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Australasian Carnivorous Marsupials: Dasyuromorphia

Physical Characteristics

Most familiar mammals such as cats, dogs, and horses are called eutherian (yoo-THEER-ee-an) mammals. These mammals have a placenta, an organ that grows in the mother's uterus (womb) and lets the mother and developing offspring share food and oxygen. Marsupials do not have a developed placenta. Because of this, they give birth to young that are physically immature and undeveloped. The young are not able to survive on their own. Instead, they are carried around for several months in their mother's pouch, or they are attached to the mother's teats, or nipples, outside the pouch, and carried until they have grown and matured enough to fend for themselves. The Australasian (living in Australia and nearby islands) carnivorous marsupials are made up of three families of marsupial mammals with a total of about seventy-one species.

Australasian carnivorous marsupials vary widely in weight, from less than one ounce (28 grams) to more that 65 pounds (30 kilograms). The combined length of their head and body ranges from less than 2 inches (5 centimeters) to 51 inches (130 centimeters). The largest Australasian carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian wolf, became extinct in the early 1900s. The largest living member of the Dasyuromorphia order is the Tasmanian devil.

Australasian carnivorous marsupials are all four-footed, with four toes on each of the two front feet and either four or five toes on each of the two back feet. On each back foot is a toe called a hallux (HAL-lux) that does not have a claw. Species that live mainly in trees tend to have wider feet than ground-dwelling species and use their hallux to help them grip branches. The tails of Australasian carnivorous marsupials vary in length. Some species have tails nearly as long as their bodies. All of these animals have pointed snouts and a combination of sharp pointed teeth and grinding teeth to help them eat meat.

The fur of carnivorous marsupials ranges from grayish or reddish brown to sand colored, depending on the habitat in which they live. A few have black fur, and some species have underbellies that differ slightly in color from the rest of their fur. The fur on the bodies and heads is usually short, but the fur on the tail can be either very short or very bushy. Some of the animals in this order have distinct markings, such as the numbat's stripes, but most do not.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsAustralasian Carnivorous Marsupials: Dasyuromorphia - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, AUSTRALASIAN CARNIVOROUS MARSUPIALS AND PEOPLE