R. McDonald, P.M. Kyne & S.J.S. Debus, eds. Queensland's Threatened Animals. CSIRO Publishing.

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.

Pavey, C.R., C.E.M. Nano, J.B. Cooper, J.R. Cole & P.J. McDonald (2011). Habitat use, population dynamics and species identification of mulgara, Dasycercus blythi and D. cristicauda, in a zone of sympatry in central Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology. 59:156-159.

Reid, J.R.W., J.A. Kerle & L. Baker (1993). Mammals. Reid, J.R. W., Kerle, J. A. & Morton, S. R., eds. Uluru fauna. The distribution and abundance of vertebrate fauna of Uluru (Ayers Rock - Mount Olga) National Park, N.T. Kowari. 4:69-78. ANPWS : Canberra.

Thompson, G.G. & S.A. Thompson (2007). Shape and spatial distribution of Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda) burrows, with comments on their presence in a burnt habitat and a translocation protocol. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia. 90:195-202.

Woolley, P. (2005). The species of Dasycercus Peters, 1875 (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). Memoirs of Museum Victoria. 62(2):213-221.

Woolley, P.A. (1990). Mulgaras, Dasycercus cristicauda (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae): their burrows and records of attempts to collect live animals between 1966 and 1979. Australian Mammalogy. 13:65-70.

Woolley, P.A. (2006). Studies on the crest-tailed mulgara Dasycercus cristicauda and the brush-tailed mulgara Dasycercus blythi (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). Australian Mammology. 28(1):117-120.

Woolley, P.A. (2008a). Brush-tailed Mulgara. In: Van Dyck, S. & R. Strahan, eds. The Mammals of Australia. Page(s) 47-48. 3rd edition. New Holland Publishers.

Woolley, P.A., A. Haslem & M. Westerman (2013). Past and present distribution of Dasycercus: towards a better understanding of the identity of specimens in cave deposits and the conservation status of the currently recognised species D. blythi and D. cristicauda (Marsupialia : Dasyuridae). Australian Journal of Zoology. online:A-J. http://dx.doi.org/10/1071/ZO13034.

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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). Dasycercus cristicauda in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:09:45 +1000.