Peramelemorphia order

Bandicoots and bilbies

The peramelemorphs are a group of small marsupials that inhabit Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea and eastern Indonesia. They inhabit very diverse ecosystems, from the most arid areas of Australia to lush, dense tropical and mountain rainforests. They are generally omnivorous, eating insects, fruits, seeds, leaves and fungi.

The oldest fossils of peramelemorphs are from the late Oligocene (around 25 million years ago), from a warm, wet, rainforested Australia. These primitive bandicoots are of the family Yaralidae, a separate group from all living bandicoots and bilbies, which died out in the late Miocene (~10 million years ago). Much of the peramelemorph fossil record is made up of very fragmentary specimens, which has made it hard to understand their evolutionary relationships to other groups of marsupials.

There are currently 19 living species, many of which are considered either threatened or endangered. Sadly, the diversity of peramelemorphs in Australia has suffered following European colonisation—six of the 15 Australian species have gone extinct to date. In New Guinea and eastern Indonesia they remain diverse and relatively common, with the discovery of new species still possible.

Golden bandicoot, photo by Amareta Kelly. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.