Home range and movements of the quokka Setonix brachyurus (Macropodidae: Marsupialia), and its impact on the viability of the metapopulation on the Australian mainland

Authors

  • Matt W. Hayward,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052
    2. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Wildlife Research Centre, PO Box 51 Wanneroo, Western Australia 6946
    3. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Dwellingup Research Centre, Banksiadale Road, Dwellingup, Western Australia 6213
      *All correspondence to present address: M. W. Hayward, Department of Zoology, University of Transkei, Private Bag X1, Unitra, Umtata, 5117 Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. E-mail: hayers111@aol.com
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  • Paul J. de Tores,

    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052
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  • Michael L. Augee,

    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052
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  • Barry J. Fox,

    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052
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  • Peter B. Banks

    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052
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*All correspondence to present address: M. W. Hayward, Department of Zoology, University of Transkei, Private Bag X1, Unitra, Umtata, 5117 Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. E-mail: hayers111@aol.com

Abstract

The home range and movements of the quokka Setonix brachyurus, a medium-sized macropodid marsupial, were investigated using radio telemetry. Fifty-eight quokkas from five remnant mainland populations in the northern jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest of Western Australia were radio-collared and monitored for up to 2 years between 1998 and 2000. Mean (±se) home-range sizes were 6.39±0.77 ha and core ranges averaged 1.21±0.12 ha. Male core home ranges were larger than those of females although not when corrected for body mass. Nocturnal ranges were larger than diurnal owing to nocturnal departures from the swamp. Ranges shifted to the edge of swamps in winter, as the swamps became inundated following rain, and toward the centre in autumn as the swamps dried. Quokka populations are thought to exist below carrying capacity at all sites and this probably caused the lack of dispersal observed in this study. We hypothesize that predation is suppressing population booms which would otherwise drive dispersal and thereby maintain metapopulation dynamics. Without dispersal to rescue unpopulated patches, we conclude that the original quokka metapopulation has collapsed and ameliatory measures are required.

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