The wambenger brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa wambenger), also known by its Noongar name “wambenger”, is a rat-sized arboreal carnivorous marsupial with a characteristic tuft of black silky hairs on the terminal portion of its tail. This phascogale of the family Dasyuridae is one of the thylacine’s close living relatives, last sharing a common ancestor 35-46 million years ago.
The term Phascogale was coined in 1824 by Coenraad Jacob Temminck in reference to the brush-tailed phascogale, and means "pouched weasel". Phascogales do not have a true pouch that is found in most other marsupials. Instead, they form temporary folds of skin, sometimes called a "pseudo-pouch", around the mammary glands during pregnancy. Young stay in this pseudo-pouch area, nursing for about 7 weeks before being moved to a nest where they stay until they are weaned at about 20 weeks of age.
Phascogales are mostly carnivorous and hunt small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, spiders, and centipedes. They have been known to kill and eat chickens, and they generally avoid eating carrion. They are mainly arboreal and have been known to feed on the nectar of eucalyptus flowers. Brush-tailed phascogale is considered effective at helping to control insect and rodent pest populations since it is a natural predator of these animals.
The brush-tailed phascogale has a widespread but fragmented distribution throughout all states of Australia, excluding Tasmania. As a result of habitat destruction and predation by the red fox and feral cat, they are believed to have disappeared from roughly half of their former range. The species is considered very vulnerable to localised extinction.
Wambenger is listed as ‘near threatened’ on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Today we share the chromosome-length assembly for the brush-tailed phascogale. The assembly was generated using the sample provided by Dr Kenny J. Travouillon from the Western Australian Museum in collaboration with Dr Renee Catullo from the University of Western Australia. This is a short-read Illumina assembly, see our Methods page for more detail on the assembly procedure, and check out the interactive map of the phascogale chromosomes below!
The work was enabled by resources provided by DNA Zoo Australia, The University of Western Australia (UWA) and DNA Zoo, Aiden Lab at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) with additional computational resources and support from the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre with funding from the Australian Government and the Government of Western Australia.