Interesting Facts About Marsupials: Have Very Short Gestation Periods

Marsupials are not only cute animals they are also very unique and interesting animals. They’re hands-down some of the coolest animals on the planet, with plenty of fascinating features that set them apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. There are a ton of interesting marsupial facts: most famously, marsupials evolved to have a baby carrier built into their bodies.
Marsupials are a group of mammals found in Australia, New Guinea, and the Americas. They include possums, wallabies, kangaroos, and koalas. Marsupials belong to a group of mammals that includes two basic groups, the American marsupials and the Australian marsupials.
American marsupials inhabit North, South and Central America and include two basic groups, the opossums and shrew opossums.
Marsupials first evolved in South America about 100 million years ago. At that time, South America, Australia and Antarctica were connected together in one big continent. Australia and Antarctica gradually moved away from South America and both continents became isolated. Marsupial mammals were free to evolve in isolation, and evolution produced the characteristics found in present day Australian mammals.
Marsupials range in size from tiny shrew-like creatures (5 grams) to large kangaroos (over 200 pounds). There are marsupials that have occupied every available niche from tiny insect eaters to large plant eaters. There are even marsupial moles!
The name marsupial comes from the marsupium, or pouch, in which these animals carry and nurse their young. Here are 5 interesting facts about these cute creatures.
1. Marsupials have very short gestation periods (the time the young spend in the mother’s tummy). The Virginia opossum (the only marsupial in Michigan) has a gestation period of only 13 days, and the young are only the size of a question mark when they are born. The Red Kangaroo, native to Australia, has a 30 day gestation period and the single baby weighs only 1 gram (.035 ounces) when it is born. The baby kangaroo, called a joey, spends about 235 days in the mother’s pouch.
2. Female kangaroos have three vaginas. Three’s company! Female kangaroos have two vaginas for sperm and one for the joey, which climbs out of that vagina after it is born and makes its way up the mother’s body to the pouch, where it chills on a nipple until it is fully developed.
3. The largest marsupial in the world is the Red Kangaroo, like the one you see in the Card Center. Red Kangaroos can weigh 200 pounds, hop up to 30-40 miles per hour, and leap over obstacles up to 10 feet high. Kangaroos move more efficiently at high speeds than at low speeds because the tendons in their hind legs store energy and their tail acts like a pendulum. They can hop long distances because their body motion pumps air in and out of their lungs like a bellows.
4. Marsupials do not nourish their embryos with a placenta. A major difference between marsupials and placental mammals is that marsupials lack a placenta. In contrast, placental mammals develop within the mother’s womb and are nourished by a placenta. The placenta—which connects the embryo of a placental mammal to the mother’s blood supply—provides the embryo with nutrients and allows for gas exchange and waste elimination. Marsupials, in contrast, lack a placenta and are born at an earlier stage in their development than placental mammals. After birth, young marsupials continue to develop as they are nourished by their mother’s milk.
5. Most marsupials are nocturnal so their most important senses are their sense of smell and their hearing. Most marsupials have extra scent glands which tell their neighbors whether they are boys or girls, if they are a stranger to the group, or if they are frightened or angry.

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