25 Brilliant Antechinus Facts (2022 UPDATE)

Have you ever heard of an animal called the antechinus? Not many people have, but these small marsupials are native to Australia and they are very unique and just oh so cute! Read on to learn all about these tiny, but interesting animals! 

1. What do antechinuses look like?

Antechinuses have short, dense, and coarse grayish-brown fur that covers their entire bodies, with the exception of their underside which is covered in fur that is slightly lighter in color. They have long, pointed faces with a pink nose and a long tail- they look quite like the average mouse!

Their tails are furred and they have fairly large and bulging eyes for their small bodies. 

Bonus Fact: How to pronounce antechinus?

It’s easy to pronounce antechinus (after you’ve heard someone else do it first). The correct pronunciation is an·tuh·kai·nuhs. Or listen to one of the YouTube videos below.

How to pronounce antechinus

2. Where do antechinuses live?

Antechinuses are found in parts of eastern and southeastern Australia. They can be found in portions of three Australian states- Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. There, they like to live in forests with a lot of coverage on the ground and many fallen trees. This is because they use the downed trees to form their nests. 

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3. Is antechinus related to mice?

house mouse vs antechinus
House mouse vs antechinus

Antechinuses are also known as “marsupial mice,” but they are not actually related to any rodents. It can be hard to tell antechinuses and mice apart, but there are some subtle differences. Antechinuses have a longer snout than a mouse, which has a more curved head.

Antechinus are also slightly larger than the average mice. Lastly, antechinus do not have an odor, which is unlike mice and rats who have a bit of a musty smell. 

4. How big are antechinuses?

Antechinuses are tiny creatures! On average, a male antechinus usually weighs about 35 grams (which is about 1.2 ounces), while females usually weigh only 20 grams (which is roughly only .7 ounces). Male antechinuses are usually only about 150 mm to 250 mm (which is about 6 to 10 inches) long from head to tail.

Females are even smaller and are about 139 mm to 220 mm (which is about 5 to 8 inches) long. 

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How big are antechinus?
How big are antechinus?

5. Do antechinuses have pouches?

Even though antechinuses are marsupials, they do not have a complete pouch. Instead, females just have a flap of skin covering the female’s nipples. Female antechinuses have a different number of nipples depending on where they live.

Antechinuses can have between six and ten nipples- the animals that live in the wettest areas usually have six nipples, while those that live in the drier areas have ten nipples. 

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6. Do antechinuses hibernate?

Like many marsupials, antechinuses undergo “torpor.” Torpor is a physiological state that some small, warm-blooded animals do where they lower their body temperature and their metabolic rate.

This is different than hibernation because hibernation occurs over a longer period and is used to help an animal survive cold weather conditions. Antechinuses undergo daily periods of torpor.  

7. What is the craziest fact about antechinus?

One extremely unusual thing about antechinuses is that all males die after mating. This is because male antechinuses experience high levels of stress during breeding season because of competition for finding a mate.

This stress causes their immune systems to become suppressed and after mating, they die from parasites or infections. Many female antechinuses die after rearing their first litter, but sometimes, they will live for a second year and have another litter. 

8. What do antechinuses eat?

Antechinuses eat many invertebrates such as beetles, spiders, and cockroaches. These animals will also eat some small vertebrates, such as placental mice. Antechinuses also like to eat some plant matter, such as the pollen from a flower.

This makes them omnivores. And even though they are small, they sure do like to eat! During the winter, antechinus can eat up to 60% of their body weight in invertebrates. 

READ ALSO: Do People Eat Bees?

9. Are antechinuses nocturnal?

Antechinuses are usually more active during the night and are technically considered to be nocturnal, but they will also hunt for food during the day if they have to, such as in the colder winter months when food is a bit more scarce for them. 

Are antechinuses nocturnal?
Are antechinuses nocturnal?

10. Are antechinuses endangered?

Sadly, these animals are listed as endangered. The main threats to antechinuses are habitat destruction and introduced animals. Some of the antechinus’s natural habitat has been destroyed due to deforestation and the development of the areas that they live.

Some animals that have been introduced to Australia include foxes and cats, both of whom prey on antechinuses. There have also been some species of mice and rats that have been introduced to their natural habitat, which has led to competition for food and habitat. 

