A common spotted Cuscus (Credit: Michael Thimbeck/Flickr)
by Becky Crew
This is the common spotted cuscus (Spilocuscus maculatus) from all over Papua New Guinea and the far north region of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.
Like a white chocolate and caramel puff the size of a house cat, this species is wrapped in an incredibly beautiful coat, the females in an overall creamy colour with a ginger face, and the males ginger all over with a network of white splotches arranged like dappled sunlight.
This striking coat is what makes the spotted cuscus one of the world’s prettiest marsupials, but it also makes it stand out like a beacon in the forest canopy.
With nothing but claws, teeth, and some kicky back legs to defend itself, the cuscus is easy prey for large birds like the Papuan eagle, tree pythons, and yes, humans.
One strategy to hide itself is a nocturnal lifestyle, but how does it keep out of sight in the light of day?
Cuscus use palm fronds to hide
In 2002, ecologist Thomas Heinsohn from the Australian National University visited New Ireland, a large island off the east coast of Papua New Guinea.
Here he met an adult male spotted cuscus sleeping in a coconut palm.
Cuscuses don’t curl themselves up in tree hollows like other possums do, so Heinsohn could spot it resting between the branches, about 12m up, with its head tucked between its legs in typical cuscus sleeping fashion.
Curiously though, it looked like a palm frond had been deliberately pulled down and tucked around its body, obscuring the brightest shades of its coat.
So this adorable golden possum sleeps in trees with its head between its legs, wrapped in leaves like a cool green blanket.