Small, furry marsupials such as the bandicoot, quoll and tree possums are in dramatic decline in Australia's north and feral cats could be the cause, according to analysis reported Wednesday.
Chris Johnson, a wildlife conservation professor from the University of Tasmania, said small mammal species were at risk of extinction across the continent, but the changes in the north were marked.
"There's a pretty clear picture and it shows that lots of species have declined dramatically," Johnson told AFP.
"Where we can infer the timing of decline, it's been fairly recent and there are now large areas where small mammals are either very rare or don't exist but the habitat looks like it should support small mammals."
Johnson said while scientists discussed the changes as a "new wave of decline" it was not clear how sudden it was except that it became very noticeable in the early 1990s, particularly in places such as Kakadu National Park, a conservation area in the Northern Territory.
About 20 small native mammals have disappeared from Kakadu in recent decades including rat-like bandicoots, northern quolls, tree possums, and the weasel-like phascogale, he said, adding that similar declines had occurred elsewhere.