Plus some livestock (like horses, cows, and pigs) have been known to trample on an antechinus habitat without knowing it.  

11. How long are antechinuses pregnant for?

Female antechinuses have a gestation period of about 25 to 35 days, and then the offspring will be completely independent after about 90 to 100 days after their birth. This makes the developmental period of antechinus pretty long compared to other marsupials of about the same size.  

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12. Are antechinuses monogamous?

Members of the same litter can also have different fathers. This is because, during the breeding season, females and males will mate with multiple partners (making these animals polygynous and not monogamous). The litter of an antechinus usually has about seven babies.  

13. Are antechinuses good mothers?

A mother antechinus will deny milk to their male offspring, in order to make sure that their female offspring have enough to drink first. This peculiar behavior is because they prefer to help the female babies wean first and grow stronger so they can have offspring of their own.

In captivity, it has also been observed that mother antechinuses will commonly eat some of their young! 

14. Do antechinuses impact the environment in any way?

Antechinus
Antechinus

These animals do have some impact on the environment in their native Australia! Antechinuses have been linked with partaking in the process of pollination of certain Australian flowers.

While this is good, they have also been known to distribute a type of pathogenic fungus that attacks soil. This fungus can have devastating effects on plant life in the forests and woodlands of Australasia.  

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15. Are antechinuses noisy?

While they are small, antechinuses can be noisy, especially during mating season. During mating season, males will become more vocal than usual and they make a sound that is short and staccato and it almost sounds like a bird chirping.  

16. How long do antechinuses live?

In the wild, antechinuses do not live a long time. Females have a longer life expectancy with an average of about three years, but males rarely live longer than a year.  

Antechinus
Antechinus

17. Do antechinuses cause problems in homes, as mice or rats can?

In rural parts of Australia, these animals are fairly common and they sometimes make their way into homes. Antechinus have been known to make themselves at home in parts of the house where there might be bugs (such as a kitchen) or even in armchairs, purses, dresser drawers, and boxy television sets.

But since they are a native species, they are protected under laws and they cannot be removed by pest control. Instead, it is recommended that residents gently encourage antechinuses from their houses and into the outdoors.  

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18. Do antechinuses live alone or in groups?

Antechinuses do not usually live in groups. Scientists have observed that there are usually only about one to eighteen antechinuses per hectare. A hectare is a measurement of about 100 square acres.

And male and female antechinus do not associate with each other outside of breeding season- during the rest of the year, the opposite genders have their own foraging ranges.  

19. How many subspecies of antechinuses are there?

There are ten different species of antechinus that live in Australia. Some of these different subspecies are the yellow-footed antechinus, the brown antechinus, the agile antechinus, the dusky antechinus, the swamp antechinus, and the fawn antechinus.  

Antechinus
Antechinus

20. Do all antechinuses mate at the same time?

The mating season for antechinuses is from July to September, depending on the specific subspecies. Since all antechinuses in the same population mate at the same time, about 70% of female antechinuses give birth to their litters on the same exact day! 

21. How do antechinuses take care of their young without a pouch?

Since antechinuses are marsupials, the babies are born at the embryonic stage. But since females do not have a pouch, young antechinuses will attach to one of their mother’s nipples and then they will hang on for dear life as their mother travels around to get food

22. How many teeth do antechinuses have? 

Antechinuses have four pairs of incisor teeth. These teeth are sharp and small, but they are just what they need to eat the foods that they need to survive.  

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23. Do antechinuses live in trees?

While most antechinuses live mostly on the ground, the brown antechinus has adapted to living life in the treetops, making them “arboreal animals.” They have adapted to being tree climbers by having five toes on both their front and back feet. These help them to climb up the trees easily.  

24. What animals eat antechinuses?

While we learned earlier that there are some introduced predators to antechinus (such as foxes and cats), there are some natural predators for these small creatures as well. Some of the antechinus’s natural predators are snakes, lizards, and birds.  

25. When can antechinuses start mating?

Both male and female antechinuses grow to become sexually mature at the age of nine months. At this time, they are ready to start breeding and having offspring of their own. 

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