The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database

Caloprymnus campestris (Gould, 1843:81)

Desert rat-kangaroo, Desert rat kangaroo, Buff-nosed rat-kangaroo, Plains rat-kangaroo, Plain rat-kangaroo, oolacunta (aboriginal name), ngudlukanta (Wangkangurru)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Bettongia campestris Gould, 1843 (original combination); Hypsiprymnus campestris (Gould, 1843:81)



Conservation Status

Last Record: 1935

IUCN status: Extinct

Old IUCN site:


Early European specimens

This species was first recorded in 1841 when two or three specimens were caught and sent to John Gould in London by George Grey, and these provided the basis for Gould's description of the species (Gould, 1843). However no further specimens were collected during the century and the species was considered potentially extinct in the early 1900's.


Unofficial rediscovery

Recently it has come to light that a specimen was collected by Henry James Hillier at Lake Killalpaninna, South Australia, between 1902 and 1905 (Vernes et al., Accepted).


Official rediscovery

It wasn't until September 1931, when Mr. Lou Reese, owner of Appamunna Station, sent Hedley Herbert Finlayson, Curator of Mammals at the South Australian Museum, the skin and skull of an individual in (Finlayson, 1932a,b) that the species was finally rediscovered. But by 1935 the species had disappeared again, and there have been no confirmed sightings or specimens since that date.

Of all recently extinct Australian species this is one of the best candidates for rediscovery. Since it occupied such a remote habitat, and was seemingly capable of great feats of both endurance and agility.


Unconfirmed reports, in chronological order:

1. Sightings have been made in 1956-7 and 1974-5, both following periods of rain (Carr & Robinson, 1997).

2. Fresh remains of C. campestris were apparently found in the 1980's (Lavery, 1985:46-48).*

3. Reports have also been collected up until 1988 (Carr & Robinson, 1997) from Clifton Hills Station, South Australia, where a bettong-like animal was said to have some material, presumably for nesting, in its tail, which is C. campestris behaviour.

4. Reports of the species darting out from spinifex grass clumps when disturbed by stockmen during the 1990's (Lavery & Kirkpatrick, 1997).

5. Night time in May 2011 at Peake Station (Oodnadatta Track) in South Australia (Robinson & Forrest, 2012).

* Although this publication is cited by several authors, it is in fact incorrect, as an examination of it shows no mention of any recently dead individuals. The actual source for these claims is therefore unknown to me.



Queensland (historically?), South Australia (historically) & Western Australia (prehistorically), Australia


"Skeletal remains reported from the surface in Webb's Cave, on Mundrabilla Station, to the east of Albany, provide the first record from Western Australia, indicating a much wider range prior to the introduction of foreign mammals."

(Troughton, 1957:166; but see: Lundelius, 1963)


Biology & Ecology




MCZ 37651 (female; skin and skull)

WAM 2655 (donated in 1945; Kitchener & Vicker, 1981:50)

M21674 (skin; Vernes et al., Accepted)

MV C 6788.2 (female, 70% ethanol) (source)

MV C 7727.1 (source)






Original scientific description:

Gould, John. (1843). On a new species of Kangaroo Rat. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1843: 81.


Other references:

Anonymous. (1964). A preliminary list of rare mammals including those believed to be rare but concerning which detailed information is still lacking. IUCN Bulletin 11(Special Supplement): 4 pp.

Archer, Michael. (1974). New information about the Quaternary distribution of the Thylacine (Marsupialia: Thylacinidae) in Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 57(2): 43-50.

Australasian Mammal Assessment Workshop. (2008). Caloprymnus campestris. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. ( Downloaded on 01 May 2012.

Breeden, K. (1964). Life on the gibber plains. Walkabout 30(4): 14-16. [mentions Caloprymnus campestris?]

Calaby, J. (1971). The current status of Australian Macropodidae. Australian Zoology 16: 17-29.

Carr, Steve G. and Robinson, Anthony C. (1997). The present status and distribution of the Desert Rat-kangaroo Caloprymnus campestris (Marsupialia: Potoroidae). South Australian Naturalist 72: 4-27.

Collins, L. R. (1973). Monotremes and marsupials. A reference for zoological institutions. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press. v + 323 pp.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2011). Caloprymnus campestris in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available from: . Accessed Sat, 15 Jan 2011 15:24:57 +1100.

