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Honey possums prefer vegetation that is not affected by Phytophthora cinnamomi

Dundas, S.J., Fleming, P.A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0626-3851 and Hardy, G.E.St.J. (2009) Honey possums prefer vegetation that is not affected by Phytophthora cinnamomi. In: Combined Biological Sciences Meeting, 27 August, Perth, Western Australia.


The honey possum is a tiny (~2.5-16g) unique mammal species that feeds exclusively on plant nectar and pollen. Given their dependence on floristic diversity for year-round food sources, the honey possum is hypothesised to be especially vulnerable to habitat destruction caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi. Honey possum habitat preferences were determined via radio tracking around P. cinnamomi affected Banksia heathland at Cape Riche, Albany. Honey possums were shown to be capable of moving relatively large distances (>100m an hour) and although radio tracking indicated they utilised both P. cinnamomi affected and unaffected areas, honey possums showed a preference for locations with attributes consistent with unaffected vegetation (i.e. tall and dense). Honey possum food plants were determined from identification of pollen collected from the noses of captured individuals. Although these data indicated that honey possums can utilise a range of flowering plants, they demonstrated particular affinity for Banksia plumosa subsp. plumosa, which is utilised for year-round nectar and pollen as well as refuge. Banksia p. plumosa is common throughout sites not affected by P. cinnamomi, but the plants are susceptible to the dieback and are largely absent in P. cinnamomi affected areas. Despite their ability to move reasonable distances in search of food, further spread of P. cinnamomi could result in food resources being so dispersed that they will be insufficient to support honey possum populations in similar heathlands.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Phytophthora Science and Management
School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
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