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8 - Ecology and life histories

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2009

Chris R. Dickman
Affiliation:
Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Emerson Vieira
Affiliation:
LaboratÓrio de Ecologia de Mamiferos, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, RS 93022-000, Brazil
Patricia J. Armati
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
Chris R. Dickman
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
Ian D. Hume
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
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Summary

Background

Long before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas and Australasia, indigenous peoples were familiar with marsupials and some of their unusual habits. These earliest natural historians used marsupials for food and garments, and incorporated some into ceremonial traditions and oral histories. Written documentation followed later. The first marsupial brought to European attention was a Brazilian opossum presented in 1500 to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain by the explorer Vincente Yáñez Pinzón. The pouch and the numerous young of this animal led Her Majesty to consider it an ‘incredible mother’ (Archer 1982). Almost half a century later, in 1544, a manuscript probably written by António Galvão, Portuguese Governor of the Moluccas, described the pouch and succession of single young nursed by a ‘ferret-like’ animal that he called kusus (Calaby 1984). This was most likely the ornate cuscus Phalanger ornatus, the only cuscus found in Ternate where Galvão resided. The first Australian marsupial recorded by Europeans was a wallaby, described in 1629 by Dutch seaman Francisco Pelsaert, from the western coast of New Holland. Pelsaert was also intrigued by the pouch, but thought erroneously that the young grew directly out of the nipples in the pouch's protective shroud. Marsupials remained objects of curiosity for centuries after their discovery by Europeans, with many thousands of unfortunate animals being shipped back to the Old World for menageries, zoos and private collections.

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Marsupials , pp. 199 - 228
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • Ecology and life histories
    • By Chris R. Dickman, Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia, Emerson Vieira, LaboratÓrio de Ecologia de Mamiferos, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, RS 93022-000, Brazil
  • Edited by Patricia J. Armati, University of Sydney, Chris R. Dickman, University of Sydney, Ian D. Hume, University of Sydney
  • Book: Marsupials
  • Online publication: 07 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511541889.009
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  • Ecology and life histories
    • By Chris R. Dickman, Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia, Emerson Vieira, LaboratÓrio de Ecologia de Mamiferos, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, RS 93022-000, Brazil
  • Edited by Patricia J. Armati, University of Sydney, Chris R. Dickman, University of Sydney, Ian D. Hume, University of Sydney
  • Book: Marsupials
  • Online publication: 07 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511541889.009
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Ecology and life histories
    • By Chris R. Dickman, Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia, Emerson Vieira, LaboratÓrio de Ecologia de Mamiferos, Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, RS 93022-000, Brazil
  • Edited by Patricia J. Armati, University of Sydney, Chris R. Dickman, University of Sydney, Ian D. Hume, University of Sydney
  • Book: Marsupials
  • Online publication: 07 August 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511541889.009
Available formats
×