Species profile

Rock Ringtail Possum

Rock Ringtail Possum

Range and abundance

The Rock Ringtail Possum is restricted to the rocky escarpment country of northern Australia, from the Kimberley through to western Queensland. Rock Ringtail Possums are locally common in suitable habitat within their range. 

Description

The Rock Ringtail Possum is a medium-sized possum with a body of 330 - 390 mm and tail of 200 - 270 mm, weighing 1280 - 2000 g. It has grey to reddish-grey fur above, and paler fur below. A dark dorsal stripe runs from the crown of the head to the middle of the back. The tail is thickly furred on the basal half and almost naked on the terminal half. The Rock Ringtail Possum is well-adapted to inhabiting a rocky environment with a short prehensile tail, stout legs and shorter claws than other possums.

Ecology

The Rock Ringtail Possum lives in rocky areas with fractured rock formations, including rocky tors, escarpment edges, and the steep cliffs and slopes of gorges. These areas typically support a higher diversity of tree species than open savannas. Rock Ringtail Possums eat the leaves of a number of tree species, foraging in trees up to 100 metres from the edge of the outcrops they inhabit.

Rock Ringtail Possums live in social groups with high levels of physical contact.  Group size ranges from two to nine individuals. Possums rest together during the day within rock dens and after dusk move in a group to feed.

Threats

The Rock Ringtail Possum is somewhat buffered from threats to mammals of more open savannas, because the rocky country they inhabit often has some natural protection against wildfire, and dens in rock crevices provide them with protection against predators. Extensive late dry season wildfire can damage food trees around the edges of rock outcrops.


 

What is AWC doing?

AWC manages fire on its northern sanctuaries to reduce the occurrence of extensive hot late season fires which may damage food trees. 

Did you know:

In Rock Ringtail Possums, both parents are equally involved in care of young. There are several parental-care behaviours that have not been seen in other marsupial such as ‘bridge formation’, where adults hang between two treetops while young run across their backs; ‘bear hugs’ between adult males and young, and ‘marshalling of young’, whereby young are sandwiched between adults while travelling across rocks and between trees.