7 Delightfully Fuzzy Marsupials You Didn't Even Know Existed
When most people think of marsupials, they immediately think of kangaroos or koalas. And why not? They're adorable.
But they're not the only marsupials out there! (Marsupials are a mammalian group whose defining characteristic is that they give live birth to young that remain in their mother's pouches to nurse until they have grown enough to be less defenseless.)
There are more than 300 species of marsupials - and many of them give kangaroos and koalas a run for their money in the aww department.
Here are seven super-cute marsupials you didn't know existed:
1. Monito del monte
This mouse-sized marsupial is an excellent climber, using its prehensile tail to grab hold of branches and ascend trees in the forests of Chile and Argentina. The last remaining member of an extinct line of marsupials that dates back more than 40 million years, the monito del monte is considered to be a living, breathing fossil.
Though population estimates are unknown, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has designated the species vulnerable due to habitat fragmentation.
2. Eastern barred bandicoots
Like nearly two-thirds of marsupial species, the eastern barred bandicoot lives in Australia. Around the same size as a rabbit, its large ears and pointed nose help it to locate and dig up the grubs, beetles, and earthworms that make up most of their omnivorous diet.
They sleep through the day and emerge from their nests at dusk to hop around on their large hind feet and forage for food.
3. Eastern quoll
Neighbor to the famous Tasmanian devil, eastern quolls are house cat-sized marsupials with thick fawn, brown, or black fur adorned with white spots. Though the majority of its diet is made up by foraged insects, the eastern quoll is a bold and opportunistic scavenger as well - sometimes even stealing a bite or two from feeding Tasmanian devils!
Common in Tasmania in diverse habitats such as grasslands, rain forests, scrub, alpine areas, and heathland, the eastern quoll is now thought to be extinct in portions of the Australian mainland that it once populated.
4. Goodfellow's tree kangaroo
Native to island of New Guinea, the Goodfellow's tree kangaroo differs from its ground-dwelling relatives in the shape of its hind legs, claws, and tail - better equipping it for a tree-top lifestyle. Living in dense, mountainous, deciduous forests at elevations ranging from 680 to more than 2800 meters above sea level, the Goodfellow's tree kangaroo munches on leaves, fruit, and flowers all night long and sleeps through the day.
This species is currently endangered as populations are widely hunted for their meat and frequently find themselves homeless due to habitat loss from logging, mining, oil exploration, and agriculture.
In the eucalyptus forests and woodlands of Australia, the squirrel-like numbat goes about its business eating 20,000 termites (about 10 percent of their body weight) each and every single day. The numbat has the distinction of being the only Australian mammal to be solely active during the day, as their schedule revolves around the hustle and bustle of their termite food source.
At night, the numbat takes shelter in hollow logs that are too narrow for hungry foxes to enter. If the numbat feels that its security is threatened inside the log, it will turn its thick-skinned rump to block the entrance of the log.
The numbat is endangered due to predation by introduced species such as domestic cats and red foxes, as well as habitat loss due to agriculture and wildfires.
6. Common wombat
Native only to Australia and nearby islands, the chubby wombat is the largest burrowing mammal. Despite the common wombat's name, between its nocturnal feeding and solitary lifestyle, it is a rare sight. Territorial by nature, wombats claim spaces within wet, sloped forests by rubbing their scent against trees, grunting at intruders ... and leaving their cube-shaped droppings as a unique "no trespassing" sign.
7. Common spotted cuscus
Despite its monkey-like appearance, the common spotted cuscus is technically a possum. Inhabiting Australian coastal rainforests and coastal mountain ranges in New Guinea, the spotted cuscus feeds on a large variety of foliage and fruit found in the treetops where they primarily spend most of their lives.
The thick fur of the cuscus helps it maintain an even body temperature without expending much energy. Whenever it needs to cool off, it pants (like a dog) or licks saliva onto its bare hands, feet, and face.
The species is vulnerable to habitat loss due to wildfires and other destruction of their rainforest homes.