The greater bilbies are marsupials native to Australia. They are also simply known as bilbies today because the “lesser bilby” became extinct. Here are some fun and interesting facts about the greater bilby.
Scientific name: Macrotis Lagotis
Length: up to 55 centimetres
Life Span: 3 to 5 years
Also known as rabbit eared bandicoots
Greater bilbies have many names. They are also known as rabbit eared bandicoots and dalgytes. Their scientific name is Macrotis lagotis. The word Marcrotis means “big-eared” in Greek. They are also called by the name “long-tailed rabbit”.
Austrlia’s Easter Bunny
In 1991, a foundation named “rabbit-free Australia” was established to replace the Easter Bunny with the Australian Bilby. Even today, supposedly easter bunny chocolates are shaped like the greater bilby.
Appearance similar to a rabbit but a longer tail
The size of the skeleton of a bilby is of the same size as rabbits or cats. The uniquness of the greater bilby is its long tail. Its tail can be as long as 30 centimeters. For this reason, they are also called the long-tailed rabbit.
The length of bilbies varies between 29 – 55 centimeters (11 – 22 inches), with females being the smaller ones. They can weigh up to 1 kilogram (2 pounds).
The characteristic of bilbies is their long snout.
Stronger than bandicoots
Unlike bandicoots, bilbies have stronger forelimbs and well developed claws, allowing them to dig better. They make extensive burrow tunnel systems with burrows numbering up to 12.
Marsupials with upside down patches
Because they are marsupials, they have pouches. But their pouches are upside down. This prevents dirt from entering the pouch when female bilbies are digging, but the exact reason for why their pouches are reversed isn’t known.
Sharp ears and sleek mouth
Just like bandicoots, greater bilbies have very long ears and a slim long mouth. They have an excellent sense of hearing and sense of smell. They rely heavily on their ears and nose because their eye-sight is very poor. Their long mouth helps them lick insects out of the ground through small holes.
They can breed throughout the year
The greater bilby are polyoestrus, i.e., they have more than one oestrus cycle in a year. Their gestation period is 14 days. Baby greater bilbies stay in their mother’s pouch for 75 days, after which they are mostly independent. Female bilbies become sexually mature at the age of 6 months. They can live up to 5 years, but can can live longer in captivity.
Baby bilbies are also called Joeys.
Solitary and nocturnal
Greater bilbies are nocturnal and omnivores. They do not drink water and get their supply of water only from the food they eat.
Facilitated by fire
Much of the plant diet of the bilby is facilitated by fires that occasionally run through Australian regions and facilitate the re-growth of plants that the bilby prefers.
Becuase of their poor eye sight, communication between greater bilbies is almost non-existent. The only communication that occurs beteeen them is either olfactory or auditory.
Under threat due to red fox
Bilbies get eaten by snakes, lizards and eagles. The biggest predator of the bilbies is the red fox. They are rated “vulnerable” by the IUCN.