Quendas have no right to be so adorable *and* helpful

The quenda, also known as the Western Brown Bandicoot, is a marsupial that's found in South Western Australia, in the city of Perth and in the surrounding forests and scrubland. Up until 2018 it was considered a subspecies of the Southern Brown Bandicoot, but in 2018, research by Kenny Travouillon and Matthew Phillips suggested that the quenda should be elevated to it own species.

Regardless of whether it's a species or subspecies, the fact remains that I cannot stand looking at the quenda because it is literally too cute and my eyes, brain, and heart become overwhelmed. The quenda has absolutely no business being this cute—imagine the nerve it has, parading around with its cute little potato body and its adorable long flexible snout. Just look at it, flaunting its tiny diggy paws and its delightful smacking jaws. Please make it stop!

On top of its stunningly good looks, it's also quite a helpful fella. This video outlines the important role quendas are playing in ecosystem conservation in a section of urban bushland near Perth. In the description of the video, Dr. Leonie Valentine, a researcher at the University of Western Australia, who is studying conservation in the Craigie Bushland Reserve, explains how the quendas are making a difference through their digging habits: 

"They've been put into a good quality reserve, by good quality it has a good quality understory of plants, and these plants are providing a dense cover. They like to use the understory skirts of Balga (Xanthorrhoea preissii) as a refuge". Now that the quendas are in the reserve, they're already having a big impact. Leonie says "quenda have very long, sharp claws and they're known for their digging and fossicking habits. What we've found is they're digging up a lot of the soil and really changing the micro-habitat in the reserve". 

"Each quenda turns over 4 tonnes of earth per year, and a quenda only weighs 800 grams". This is why Leonie describes these little gardeners as "ecosystem engineers". "A quenda will dig up to 45 soil pits per nights, and even more in sandy soils, so they're moving soil around, they're bringing it up through the layers… breaking soil crusts". 

So what's the impact of all this digging on the plants? To find out, Leonie and fellow researchers set up exclusion plots; areas of the reserve where quendas could and couldn't go in, to observe the difference. "They're digging so much it's changing the amount of leaf cover…visually it's very different". "Putting that soil on top of the litter means it's good for decomposition, it's happening quicker. There's higher amounts of microbial activity, and changed nutrient composition; different levels of phosphorous". 

Curious about the impact of these little diggers on seed germination, Leonie and fellow researchers devised an experiment. They took soil from a dig, and a control soil sample, and seeded both with tuart seed. "The result was the tuart grew 2-3 times faster in the soil from the quenda dig. We think it's creating an environment for better leaf breakdown and contributing more nutrients to the soil". 

These little marsupials have it all—beauty AND brains. Honestly, what can't these cuties do?