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Desert Bandicoot

Perameles eremiana

Status: Endangered (Presumed Extinct)
Listed: June 4, 1973
Family: Peramelidae (Bandicoots)
Description: Pelage is brown to dull orange with white underparts. A darker stripe runs between the ears and down the length of the back and tail.
Habitat: Arid, grassy regions.
Food: Insects, fruits, and small mammals.
Reproduction: Two, sometimes three, young.
Threats: Habitat destruction and predation.
Range: Australia


The desert bandicoot, Perameles eremiana, has a head-and-body length of 8-12 inches; the tail is about half the length of the body. The pelage is brown to dull orange with white underparts. A darker stripe runs between the ears and down the length of the back and tail. Two rump bands run perpendicular to the back stripe. It has long ears and hairy feet.

P. eremiana is very similar to P. bougainville and they may be the same species. Because of its color variations, P. eremiana is also referred to as the orange-back bandicoot.


The desert bandicoot feeds on insects--including termites, ants, and beetle larvae--vegetables, seeds, and roots for which it forages at night by digging or hunting.

It constructs grass nests in shallow, oval depressions. Two, sometimes three, young are produced.


This species inhabits sand plains and sand-ridge desert with spinifex grassland and tussock flats. The preferred vegetation is spinifex growing in arid regions and having spiny leaves and seeds.


The type specimen was collected near Charlotte Waters in the Northern Territory. It may also have occurred in Western Australia near Canning Stock Route. It was apparently common in the Northern Territory as far north as the Tanami Desert. It has not been reported since 1943 and is assumed to be extinct.


The introduction of foxes into the bandicoots' range would have contributed to the decline of some populations, but the most likely cause of decline is associated with the changes in habitat. When the Aborigines occupied the Tanami Desert, they cleared land with periodic fires, which helped the desert bandicoot. When the Aborigines left this habitat, the desert bandicoot declined over a 20-year period from 1940 to 1960.

Conservation and Recovery

Should this species be located, conservation efforts would be focused on establishing a suitable habitat and protecting individuals from natural predators.

Source: Beacham's Guide to International Endangered Species, Gale Group. 1998.

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