Tap to Read ➤

Australian Marsupials

Abhijit Naik Mar 18, 2020
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call Australia the land of marsupials; after all, 70 percent of these pouched-mammals are found on the Australian mainland alone.
In kingdom Animalia, marsupials or marsupial animals are those animals that are typically characterized by the presence of a pouch in females, in which they carry their young ones.
Kangaroos and koalas, native to Australia, are the first two names that are likely to come to your mind when you read this definition. The fact though, is that the list of marsupials goes well beyond these two, which are no doubt the most popular species in the group.
This class of animals derives its name from the Latin word marsupium, meaning pouch. Other than their pouch, marsupials are typically characterized by their low gestation period and a lengthy lactation period (to supplement the low gestation trait).

Marsupials of the Australian Mainland

Around 70 percent of the total marsupials existing on the planet are found in Australia, with some of these species being endemic to the continent alone. Basically, the species belonging to this infra-class of mammals evolved in North America.
From there, they made their way to South America and eventually, to Australia, which was back then a part of the Gondwanaland. As the continents drifted apart, quite a few species adapted themselves to this region, while the related species in other regions became extinct.
That explains why these animals are found in large concentration in Australia and New Guinea, which was conjoined with Australia until recent geological past.

Carnivorous and Omnivorous Marsupials

Of the 3 suborders of carnivorous marsupials, only two suborders―the Dasyuridae and Myrmecobiidae, are extant today. The third suborder, i.e., the Thylacinidae, became extinct with the extinction of Tasmanian tigers (thylacines)―the last of which died in captivity in 1936. 
While the Dasyuridae family consists of 51 living members, the Myrmecobiidae has only 1 surviving member, i.e., the numbat. Other members of the Dasyuridae family include the Tasmanian devil, quolls, ...
Little Red Kaluta, kowari, etc. As far as omnivorous marsupials in this region are concerned, the list is restricted to a few subspecies of bandicoots and bilbies, which are fighting for their survival in this region.

Herbivorous Marsupials

That brings us to the list of herbivorous marsupials, which is divided into two suborders―the Vombatiformes and Phalangerida. The Vombatiformes suborder comprises 3 extant species of wombats along with the koala.
The Phalangerida suborder, on the other hand, comprises 6 families of possums and 3 families of macropods. As many as 26 species of possum are found in Australia today, which range from the Tasmanian pygmy possum (the smallest of the lot) to the common brushtail possum (the largest).
Similarly, as many as 51 species of macropods, most popular among which are kangaroos and wallabies, inhabit this island. While the musky rat kangaroo is the smallest macropod in Australia, the red Kangaroo is the largest.
Many of these species are battling for their very survival on the planet. The list of endangered marsupials is growing by the day and already has some prominent names, like Tasmanian devils, numbats, and mountain pygmy possums, in it.
We are running out of time very fast, and if the necessary conservation measures are not implemented at the earliest, it won't be long before we see these species in the list of extinct marsupials, alongside the Tasmanian tiger, toolache wallaby, and lesser bilby.