The animal on the cover of 21st Century C is the common spotted cuscus (Spilocuscus maculatus), a marsupial that lives in the rainforests and mangroves of Australia, New Guinea, and nearby smaller islands. It has a round head, small hidden ears, thick fur, and a prehensile tail to aid in climbing. The curled tail is a distinctive characteristic; the upper part of the tail closest to the body is covered in fur, while the lower half is covered in rough scales on the inside surface to grip branches. Its eyes range in color from yellows and oranges to reds, and are slit much like a snake’s.
The common spotted cuscus is typically very shy, so it is rarely seen by humans. It is nocturnal, hunting and feeding at night and sleeping during the day on self-made platforms in tree branches. It is slow moving and somewhat sluggish—sometimes mistaken for sloths, other possums, or even monkeys.
Cuscuses are typically solitary creatures, feeding and nesting alone. Interactions with others, especially between competing males, can be aggressive and confrontational. Male cuscuses scent-mark their territory to warn off other males, emitting a penetrating musk odor both from their bodies and scent gland excretions. They distribute saliva on branches and twigs of trees to inform others of their territory and mediate social interactions. If they encounter another male in their area, they make barking, snarling, and hissing noises, and stand upright to defend their territory.
The common spotted cuscus has an unspecialized dentition, allowing it to eat a wide variety of plant products. It is also known to eat flowers, small animals, and occasionally eggs. Predators of the common spotted cuscus include pythons and some birds of prey.