Dixon, Joan M. (1988). Notes on the diet of three mammals presumed to be extinct: the Pig-footed Bandicoot, the Lesser Bilby and the Desert Rat Kangaroo. Victorian Naturalist 105: 208-211.

Finlayson, Hedley Herbert. (1932a). Caloprymnus campestris. Its Recurrence and Characters. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 56: 148-167.

Finlayson, Hedley Herbert. (1932b). Rediscovery of Caloprymnus campestris (Marsupialia). Nature 129: 871. [Abstract]

Finlayson, Hedley Herbert. (1935). The Red Centre: Man and beast in the heart of Australia. Sydney. 146 pp.

Finlayson, Hedley Herbert. (1961). On central Australian mammals. Part IV. The distribution and status of central Australian species. Records of the South Australian Museum 14: 141-192.

Fisher, C. T. (1985). Scientific report: from John Gilbert to John Gould. Australian Zoologist 22(1): 5-14.

Flannery, Timothy F. (1989). Phylogeny of the Macropodoidea; a study in convergence, pp. 1-46. In: Grigg, G. C., Jarman, P. and Hume, I. D. (eds.). Kangaroos, Wallabies and Rat-kangaroos. Chipping Norton, NSW: Surrey Beatty & Sons.

Flannery, Timothy F. (1990). Australia's Vanishing Mammals: Endangered and Extinct Native Species. Sydney: RD Press. 192 pp.

Flannery, Timothy F. and Archer, Michael. (1987). Bettongia moyesi, a new and plesiomorphic kangaroo (Marsupialia: Potoroidae) from Miocene sediments of northwestern Queensland, pp. 759-767. In: Archer, Michael (ed.). Possums and Opossums: Studies in Evolution. Sydney: Surrey Beatty & Sons and The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.

Goodwin, Harry A. and Goodwin, J. M. (1973). List of mammals which have become extinct or are possibly extinct since 1600. Int. Union Conserv. Nat. Occas. Pap. 8: 1-20.

Harper, F. (1945). Extinct and vanishing mammals of the Old World. American Committee for International Wild Life Protection, New York.

Hodgkinson, W. O. (1877). North-West Explorations, Parliamentary Papers (24 January), held by State Library of Queensland, Brisbane, pp. 203-226.

Hoser, Raymond T. (1991). Endangered Animals of Australia. Mosman, NSW: Pierson & Co. 240 pp. [pp. 204]

Iredale, Tom and Troughton, Ellis Le Geyt. (1934). A check-list of the mammals recorded from Australia. Mem. Aust. Mus. 6: i-xii, 1-122.

Janis, Christine M. (1990). Correlation of cranial and dental variables with dietary preferences in mammals: a comparison of macropodoids and ungulates. Mem. Qd. Mus. 28(1): 349-366.

Jenkins, M. and Thornback, J. 1982. The IUCN Mammal Red Data Book Part 1. IUCN Gland, Suiz. pgs. 33-34.

Johnson, C. (2006). Australia's mammal extinctions: a 50 000 year history. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Joslin, Paul and Maryanka, Daphne. (1968). Endangered Mammals of the World: Report on Status and Action Treatment. IUCN Publications, New Series, Supplementary Paper No. 13: 34 pp.

Kitchener, D. J. and Vicker, E. (1981). Catalogue of Modern Mammals in the Western Australian Museum 1895 to 1981. Perth: Western Australian Museum. 184 pp.

Krefft, Gerard. (1871). The Mammals of Australia, Illustrated by Harriett Scott and Helena Forde for the Council of Education ; With a Short Account of All the Species Hitherto Described. Sydney: Thomas Richards, Government Printer.

Lavery, Hugh J. (ed.). (1985). The Kangaroo Keepers. St. Lucia, Queensland: Queensland University Press. 211 pp.

Lavery, Hugh J. and Kirkpatrick, T. H. (1997). Field management of the bilby Macrotis lagotis in an area of south-western Queensland. Biological Conservation 79: 271.

Lucas, Arthur Henry Shakespeare and Le Souëf, William Henry Dudley. (1909). The Animals of Australia: Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians. Melbourne: Whitcombe and Tombs.

Lundelius, Ernest L. (1963). Vertebrate remains from the Nullarbor Caves, Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 46: 75-80.

Lundelius, Ernest L. and Turnbull, William D. (1984). The mammalian fauna of Madura Cave, Western Australia. Part VI: Macropodidae: Potorinae. Fieldiana, Geology, new series no. 14. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.

