Marsupials are best known for the Australian members of the family, the kangaroo, wallaby and the koala. The only marsupial native to North America is the Virginia opossum. There are also some marsupials native to Central America and South America.
Marsupials are members of the mammal family. However, they are different from other mammals because they have an abdominal pouch to carry their young. The marsupial female gives birth very early and the baby animal climbs from the mother's birth canal to her pouch. Here the baby marsupial continues to develop for weeks, or even months, depending on the species.
At birth, marsupial babies are not fully developed. The baby's hind legs are just nubs. The baby lives and continues to develop in the mother's pouch. The pouch, or marsupium, also has the mother's mammary glands for feeding the baby. A baby kangaroo may live in its mother's pouch for 6 months.
Koalas and wombats are a little different from Kangaroos. While a kangaroo pouch opens upwards at the top, the opening of the koala and wombat pouch is lower and more downward facing toward the hind legs. The pouch has a strong muscle around the opening to prevent the baby from falling out.
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