This specimen was collected during William Blandowski's expedition to the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers (December 1856 - December 1857). Its original tag '608' is still intact and the expedition register lists it as 'Kangaroo rat'. It arrived at the museum in the sixth consignment from the expedition including only specimens collected in the Gunbower area from 16 - 28 February 1857.
This is one of eight specimens of Rufous Bettong collected during the expedition by local Aboriginal people. The posterior section of the skull is crushed and partly missing (possibly in the condition it was received from Aboriginal collectors who killed the animal with a 'waddy' or club). It is interesting to note the skull and jaw preparation bound together with thread, in original historic condition, uncleaned as they would have come back from the field expedition to the museum.
Krefft observed the species in the wild during an excursion with Aboriginal guides from Gunbower to Mount Hope in February 1857. He reported that any bettong seen crossing their track was 'sure to be saluted with half a dozen waddies [clubs]'. He also kept the animal in captivity, remarking that 'I have kept a young one about the size of a large rat for several weeks. The little animal often followed me upon my excursions, seeking shelter upon the approach of danger by creeping between my boots and trousers'. Krefft completed a detailed study of a 'Skull of Jerboa kangaroo' from Gunbower (Museum fur Naturkunde B X/533).
This specimen is also tagged with an historic museum label (added after the expedition) stating that the collection locality was 'Echuca'. This locality is doubtful, as this species of bettong was only recorded during Blandowski's expedition from between Gunbower and the Murray-Murrumbidgee rivers junction (near Robinvale-Euston); it was not known in the area between Echuca and Gunbower. The main expedition route did not pass through Echuca (and no other collection specimens are known from there).
This is one of 34 mammal species recorded during the 1856/57 expedition, and the only species of bettong collected in the Gunbower area. In the expedition catalogue, manuscripts and published papers from the expedition this species is described under a variety of common names: Rufous Bettong, Kangaroo Rat, Jerboa Kangaroo or Wiry Haired Bettong. The name given to this species by the Aboriginal collectors at Gunbower is not known.
This species is extinct in Victoria and no longer occurs in the Murray River region. However, it is relatively secure across New South Wales and Queensland where it is not classified as threatened.
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