What is the definition of marsupial? Categorised under the infraclass of Metatheria are the different species of organisms called marsupials. This category of biologically classified organisms includes animals ranging from extant life forms to several species of extinct mammalians such as marsupial lion. Distributed amongst a wide range of geographical regions marsupials include adorable and formidable groups of animals such as kangaroos and wallabies. These placental mammals are distinctively characterized by the presence of marsupium (pouch) in which the young ones survive.
These placental mammals can be found in different regions of Australia, South America, and North America. Though, Australian marsupials are amongst the most well known marsupials in the world. Peruse ahead to find out more about these organisms and discover fun facts about them.
What do they prey on?
Small-medium sized animals
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
Up to 200 lb
How long are they?
24 -36 in
How tall are they?
Up to 6 ft
What do they look like?
Pouched animals, with light fur and a tail
What are their main threats?
Humans, environmental changes, climate change
What is their conservation status?
Least Concern, Critically Endangered
Where you'll find them
Marsupial Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a marsupial?
Any organism belonging to the infraclass Metatheria or Marsupialia of class Mammalia is termed as marsupials. Marsupials are basically characterized by the presence of pouches. The premature young marsupials live in the mother's pouch till they reach the desired age. The young marsupials crawl from the birth canal to the nipple of the mother located in the pouch and stay there feeding themselves to continue their development. Kangaroo, wombat, the extinct thylacine, koala, Cuscus, New Guinea, Tasmanian devil, and wallabies are some of the Australian marsupials that fall under this category of Biological classification.
What class of animal does a marsupial belong to?
Marsupials belong to the class Mammalia. Being mammals, marsupials give birth to the young of their own kind and possess mammary glands for the nourishment of their babies like other mammals. The young one's stay in the mother's pouch till they achieve the desired developmental level. Marsupials are found in different regions of Australia, North America, and South America.
How many marsupials are there in the world?
The total number of marsupials in the world account for a total of 334 species. Out of the assigned total, about 235 species of extant marsupials are present in Australia. While about 99 remaining species are vastly distributed in the habitats of South America and Central America. Some of the Australian species have become extinct.
Where does a marsupial live?
It is usually assumed that it is only Australia that provides home to the species of marsupials. However besides Australia which is definitely the dwellings of a large majority of these variety of organisms South, Central and North America are also the habitation ground of marsupials.
What is a marsupial's habitat?
The selection of habitat by any organisms is largely affected by various factors like their eating habits, structure, size and shape of their bodies, and breeding. As in case of marsupials the factors affecting inhabitations are no different. In fact these factors have led to adaptation of these organisms to a large variety of environments. Their habitats are distributed over a wide range of geographical distribution. For instance the Red Kangaroo are the occupants of grassland, desert habitats and scrubland, while the Long Tailed Planigale are found commonly in the black soil plains or clay-soiled woodlands. Some marsupials like moles are used to burrowing while others like flying squirrels are adapted to gliding through forest. Some marsupials are even found in aquatic habitats such as water opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Not much change is observed in the geographic distribution of the habitat of marsupials, even after millions of years later.
Who do marsupials live with?
Most masupials travel alone, except for kangaroos, who stay huddled together. They can be found in various regions spanning from South America to Australia.
How long does a marsupial live?
The average lifespan of marsupials ranges from as long as 1-26 years, the variations largely depend upon the different types of species categorized under Marsupials.
How do they reproduce?
Marsupials are viviparous mammalians; that is they directly give birth to the young ones. In fact, reproduction in marsupials is one of the prominent and defining characteristics of these species. After fertilization, the progeny is delivered by the females at their embryonic stage (the period after implantation, during which all of the major organs and structures of the embryo are formed.) The offspring at this stage is delivered from the womb of the female to the pouch for further development and remain there almost unto the juvenile stage. In place of placenta the structure formed in the uterus of the female marsupials is yolk sac. Yolk sac, along with the combinations of secretions and hormones, provides the required nutrition and nourishment to the embryo for about three to seven weeks for these mammals. The short gestation period results in a small and immature embryo for these mammals. The developing embryo is provided with nourishment such as milk in the pouch. After reaching the juvenile stage the progeny tends to temporarily leave their pouch, however, occasionally return for warmth. This continues for these mammals until the juvenile marsupial is mature enough to survive on their own.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation status of marsupials ranges from Extinct to Least Concerned. However, in general a number of species listed under marsupials are often observed to be competing and struggling for survival.
