Marsupialia (Marsupials)

Abstract

There are around 250 species of marsupials found predominantly in Australia and South America. Many are convergent in form to placental mammals but they differ in reproduction, physiology and behaviour offering an alternative view on mammalian adaptation and lifestyles to their more diverse placental counterparts.

Keywords: mammals; marsupials; phylogeny; life history; behaviour

Figure 1.

Two ends of the body mass range of marsupials. (a) A 5 g female narrow‐nosed planigale (Planigale tenuirostris), and (b) a 75 kg male red kangaroo (Macropus rufus).

Figure 2.

Species richness of kangaroos, wallabies and rat‐kangaroos in Australia.

Figure 3.

Comparison of allometric relationships for (a) time from conception to weaning, and (b) growth rates (Gompertz constant, α) for marsupials and placentals. M, mass (kg).

Figure 4.

Comparison of time to reach carrying capacity, i.e. average population density for a fixed area (solid lines), and total energy consumed to reach carrying capacity (dashed lines) for marsupials (squares) and placentals (diamonds) ranging from 0.01 to 100 kg.

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Further Reading

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Jarman PJand Kruuk H (1996) Phylogeny and social organisation in mammals. In: Croft DB and Ganslosser U (eds) Comparison of Marsupial and Placental Behaviour, pp. 80–101. Fuerth: Filander

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Saunders NR and Hinds LA (1977) Marsupial Biology: Recent Research, New Perspectives. Sydney: UNSW Press.

Springer MS, Westerman M, Kavanagh JRet al. (1998) The origin of the Australasian marsupial fauna and the phylogenetic affinities of the enigmatic monito del monte and marsupial mole. Proceedings of The Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences 265(1413): 2381–2386.

Strahan R (1998) The Mammals of Australia. Sydney: Reed New Holland.

Tyndale‐Bisocoe CH and Renfree M (1987) Reproductive Physiology of Marsupials. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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How to Cite close
Croft, David B(Aug 2001) Marsupialia (Marsupials). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001554]