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Adam | May 26, 2020, 2:24 p.m.

Marsupials are any members of the mammalian infraclass Marsupialia. All extant marsupials are endemic to Australasia and the Americas. A distinctive characteristic common to these species is that most of the young are carried in a pouch. Well-known marsupials include kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, phalangeriformes, opossums, wombats, and Tasmanian devils. Some lesser-known marsupials are the dunnarts, potoroos, cuscuses and the extinct thylacine. Marsupials represent the clade originating from the last common ancestor of extant metatherians. Like other mammals in the Metatheria, they give birth to relatively undeveloped young that often reside in a pouch located on their mothers' abdomen for a certain amount of time. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur on the Australian continent (the mainland, Tasmania, New Guinea and nearby islands). The remaining 30% are found in the Americas — primarily in South America, thirteen in Central America, and one in North America, north of Mexico. The word marsupial comes from marsupium, the technical term for the abdominal pouch. It, in turn, is borrowed from Latin and ultimately from the ancient Greek μάρσιππος mársippos, meaning "pouch".

Taxonomy

Marsupials are taxonomically identified as members of mammalian infraclass Marsupialia, first described as a family under the order Pollicata by German zoologist Johann Karl Wilhelm Illiger in his 1811 work Prodromus Systematis Mammalium et Avium. However, James Rennie, author of The Natural History of Monkeys, Opossums and Lemurs (1838), pointed out that the placement of five different groups of mammals – monkeys, lemurs, tarsiers, aye-ayes and marsupials (with the exception of kangaroos, that were placed under the order Salientia) – under a single order (Pollicata) did not appear to have a strong justification. In 1816, French zoologist George Cuvier classified all marsupials under the order Marsupialia.[1][2] In 1997, researcher J. A. W. Kirsch and others accorded infraclass rank to Marsupialia.[2] There are two primary divisions: American marsupials (Ameridelphia) and Australian marsupials (Australidelphia).[3]