For example, the Kangaroo, though not endangered are often threatened due to hunting or other environmental calamities. These true facts about the marsupial kangaroo are worrying for many people.
While in case of mountain pygmy opossum, these marsupials are listed as critically endangered according to the IUCN list. In fact, in 2008 their total population was calculated to be less than 2000 resulting due to factors like loss of habitat, predation by several other organisms, and environmental change.
Whereas in case of thylacine, extensive hunting, diseases and human intrusion into their environment has been quoted as factors responsible for the extinction of these carnivorous marsupials.
Marsupial Fun Facts
What do marsupials look like?
Since there are over 250 species of marsupials known, they differ from each other in terms of physical characteristics. Smaller marsupials, like opossums (didelphis virginiana) and quolls have four legs, while larger ones, like kangaroos and wombats have two legs. Common physical characteristics include a mother's pouch, hairy body, and give birth through a birth canal.
How cute are they?
The cuteness of these species ranges on a wide scale. Some of these marsupials are adorably cute like kangaroos, koala bears, wombat, while others like Tasmanian devil are formidable marsupials.
How do they communicate?
Olfactory and auditory communications are known to be common ways of communication amongst different species of marsupials such as the kangaroo. Some marsupials are very loud. However marsupials are comparatively less vocal and limited than placental mammals.
How big is a marsupial?
The wide diversity is observed in the length of marsupials. They may range in length from male red kangaroo with a height of about 6 ft to the smallest that is Pilbara ningaui, with a length of about two inches.
How fast can a marsupial move?
Marsupials can hop at a speed of 30-40 mph.
How much does a marsupial weigh?
In marsupials the weight ranges from about 200 lb in large species such as red kangaroo to about 0.004 lb in Pilbara Ningaui.
What are their male and female names of the species?
The masculine members of the species under marsupials in general are referred to as male marsupials while the females are referred to as female marsupials.
What would you call a baby marsupial?
The babies of the marsupials species are called joeys.
What do they eat?
The incision in marsupials is quite varied depending largely on their eating habits. While a number of marsupials such as American opossums, bandicoots and Australian possums are omnivorous (that is organisms that survive on meat as well as plants), whereas organisms such as koalas, kangaroos and wombats falls under the category of herbivores (that is plants eating organisms). The organisms under marsupials even include carnivorous as well as insectivorous species.
Are they dangerous?
As a number of different species are included under marsupials, the category contains animals with a wide range of temperament and some among them can be dangerous. Although species like the koala bear (Phascolarctos cinereus) and wombat are docile unless seriously provoked , a number of marsupials like Tasmanian devil and red kangaroos are quite fierce and can be dangerous.
Would they make a good pet?
Smaller marsupials like sugar gliders can make for good pets. However, larger marsupials, like kangaroos, are harder to train and maintain.
Did you know...
Marsupials are one amongst the three categories of Mammalians. The other two includes Monotremes and Placentals
As much as two-thirds of the total number of marsupial species are found in the geographical terrains of Australia.
Several organisms belonging to marsupials are known to be born within one month of conception.
Unique features of marsupials
The marsupials possess a number of unique features, the most distinctive of them is possession of pouches. In fact the name of these organisms is derived from the Latin word marsupium, which means pouch. Following the process of fertilization usually within a month the female marsupial gives rise to undeveloped progenies and these babies at this embryonic stage are called joey. Pouch (or a fold of skin) provides a warm atmosphere for the nourishment of the developing juvenile.
Different types of marsupial
Marsupial includes a wide range of species categorized under them. And wider the range, greater is the diversity observed. A number of traits observed in these animals include:
To start with, almost all the species under marsupials are known to possess the biological similarity of the presence of the pouch for the development of their young ones, it is in fact a distinctive property of these organisms.
The gestation period in marsupials is also quite assuming and is known to be of short durations. For instance the sole marsupials of Michigan, that is the Virginia opossum, are known to have a 13 days gestation period and their newborns are as small as a ball. Whereas in complete contrast to these the red kangaroos with a gestation period of about 30 days give rise to babies weighing up to one gram.
A number of marsupials are recognized to be nocturnal animals and adapting to this lifestyle they have well developed sense of smell and auditory receptions. A number of marsupials even possess scent glands which are used for gender determination around other members.
A wide range of diversity is observed within different groups of marsupials be it in terms of size, habitat or the basic form of lifestyle.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Marsupial coloring pages.
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