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2 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections

THE NATURALIST

A Rare Marsupial. THE BILBI.

At a meeting of the Royal Society on Saturday Mr. C. J. Pound, F.R.M.S., exhibit- ed and read the following notes on the Bilbi, a rare marsupial :—" On the frontages of

some of the West Australian rivers, and on the Upper Darling in New South Wales, and

the Warrego River in Queensland there is known to exist one of the very rarest of marsupials, known to bushmen by the name of Bilbi; but it is a remarkable fact that very few bushmen, even pioneers, have ever seen one of these interesting little animals. During my travels through Queensland those persons I have met with who have given a faithful description of the animal knew little or nothing about its habits or life history. Tbe word Bilbi is of aboriginal origin, and ia still used by tbe blacks on the Warrego and Darling rivers. The West Australian natives call it Dol-goitch and sometimes Dal-gyte. Although it is most popularly known by the name of Bilbi it is frequently spoken.of by the settlers on the Darling as the 'native Australian rabbit.'   on account of very long delicate rabbit-like ears. Only two species of this animal are known to science. Peragalea lagotis, which is about two-thirds the size of a kangaroo rat, the fur on the head and upper part of the body is of a light ash-gray colour, while along tbe belly and inside the legs the fur is quite white. The tall is somewhat bushy, the longest hair* being on the upper side. For about 4in. in the middle of the tail the hair is almost black. Pengalea Leucuna is very much smaller than the former, and has pinkish white fur on the body, while the whole of the tail is quite white. In both species the hair on the under side of the tail is about half-an-inch in length, and on the upper part of the tail they are over an inch in length, while the tip of the tail is quite bare. The fur on the skin is exceedingly beauti ful aod f-oft, almost like sealskin—ln fact, I am of opinion that no other native ani mal can boast of such a delicate coat. The sex*-? present no difference in colour, but the female is rather smaller than the male. The number of young brought forth at a time has not been satisfactorily ascer tained, but It may be presumed that they are at least three or four. The animal has a long, sharply-pointed snout and very

powerful claws, which enable it to bur row in the ground with great rapidity. The burrows are usually of great length; in fact Gould and other writers call them sub terraneous passages, outside of which they rarely venture in the daytime, 'the flesh is very delicate and sweet, and greatly re lished by the aboriginals ; but I am in tormed on g-jod authority that very few get a chance of eating them in consequence of the extreme difficulty in capturing them. It 1* general.> admitted that the Bilbl is tho most difficult of the marsupials to keep in captivity, cut Gould, in his historical work on 'Australian Mammals,' mentione that one of these animals was sent to Lon don in 1836, and remained alive in capti vity at the Zoological Society's Gardens for several months, and would probably have lived longer but for the difficulty in obtaining a supply of natural or suitable food. Since that date I can find no records of any Bilbi having reached London in the living condition. The Hon. A. Norton in forms me that several live Bilbi* were on view at the last Melbourne Exhibition. The food of the Bilbl chiefly consist* of Insects, their larvae, and roots of trees and plant*; and, according to Gould, in Western Aus tralia a favourite article ia the large grub, the larvae of a species of Cerambyx, de posited at the roots of different acacias, and which is equally in request by the natives, who never fall to cut it out from the ex posed root whenever theDal-gyte (Bilbi) has been unsuccessful. Although this little animal I* restricted to certain parts of this continent the principal reason that It

is so rarely seen Is that it is nocturnal In Its habit*. The specimen exhibited was caught by Mr. H. Cheeaemsn In a pit-trap prepared for oatching rabbit* on Coongoola station on the Warrego River, but died before k reached Brisbane. It has. been presented to the Queensland Museum."

At the last meeting of the Royal Society Mr. R. Illldge exhibited some beetle* of the tribe Scarabaidae. These insects have much the same habits as the Melolonthides, to which two or three species of our cane beetles belong ; but are not quite so plenti ful or so destructive as many of the specie* of that family. They are much more bright ly coloured. The larvae, a* far as Mr. ll lidge's researches in the garden go, appear to prefer decaying woody matter, such em the roots of dead trees and rotting vege table substance*. Before changing to the pupa state tbey form an oval earthen co coon, or frequently merely an oval chamber

in the earth. In tbe perfect state they eat the leaves of shrubs and trees. Many specie* in foreign countries—e.g., the June bug (Phyllopertha horticola, Linn.), and es pecially Anlaoplla Austrlaca, Herbat. —com- mit great ravages.

KNITTED PETTICOAT.—See Ladies' Page.

R. WALNE, AUSTRALIA'S LEADING <3YCLIBT, Wearing Hi* Brassard Badge.

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