Poster presentation 12th International Mammalogical Congress

The swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor): A common mycophagous species yet potentially important for maintaining the diversity of Australian fungi. (#755)

Natalie Simpson 1
  1. School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia

Swamp wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) are a common mycophagous (fungus-eating) species found along the east coast of Australia. Unlike many mycophagous mammals, such as bettongs (Bettongia) and bandicoots (Isoodon), swamp wallabies are not threatened by the presence of introduced predators such as feral cats (Felis catus) and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). Mycophagous mammals, such as the swamp wallaby, play an important role in maintaining ecosystem function by part-taking in mammal-ectomycorrhizal fungal interactions, consuming and dispersing the spores of these fungi. The foraging behaviour of swamp wallabies, may be important for understanding their role in this interaction; however, it has not been the focus of research studies in previous years. Using motion-sensitive camera traps deployed at Mount Duval in New South Wales, it was observed that swamp wallabies actively forage for buried food items, such as artificial truffles which mimic the buried state of ectomycorrhizal fungi (‘truffles’). Swamp wallabies were successful at excavating buried food items in 66% of trials, spending on average 5 seconds excavating each artificial truffle. These observations support the data gathered from diet samples collected in two 12 month sampling periods, set 10 years apart, which showed 28 taxa of ectomycorrhizal fungi, found in the New England Tablelands, are regularly consumed by swamp wallabies. Evidence collected during this study has shown that swamp wallabies actively part take in excavating buried food items while consuming a large diversity of ectomycorrhizal fungi. This has provided a greater understanding of their role in the dispersal ectomycorrhizal spores throughout a forest remnant ecosystem.