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Marsupial Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Kangaroos and koalas may look different, but they're actually related. Marsupials are a large group of animals that share common characteristics. In this lesson, you will learn all about marsupials and what makes them unique.

What Is a Marsupial?

What do you call a lazy baby kangaroo?

A pouch potato.

When you think of a kangaroo, you most likely think of the pouch that the baby kangaroo lives in. Not only is this pouch a famous characteristic of the kangaroo, it's also part of what makes an entire group of animals unique.

Marsupials are a group of mammals in which the mother carries her young on her body after birth. Many marsupials, like the kangaroo, have a pouch, or marsupium, to keep the baby close to the mother. Some marsupials don't have marsupia (the plural of marsupium), but instead have extra flaps of skin that cover the baby as it hangs on to the mother.


Mother kangaroo with a baby in her marsupium
kangaroo


Why do marsupial babies hang onto their mothers like a superhero clinging to the side of a building? Milk. Since marsupial babies are born very early, they need extra time to get stronger and grow before they can live on their own. Just like your mother tells you to drink milk so you'll grow strong, marsupials attach themselves to their mothers so they have a constant supply of milk to drink.

Types of Marsupials

Even though kangaroos and koalas are well known, there are actually over 250 types of marsupial! If you're looking to find the most marsupials on the planet, you better go 'down under'. Over 200 species are found on the continent of Australia; however, 70 species are also found in North and South America.

Most marsupials are somewhere between the size of a dog and a squirrel. Marsupials can be categorized by their habitat, or place they live, and what they do. These include:

  • Burrowing marsupials, like the wombat, have sharp claws and are designed to dig into the ground.
  • Terrestrial marsupials, like the kangaroo, have strong legs that help them move quickly over the ground.
  • Gliders, like the sugar glider, are small marsupials who can jump and 'fly' through the air with a thin layer of skin that connects their hands and feet and looks like a parachute.
  • Some marsupials, like koalas, live their entire lives in the trees.
  • Semiaquatic marsupials, like the yapok, live both in the water and on land.


marsupials


If you could be any type of marsupial, what would you be?

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