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Modern Marsupials


This table provides details on all the modern orders of marsupials. For a list of families please see Marsupial Subgroups


 No. of Species

 Representative Animal




   Ameridelphia is the magnorder that includes all the marsupials living in the Americas except for Dromiciops



An American Opossum 
  •  Small to medium-sized marsupials
  • Semi-arboreal omnivores - but there are many exceptions
  • Most have long snouts
  • A narrow braincase
  • A prominent saggital crest (a bone crest running the longitudinally along the centre of the dorsal surface of the skull
  • The dental formula (on one side of the jaw); 5 incisors (4 on the lower jaw), 1 canine, 3 premolars, 4 molars
  • Plantigrade stance (feet flat on the ground)
  • Prehensile tails
  • Reproductive systems very basic, reduced marsupium (pouch)
  • Opportunistic omnivores, with a broad range of diet
  •  Contains the common opossums of the western hemisphere
  • As basically generalists, they are good colonizers. They are therefore rapidly colonising North America
  • Probably diverged from the South American opossum during the Cretaecous of Paleocene



 No Image Avaliable

  •  Small, shrew-like marsupials about the size of a small rat
  • Thin limbs, long, poinrd snout and a slender hairy tail
  • Insectivores - active hunters of insects
  • Small eyes and poor eye sight and hunt during the evening and at night, using their hearing and long sensitive whiskers to locate prey
  • Spend much of their live in underground burrows and along surface trackways
  • Also known as the rate opossom 
  • Confined to the Andes of South America and live in inaccessible forest and grassland regions of the high Andes
  • Order diverged from the ancestoral marsupial line very early
  • Because of their inaccessible habitat they are poorly understood and considered rarer than they actually are


   A magnorder that contains roughly three-quarters of all marsupials, including all those native to Australia and a single species from South America.



  •  Semi-arboreal
  • Only slightly larger than a mouse
  • thick based, moderatley prehensile tail
  • Weight varies between 17 and 31 grams
  • Coat of short, dense, silky fur,brown on the upper side with ashy white patche, and paler underneath
  • Short, rounded ears
  • Black rings around the eyes
  • Found only in the mountains of Chile and Argentina, in dense humid forests, especially where bamboo is present
  • Resonably common
  • Largely carnivorous - insects and small fruit
  • Nocturnal
  • Excellent climbers, using both their feet and tail, but are equally at home on the ground.
  • Accumulate fat reserves in tail
  • Carry young in a pouch


  • Only a single species belong to this group - The Monito del Monte - the 'little mountain monkey'.
  • Thought to be more closely related to the marsupials of Australia than those of the Americas
  • Also known as the Colocolo or Chimaihuen




A quoll

A Quoll
  •  Marsupial carnivores
  • All have similar carnivorous morphology - many species convergent with placental species


  •  Omnivores
  • Most have the characteristic bandicoot shape; a plump, arched-back body with a long, delicately tapiring snout, very large upright ears, relatively long thin legs and a thin tail
  • Size varies from 140g to 2kg, but most species are about the weight of a half grown kitten (1kg)
  • All members are polyprotodont (have several pairs of lower front teeth)
  • All members endemic to twin land masses of Australia- New Guinea
  • Phylogeny of the family long controversial as two distinct characters suggest a connection with two other families



 No No Image Avaliable

  •  Most of their time is spent underground
  • Blind
  • No external ears, just a pair of tiny holes hidden under thick hair
  • cone-shaped head, with a leathery shield over the muzzle
  • The body is tubular and the a short, bald stub.
  • 12 -14 cm long
  • 40-60g
  • Short cream hair with an irridescent goldern sheen
  • Pouch has evolved to open backwards so that it does not fill with sand
  •  Two species; the Northern Australian (Notoryctes typhlops) and the Southern Australian Mole (Notoryctes cauinus), but they are so similar to one another that they cannot be reliable told apart
  • Fossilized ancestor found in the Riversleigh fossil deposits. This suggested that it lived in a tropical rainforest, completely differnt to the desert sand-dune areas in lives in today



  • Diprotodont - a pair of large, procumbent incisors on the lower jaw, a common feature of many early mammals and mammaliforms
  • Syndactyly - the second and third toes of thier feet are fused together
  • Almost all herbivores. Those that are insectivorous and omnivorous are thought to be derived from an original herbivorous habit
  • Examples include the kangaroos, wallabies, possums, koala and wombats
  • Order includes the 'Marsupial Lion'
  • Restricted to Australia
  • Many of the largest and least athletic became extinct when humans first entered Australia 50 000 years ago.

Images used, with permission, from Wikipedia and NaturePortfolio

Author: Catrin Roberts
Last updated: 23.11.83
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