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Introducing mammals
Introducing mammals

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2.1.2 Marsupials

Marsupials are mostly found in Australia and surrounding regions, but there also some species, such as the opossum (Figure 8), that occur in Southern North, Central and South America. At one time the marsupials were probably much more diverse than they are today. The marsupials that you are probably most familiar with are the kangaroos, wallabies and koalas.

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Figure 8 Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana
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Figure 9 Wallaby (Queensland, Australia)
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Figure 10 Koala bear, Phascolarctos cinereus (Queensland, Australia)

There are marsupials that are very similar in habits and appearance to placental mammals, although not closely related. For example, here is a small burrowing marsupial that looks very similar to the European mole.

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Figure 11 A marsupial mole, Notoryctes typhlops, eating a gecko

The Tasmanian wolf, Thylacinus cynocephalus, is a top carnivore like the placental wolf, which it very closely resembles. The last Tasmanian wolf died in captivity in 1936 and it is assumed to be extinct, although there are persistent reports of sightings in remote areas of Queensland, Australia. You will read more about marsupials in Section 4.

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Figure 12 The last Tasmanian wolf, Thylacinus cynocephalus