Animals that carry their babies in a pouch are known as "marsupials." These mammals come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some hopping around on land and others flying through the air. Because many marsupial species are becoming extinct, it is important that people learn about the marsupial mammals and how to protect them.
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There are many different species of animals, besides the famous kangaroo, that carry their babies in pouches. The Tasmanian devil, who is infamous for having the most ferocious bite of all animals, also carries her babies this way. Opossums, wombats, sugar gliders, koalas and wallabies are other common mammals that are marsupials. Some less-common marsupial species include the Tasmanian tiger, the quoll, the Nabarlek and the numbat.
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Marsupials share more common physical features than just their pouches. The marsupials are covered completely in hair, like many other mammals. There are differences in the physical features of different types of marsupials as well. Some marsupials, like the sugar glider, climb trees and fly through the air using their makeshift wings. Others, like the koala, simply just climb trees or roam around at ground level. Some marsupials walk on four legs, while others, like kangaroos, hop around on two feet.
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Marsupials are present in many different geographic locations; however, they are mainly found in Australia. In Australia, marsupials are the most common type of mammal present. South America is also home to many different types of marsupial mammals. In the United States, however, there remains only one type of marsupial mammal that is native to the area. The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial mammal that calls the U.S. its homeland.
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Marsupial mammals carry their babies in a pouch because the babies are not fully developed at birth. Unlike many other mammals, the marsupials must continue to develop inside the pouch before their development is complete. For example, the average baby marsupial is born with only nubs as hind legs, whereas an average baby monkey is born with all of its legs fully developed. The babies climb into their mother's pouch, where her nipples are located, and stay there until their development is completed.