Document Type


Publication details

Harris, JM & Goldingay, RL 2005, The distribution of fossil and sub-fossil records of eastern pygmy-possum in Victoria', Victorian Naturalist, vol. 122, no. 4, pp. 160-170.

© Victorian Naturalist. The published version of this article is reproduced here with the permission of the publisher, The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria

Peer Reviewed



The Eastern Pygmy-possum Cercartetus nanus has a variable status throughout its current geographic range. Investigating its prehistoric range may provide some perspective into its current distribution and abundance. We reviewed available information from the published literature and museum databases to document the fossil and sub-fossil sites in Victoria where bones of the species have been reported. This revealed 17 sites of late Pleistocene and Holocene age ranging from ca. 780 ± 100 to >33 000 years. The fossils from five sites (Bridgewater Caves South; Clogg’s Cave; McEachern’s Cave; McEachern’s Deathtrap Cave and Pyramids Cave) are dated at >10 000 years, and extend from the far south-west to the far east of Victoria. The Steiglitz Cave (<6 000>years), located in south-central Victoria, provides evidence that Eastern Pygmy-possums were also present in that area in the mid-Holocene. The apparent prehistoric distribution of the species is likely to be an artifact of the availability of fossil sites. The fossil localities for the Eastern Pygmy-possum appear to be within the distribution of extant populations, and the available evidence does not suggest a contraction of geographic range. This may suggest that the available habitat for Eastern Pygmy-possums has not changed to any great extent during the last 10 000 years. Thus, this study provides a preliminary basis for examining modern contractions in the range of the Eastern Pygmy-possum, whether due to climate change, proximate anthropogenic disturbances, or other factors.

Find in your library