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Scats track quokka cuisine

By Jasmine, 17 April 2015 News

A quokka smiling.

Image: Living on an island means that resources are limited for quokkas.
Credit: ©istock.com/charmedesign

Written by Beth Askham

Even though it has the cutest smile in the marsupial world, quokkas still need a good supply of food, water and rest spots to survive.

The biggest population of these adorable marsupials live on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth in Western Australia.

To help these furry friends, researchers from Western Australian have mapped the plants they like to eat and the places they like to sleep on the island.

“The Rottnest Island population is resource limited,” says researcher Patricia Fleming. “It is likely that loss of a key plant species will alter the carrying capacity of the island.”

Quokkas eat grass, leaves, seeds and roots. To find out the exact plants they eat, researchers collected quokka poo from 210 places on the island and took it back to the lab to dry out and be studied.

After a close look, they found that at the quokka diet has changed since it was last studied, 50 years ago. Fire, human influences and the quokkas themselves have all changed the plants that grow on the island.

Patricia also found out where quokkas like to rest – they prefer dense, abundant shrubs for shelter. These comfy spots are especially important at the end of summer when the cold nights arrive – a tough time of the year for a quokka.

This information will help land managers make sure Rottnest island remains home for quokkas by planting what they like to eat and protecting the places they like to rest.

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