The Continent of Australia is a zoological marvel, housing some of the world’s most bizarre and unique creatures, including the egg-laying platypus, some of the largest spiders in the world, the cassowary, a dangerous horned bird and the emu, a cousin of the ostrich that has somehow wound up in faraway Australia. But perhaps most interestingly, Australia and its neighboring islands are home to most of the world’s species of marsupials, with the exception of the American opossums.
Marsupials, or pouch mammals, are a fascinating family of animals that differ greatly from fellow mammals in several major ways, the most obvious being their reproductive system. Apart from possessing several genitalia (females have three while males have two), pregnancy in marsupials is incredibly short, typically lasting mere weeks, and they give birth to underdeveloped, hairless and blind young that are about the size of a jellybean. The helpless young crawl on the mother’s fur and enter a pouch where they stay and feed on milk for months until they are sufficiently large and can begin fending for themselves.
But, beyond all of the sciency stuff, marsupials are just gosh-darn adorable! Have a look at some of these cute Australian critters:
1. Koalas are perhaps the world’s cutest animal, but they’re also among the least intelligent, having one of the smallest body-to-brain proportion of any mammal
2. Red kangaroo males can become extremely muscular and flex their biceps and pecs when courting, but this little fella still has a lot of weight-lifting to do
3. Wombats are chubby, adorable and poop out cubes!
4. Tree-kangaroos are endemic to Queensland and New Guinea, and re the only species of kangaroos that climb trees
5. Though they may have a fierce reputation, Tasmanian devils are secretly adorable
6. Quokkas are small relatives of kangaroos famous for their natural smiles
7. The term wallaby isn’t actually scientific, and simply refers to small or medium-sized kangaroos like these ones
8. Nope, this isn’t a mouse, nor a gerbil, it’s a pygmy possum. Possums are not to be confused with the distantly-related American opossums
9. This long-eared fellow is a rabbit bandicoot, or bilby
10. Don’t let the cute appearance and polka-dotted fur confuse you, the quoll is a vicious predator that eats snakes for dinner
11. Squirrel? Lemur? No, this is a sugar glider
12. This lounging rat-like animal is called a boodie. Boodies used to be incredibly common, but cats and foxes that Europeans brought caused a great decline in their numbers