Maxwell, S., A.A. Burbidge & K. Morris (1996). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. [Online]. Wildlife Australia, Environment Australia. Available from:

McNamara, J. A. (1997). Some smaller macropod fossils of South Australia. Proceedings of the Linnean Society New South Wales 117: 97-101. [correction of identification by Lundelius & Turnbull, 1984]

Ogilby, J. Douglas. (1892). Catalogue of Australian Mammals, with Introductory Notes on General Mammalogy. Australian Museum, Sydney: Catalogue No. 16: viii + 142 pp.

Philpott, C. M. and Smyth, D. R. (1967). A contribution to our knowledge of some rare mammals from inland Australia. Transactions of The Royal Society of South Australia 91: 115-134. [failed to find this species during 24 weeks of field work in "northern South Australia and adjoining areas"]

Ride, W. D. L. (1970). A Guide to the Native Mammals of Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Robertson, G. (1982). Bettongs Genera Bettongia Aepyprymnus Caloprymnus. Pp. 9-14 in Parks and Wildlife. Kangaroos. (undated).

Robinson, Tony and Forrest, Tiana. (2012). A possible sighting of the Desert Rat-kangaroo or Oolacunta (Caloprymnus campestris) on the Peake Station, South Australia. The South Australian Naturalist 86(2): 63-75. [Abstract]

Scott, Peter (ed.). (1965). Preliminary List of Rare Mammals and Birds, pp. 155-237. In: The Launching of a New Ark. First Report of the President and Trustees of the World Wildlife Fund. An International Foundation for saving the world's wildlife and wild places 1961-1964. London: Collins.

Silcock, Jennifer Lesley. (2014). Degraded or just dusty?: 150 years of ecological change in inland eastern Australia. Unpublished thesis.

Smith, M. J. (1983). Desert rat-kangaroo, Caloprymnus campestris, pp. 192. In: Strahan, Ronald. (ed.) The Australian Museum Complete book of Australian mammals. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Smith, M. J. (1995). Desert rat-kangaroo. Caloprymnus campestris, pp. 296-297. In: Strahan, Ronald. (ed.). Mammals of Australia. Sydney: Australian Museum/Reed New Holland.

Smith, M. J. and Johnson, P. M. (2008). Desert Rat-kangaroo, Caloprymnus campestris, pp. 295-296. In: S. Van Dyck and Strahan, Ronald (eds), The mammals of Australia. Third Edition. Reed New Holland, Sydney, Australia.

South Australian Museum (2007). Desert Rat-kangaroo, Caloprymnus campestris. [Online]. Available from:

Strahan, Ronald (ed.). (2004). The Mammals of Australia. Sydney: Reed New Holland.

Tate, R. (1879). The natural history of the company around the head of the Great Australian Bight. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 2: 94-128.

Thomas, Oldfield. (1888). Catalogue of the Marsupialia and Monotremata in the collection of the British Museum (Natural History). London: British Museum (Natural History). xiii + 401 pp, 33 pls. [erection of the genus Caloprymnus]

Thornback, Jane and Jenkins, Martin (compilers). (1982). The IUCN Mammal Red Data Book. Part 1: Threatened Mammalian Taxa of the Americas and the Australasian Zoogeographic Region (Excluding Cetacea). Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 516 pp.

Troughton, Ellis Le Geyt. (1943). The kangaroo family. Rat Kangaroos, 2. The Australian Museum Magazine 8(6): 204-207.

Troughton, Ellis Le Geyt. (1957). Furred Animals of Australia, 6th edition. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.

Vernes, Karl, Ingleby, Sandy and Eldridge, Mark. (Accepted). An overlooked, early record of the desert rat-kangaroo (Caloprymnus campestris) from Lake Killalpaninna, South Australia. Australian Mammalogy. [Abstract]

Waterhouse, George Robert. (1845). A Natural History of the Mammalia. Volume 1, Containing the Order Marsupiata or Pouched Animals. London: Hippolyte Baillière. 553 pp + 20 pls.

Westerman, M., Loke, S. and Springer, M. S. (2004). Molecular phylogenetic relationships of two extinct potoroid marsupials, Potorous platyops and Caloprymnuscampestris (Potoroinae: Marsupialia). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31(2): 476-485. [Abstract]

Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A. A. (2016). Caloprymnus campestris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T3626A21961545. Downloaded on 26 August 2019.


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