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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3746.2.1

A new dasyurid marsupial from Kroombit Tops, south-east Queensland, Australia: the Silver-headed Antechinus, Antechinus argentus sp. nov. (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae)

ANDREW M Baker, THOMAS Y Mutton, Harry B Hines

Abstract


Antechinus argentus sp. nov. is currently only known from the plateau at the eastern escarpment of Kroombit Tops National Park, about 400km NNW of Brisbane and 60km SSW of Gladstone, south-east Queensland, Australia. Antechinus flavipes (Waterhouse) is also known from Kroombit Tops NP, 4.5km W of the nearest known population of A. argentus; A. mysticus Baker, Mutton and Van Dyck has yet to be found within Kroombit Tops, but is known from museum specimens taken at Bulburin NP, just 40km ESE, as well as extant populations about 400km to both the south-east and north-west of Kroombit NP. A. argentus can be easily distinguished in the field, having an overall silvery/grey appearance with much paler silver feet and drabber deep greyish-olive rump than A. flavipes, which has distinctive yellow-orange toned feet, rump and tail-base; A. argentus fur is also less coarse than that of A. flavipes. A. argentus has a striking silver-grey head, neck and shoulders, with pale, slightly broken eye-rings, which distinguish it from A. mysticus which has a more subtle greyish-brown head, pale buff dabs of eyeliner and more colourful brownish-yellow rump. Features of the dentary can also be used for identification: A. argentus differs from A. flavipes in having smaller molar teeth, as well as a narrower and smaller skull and from A. mysticus in having on average a narrower snout, smaller skull and dentary lengths and smaller posterior palatal vacuities in the skull. A. argentus is strongly divergent genetically (at mtDNA) from both A. flavipes (9.0–11.2%) and A. mysticus (7.2–7.5%), and forms a very strongly supported clade to the exclusion of all other antechinus species, in both mtDNA and combined (mtDNA and nDNA) phylogenies inferred here. We are yet to make detailed surveys in search of A. argentus from forested areas to the immediate east and north of Kroombit Tops. However, A. mysticus has only been found at these sites in low densities in decades past and not at all in several recent trapping expeditions conducted by the authors. With similar habitat types in close geographic proximity, it is plausible that A. argentus may be found outside Kroombit. Nevertheless, it is striking that from a range of surveys conducted at Kroombit Tops in the last 15 years and intensive surveys by the authors in the last 3 years, totalling more than 5 080 trap nights, just 13 A. argentus have been captured from two sites less than 6 km apart. If this is even close to the true geographic extent of the species, it would possess one of the smallest distributions of an Australian mammal species. With several threats identified, we tentatively recommend that A. argentus be listed as Endangered, pending an exhaustive trapping survey of Kroombit and surrounds.

 


Keywords


Antechinus argentus, Antechinus flavipes, Antechinus mysticus, mammal, morphological, genetic, evolutionary, south-east Queensland, Gladstone

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References


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