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Parma Wallaby (Macropus parma) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Parma Wallaby Macropus parma

Activity Cycle

  • Primarily nocturnal (Maynes 1977b; Staker 2006)
    • Typical for most macropods
    • Day spent resting under dense shrubbery, emerging at dusk to feed
    • Secretive; rarely sighted in daytime - occasionally on wet/overcast days
  • Pre-dawn activity peak (Ord et al. 1999)
    • One study monitored nocturnal behaviors in captivity (2 groups of 6 individuals each)
    • Social interactions, alert postures, and movement peaked in the 2 h prior to dawn
      • Above study of nocturnal behaviors in captivity evaluated 6 common behaviors during peak active time
      • Feeding - most common behavior (about 32-55% of active time)
      • Resting and hiding - next most common behaviors (about 13-22% of active time)
      • Being on alert and moving - less common behaviors (about 5-12% of active time)
      • Social interactions - rare (about 2% of active time)
      • Males spent more time feeding and less time resting, hiding, on alert, and moving
      • Females distributed their time more evenly, spending a larger proportion of their time in non-feeding behaviors
        • Speculation by researchers: smaller females may spend more time in cover to avoid predation, or to hide from male courtship attempts

Home Range

  • Home range (Hume et al. 1989)
    • Small - a few hectares

Social Groups

  • In the wild (Jarman & Coulson 1989; Maynes 1977b)
    • Typically solitary; may feed in groups of 2 or 3
      • One Australian study recorded 52 solitary animals, 14 pairs, and 5 trios (Maynes 1977b)
    • This behavior typical of species whose food is scarce, is scattered, or requires extensive searching - especially small species living in dense cover
    • Larger aggregations occur on Kawau Island - perhaps due to higher population density
  • In captivity (Ord et al. 1999)
    • Largest male in group most dominant, tolerates presence of females only during feeding
  • Contact between two individuals (Herter et al. 1985)
    • Social grooming - head and ears preferred
    • Gentle touching with forepaws
    • Nose touching
    • Agonistic behaviors: see below

Communication

  • Vocalizations during courtship (Ord et al. 1999)
    • Males produce soft clucks - rapid pulses of sound
    • Females produce long hisses
    • Also see Courtship
  • Posturing (Herter et al. 1985; Warburton 2005)
    • Variety of positions communicate intent, for example:
      • Aggression - approaching rapidly, stretching head forward
      • Submission - crouching, lowering the head, nose sniffing, ear quivering
      • Sexual arousal (male) - tail lashing, bending over female

Agonistic Behavior and Defense

(Ganslosser 1989; Herter 1985; Miller 2001)

  • Aggression/fighting seldom seen in wild (probably due to solitary lifestyle)
  • Common agonistic behaviors (attack, fight, defense, flight, submission)
    • More common in males:
      • Raising up almost fully erect on hindlegs and tail (superiority display)
      • Hitting another animal violently with one/both forepaws
    • More common in females:
      • Defense
      • Avoidance
      • Stretching head forward with neck extended, muzzle slightly upward (threat display)
    • Typical in both sexes:
      • Attacking by jumping at the opponent
      • Wrestling upright
    • Kicking behavior differs from larger macropods
      • Parma wallabies don't always balance on tail when kicking - often lose balance and fall over

Territorial Behavior

  • Not well documented in parma wallabies

Other Behaviors

Notes on behavioral repertoire (Herter et al. 1985)

  • Less complex than larger macropods
  • More variable, less ritualized, shorter sequences of behaviors
  • May be related to the parma wallaby's more solitary lifestyle

Play (Watson 1998)

  • Not well-documented in macropods
  • No play behaviors were observed in one study of parma wallabies in the wild

Locomotion

(Kar et al. 2003; Maynes 2008)

  • All terrestrial (ground-dwelling) macropods move by hopping
    • Low speeds - "pentapedal" locomotion
      • Heavy tail used as a fifth leg
      • Energetically inefficient compared to quadrupedal (4-legged) running
    • Medium to high speeds - switch to bipedal hopping
      • As speed increases, stride length increases but hopping frequency remains constant
      • In larger macropods, bipedal hopping is energetically efficient
      • For smaller macropods, improved predator avoidance may be primary benefit
  • Parma wallaby hops in nearly horizontal position close to ground - a defining feature
    • Forearms tucked tightly against body
    • Tail curves upward in shallow U-shape at medium pace

Interspecies Interactions

  • Predators (Ganslosser 1990; Staker 2006)
    • Primarily introduced predators, especially red foxes (introduced in mid-1800s)
    • Also, dingoes, eagles, other birds of prey, pythons, cats, and wild dogs

Look, Sniff, and Listen

parma wallaby sniffing and listing

Those dark eyes give the parma wallaby away as being active at night.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Ganslosser (1989)
Herter et al. (1985)
Hume et al. (1989)
Jarman & Coulson (1989)
Lentle et al. (2003)
Maynes (1977b)
Maynes (2008)
Miller (2001)
Ord et al. (1999)
Staker (2006)
Watson (1998)

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