Black-spotted Cuscus (Spilocuscus rufoniger)

I don’t know exactly how to pronounce this animal’s name, but I’m definitely reading it like couscous, and it’s making me hungry. From what I can gather from a quick google search, it’s pronounced more like ‘cuss-cuss’. Still, I read it as couscous, so I’ll probably have to get some for dinner tonight to satisfy my couscous craving.

Cuscuses are marsupials that are found in Australia and New Guinea. The black-spotted cuscus is found only in Papua New Guinea, and has had its habitat restricted to the northern parts of the island. They live in tropical forests, particularly those with thick underbrush that are undisturbed by people.

Good pictures of these guys are hard to find, since they are nocturnal and live in thick jungles.  Image source: http://kvippo.ru/?cat=18

Good pictures of these guys are hard to find, since they are nocturnal and live in thick jungles. But this one is adorable.
Image source: http://kvippo.ru/?cat=18

Black-spotted cuscuses are among the largest of the cuscuses, reaching 70 cm from head to base of the tail, and weighing 7 kg. Females are larger than males, and have a larger dark patch on their backs. Both sexes have quite pretty colouration, with red fur punctuated by a black-spotted area near the rump.

They have large eyes to help them see in the dark, and have a short snout with tiny external ears. Their feet are highly modified to suit their arboreal lifestyle, with the first and second toes opposable to the rest on the front feet; on the hind feet, the big toe is opposable and the second and third toes are fused. The tails of cuscuses are also designed for life in the trees — they are prehensile, and have a naked patch at the end which is covered in calluses to aid in grasping.

See the black spotty patch of fur? Makes them look pretty neat.  Image source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/6a/08/82/6a0882e93f75a8c7dfcb7d5e4db9349c.jpg

See the black spotty patch of fur? Makes them look pretty neat.
Image source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/6a/08/82/6a0882e93f75a8c7dfcb7d5e4db9349c.jpg

We know that cuscuses are marsupials, and therefore that the mothers nurse their young in the four pouches they have, but otherwise there’s not a whole lot known about black-spotted cuscus reproduction. They are generally solitary creatures, with interactions between individuals resulting in aggression. So presumably at some point a male and a female must meet and decide not to attack each other — apparently courtship occurs in trees, but that’s about all that is known about cuscus reproduction.

We also don’t know much about development, dietary habits, and general behaviour of this species. Instead of studying them to learn these things, we’ve decided to destroy their habitat and hunt them for meat and fur. So now they are critically endangered, and if we don’t change some things soon, we’ll never know how that male cuscus gets the female to like him.

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