Growth and development of the red-tailed phascogale
Researcher (PhD Student): Wendy Foster
Supervisor: Dr David Taggart and Dr Steve Donnellan
University: University of Adelaide
Growth of red-tailed phascogale young from birth to 7 weeks
Red-tailed phascogales, like other marsupials, give birth to young that are comparatively small and poorly developed. The growth and development of phascogale young was monitored at three separate colonies and data collected to allow for the construction of growth curves which can be used to age young in both captivity and the wild. Females invest heavily into the production of young, with a litter of young weighing 0.32% of the mothers weight at birth, and increasing to 380% at weaning. Females carry the young continuously for ~45 days, before leaving the young in a nest until they are about 100 days of age, at which time the young are weaned.
This growth data is now being examined to determine the relationship between parental body weight and the body weight of offspring at weaning and at sexual maturity. The degree of sexual dimorphism is also being assessed, with males being on average 1.5x as heavy as females, and 1.1x longer in skeletal measures compared to females. Sexual dimorphism in body weight first appears during lactation, and as such may be associated with biased lactational investment by the mother, or differential usage of resources by male and female offspring.