The other day I posted about Harvestmen, spider-like creatures who gather in large numbers purely to terrify humanity. One of my readers pointed out that I should balance the image of thousands of creepy arachnids with something adorable, and suggested the quokka. I’ve had the quokka in mind for a post for some time now, so let’s talk about this super cute mammal.

Look at this cutie!
Image by Loetifuss, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Quokkas are marsupials, and are the smallest members of the macropod family (which includes Kangaroos and wallabies). They are found where most marsupials are found, in Australia, though only a small colony lives on the mainland, with most quokkas living on small islands. They prefer to live in moist areas with lots of vegetation, but can do well in more arid climates.

Quokkas are quite small, reaching only 54 cm in length, and weighing a maximum of five kilograms. They look a bit like tiny kangaroos, though with a stockier build and adorable round ears instead of the kangaroos large ones. They have brown fur which gets lighter on the belly.

These cute guys breed from August to January, with a gestation of less than a month. Only one young is born, and almost immediately after the young quokka is born, the female mates again. This time, however, she doesn’t start gestating right away, instead delaying implantation until her current baby has grown up a bit. If her current baby dies before it’s five months old, the new embryo will start development. It seems a bit cold to make a backup baby right after giving birth, but it is a prudent strategy.

A quokka family.
Image by Hesperian, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Quokkas are quite sociable animals, living in family groups headed by a dominant male. The groups are fairly stable, except on hot days, when males fight vigorously for any available shelters. They are not territorial animals, and large numbers can usually be found around watering holes. Quokkas are nocturnal, coming out at night to forage. They make fun little tunnels in the underbrush, and hop along them to find their favourite foods, which are mainly grasses.

Quokkas are not only very cute — they are extremely friendly with people. They will readily approach people, which is usually a poor choice for a wild animal. Luckily for quokkas, they’re endearing, so most people are nice to them. Unfortunately, habitat loss and introduced predators like foxes, cats, and dogs, have led to a decline in quokka numbers. Hopefully they can stick around for a while, to give us solace after we encounter some nasty spiders.

Cover image by GregTheBusker, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons