Animal Diaries Archive
Lots of questions!
16 November 2007As a rover at Australia Zoo we are asked lots of different questions about our animals. Many people have never met or seen our Native Mammals and being with a keeper and in front of those animals provides them with the perfect opportunity to get the answers to the questions they have.
When we are answering those questions the most common question that people ask about our Mammals is "How big are they when they are born"? When we answer that question with "About the size of a jelly bean", we often get some worried looks. How could an animal be born so small? A lot of mammals that occur in Australia are very special and are what we refer to as Marsupials. Marsupials are a very special type of mammal that have a pouch, give birth to very under-developed young, and the young then continue to develop in the pouch. Most people would recognize the Kangaroo as being a Marsupial but did you know that we have quite a lot of Marsupials in Australia; more than any other country. Here are a few of the Marsupials that live in Australia and some amazing facts about their pouch and their young:
- Wombats are also a Marsupial but their pouch faces backwards so that when they are digging underground they don’t fill their pouch up with sand!
- Koalas also have an upside down pouch to avoid getting caught on branches when they are climbing.
- Tasmanian Devils are a marsupial too! They have 4 teats but will usually only raise 2 – 3 offspring at a time; however, they can give birth to up to 40 babies.
- Possums are a marsupial. They are capable of having twins!!
Not all of our Native Mammals fall in to the marsupial category though. Some are known as Placental mammals (like us) and they give birth to live young and some are know as Monotremes and these animals lay an egg. There are only two Monotremes in Australia and they are the Platypus and the Short Beaked Echidna. The only other Monotreme in the world lives in Papua New Guinea and is called the Long Beaked Echidna.
So next time you are in the Zoo, see how many Marsupials or Monotremes you can spot.
Till next time, Roving Mammals rule!