The spotted-tail quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), also known as the tiger quoll, the spotted quoll, the spotted-tailed dasyure or the tiger cat, is a carnivorous marsupial of the quoll genus Dasyurus native to Australia. With males and females weighing around 3.5 and 1.8 kg, respectively, it is mainland Australia’s largest, and the world’s longest (the biggest is the Tasmanian devil) living carnivorous marsupial. Two subspecies are recognised; the nominate is found in wet forests of southeastern Australia and Tasmania, and a northern subspecies, D. m. gracilis, is found in a small area of northern Queensland and is endangered.
The tiger quoll is the largest of the quolls. Males and females of D. m. maculatusweigh on average 3.5 and 1.8 kg, respectively, and males and females of D. m. gracilis weigh on average 1.60 and 1.15 kg, respectively. The next-largest species, the western quoll, weighs on average 1.31 kg for males and 0.89 kg for females.The tiger quoll has relatively short legs, but its tail is as long as its body and head combined. It has a thick head and neck and a slightly rounded and elongated snout. It has five toes on each foot, both front and hind, and the hind feet have well-developed halluces. Its long pink foot pads are ridged, an adaptation for its arboreal lifestyle. This makes up for the fact that its tail is not prehensile. The tiger quoll has a reddish-brown pelage with white spots, and colourations do not change seasonally. It is the only quoll species with spots on its tail in addition to its body. Its fur and skin are covered in orange-brown-coloured oil. The underside is typically grayish or creamy white. The average length of D. m. maculatus is 930 mm for males and 811 mm for females, respectively. For D. m. gracilis, the average length of males and females, respectively, is 801 and 742 mm.
Range and ecology
The tiger quoll is found in eastern Australia where more than 600 mm of rain fall per year. Historically, the quoll was present throughout southeastern Queensland, though eastern New South Wales, Victoria, southeastern South Australia, and Tasmania. European settlement has severely decimated and fragmented the quoll’s mainland distribution. Tiger quolls are rare in southeastern Queensland and mainly restricted to national parks. In Victoria, quoll populations have declined by nearly 50%. The range decline was not as severe in New South Wales, but they are still rare. The quoll was probably never very numerous in South Australia. In Tasmania, the tiger quoll mostly frequents the northern and western areas where rains are seasonal. Tiger quolls were once native to Flinders and King Islands, but were extirpated since the 20th century, so are not present on Tasmanian offshore islands.
Tiger quolls live in a variety of habitats, but seem to prefer wet forests such as rainforests and closed eucalypt forest. They are arboreal, but only moderately, as 11% of their travelling is done above ground. Prey items eaten by quolls include insects, crayfish, lizards, snakes, birds, domestic poultry, small mammals, platypus, rabbits, arboreal possums, pademelons, small wallabies, and wombats. They may scavenge larger prey such as kangaroos, feral pigs, cattle, and dingoes. However, the tiger quoll does not scavenge as much as the Tasmanian devil. Much of the prey eaten by the quoll are arboreal. They can climb high into trees and make nocturnal hunts for possums and birds. The flexibility of their diets suggests their prey base is not detrimentally affected by bushfires. When hunting, a quoll stalks its prey, stopping only when its head is up. It then launches its attack, executing a killing bite to the base of the skull or top of the neck, depending on the size of the prey. The quoll will pin small prey down with its fore paws and then deliver the bite. With large prey, it jumps and latches on its back and bites the neck. Quolls, in turn, may be preyed on by Tasmanian devils and masked owls in Tasmania and dingos and dogs in mainland Australia. It may also be preyed on by wedge-tailed eagles and large pythons. Tiger quolls yield to adult devils, but will chase subadults away from carcasses. Quolls also probably compete with introduced carnivores, such as foxes, cats, and wild dogs. Tiger quolls are also hosts to numerous species of endoparasites.
Tiger quolls are generally nocturnal and rest during the day in dens. However, juveniles and females with young in the den can be seen during the day and may leave their dens when it is light out. Quoll dens take the form of underground burrows, caves, rock crevices, tree hollows, hollow logs, or under houses or sheds.