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You are viewing (to the best of my knowledge) the first ever published photographs of an all-white or albino Eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus).
Note: Images are copyright and may not be reproduced without permission. Used here by permission. - Click images to enlarge
Eastern quolls are carnivorous Australian marsupials, about the size of a small house cat. The Eastern quoll's usual colouration is fawn or black, each with white spots that cover the body, but not the tail. Sometimes the tip of the tail is also white.
Speculation about all-white Eastern quolls
When I visited the Australian Museum in June 2008 to examine the taxidermy of the last-known mainland Eastern quoll, I saw in the collection another individual showing a very unusual colouration.
On its left-hand-side was a patch of white fur that ran from near its spine, down the middle third of its body to its belly. It raised the question - could it have been possible to selectively breed mainland Eastern quolls in order to produce an all-white form?
An all-white mainland Eastern quoll
Through these pages about the Eastern quoll on Where Light Meets Dark, I was recently contacted by a reader with the question "is there such a thing as an albino Eastern quoll?"
My response was that other Australian animals (including marsupials, monotremes, birds and reptiles) have definitely appeared in albino form, but I was not aware of albinism ever being reported in quolls.
After some discussion the reader forwarded to me this amazing collection of photographs of an all-white Eastern quoll taxidermy.
Albino, or all-white?
Put simply, it is impossible to tell from these photographs whether this was an albino or all-white Eastern quoll.
A true albino quoll would lack dark pigmentation from all parts of its body, including the eyes. As with most mammal taxidermies, the eyes here have been replaced with glass models.
The presence of the unusual quoll at the Australian Museum (mentioned earlier) implies that an all-white form should have been possible, but the presence of albinism in other Australian mammals also makes albinism a possibility.
The bird shown in the pictures is likely to be the red-capped robin (Petroica goodenovii). According to Graham Pizzey's Field Guide to the Birds of Australia this is a relatively common bird with an extensive distribution. Pizzey makes the interesting note that "there is a surprising irregular occurence ... across the S. Alps in e. Vic - to Mallacoota, Tabberaberra, Connors Plains and elsewhere in Gippsland."
According to the label, this quoll was recovered from near Ballarat which is further west than Pizzey discusses. The quoll's location certainly falls within the range of the red-capped robin.
In any case, without any further background on this specimen there can be no telling whether it was prepared at the place it was found, nor whether the bird was in fact collected from the same place.
The specimen label
The specimen label reads, in full:
"ALBINO NATIVE CAT (very rare), Killed on the left hand side of the mare paddock dam on ERCILDOUNE, by Jim Fisher's dog about 1882"
I must say that as tragic as it is that the Eastern quoll is now considered extinct on mainland Australia, I am in fact glad for Jim Fisher's dog collecting this one, and the foresight of the person who turned the specimen into a taxidermy.
Please consider supporting Where Light Meets Dark by purchasing your next camera trap at Wildlife Monitoring. Who knows ... with 4 mainland Eastern quoll specimens turning up in Victoria between 2005 and 2008 - you could snap the Australian wildlife photograph of the decade! :)