Why Are There So Many Marsupials In Australia?

There are loads of different types of marsupials in Australia. From the bouncy kangaroo to the sleepy koala and all of the wombats and bandicoots in between. It really is home to the marsupial.

Why Are There So Many Marsupials In Australia

This begs the question: why are there so many marsupials down under? 

Many people believe that the number of marsupials in Australia indicates that these animals originated in Australia. However, this is not the case. This article will explore why there are so many marsupials in Australia.

Read on to find out about these fascinating creatures!

What Are Marsupials?

Marsupials are very strange animals in comparison to most other mammals.

Most mammals give birth to developed young, such as humans, dogs and whales. Marsupials, on the other hand, only carry their young for a very short time before they give birth to them.

When they are born, these animals are very underdeveloped, but they continue to grow and develop after birth in the pouch of the mother. 

These animals transfer to the mothers pouch where they feed off the mothers milk and remain in the pouch for months until they are strong enough to survive on their own.

Why Do Marsupials Thrive In Australia?

The reason that marsupials do so well in Australia is that it is a very isolated country that has had no contact with any other continents for millions of years.

Because of this, Mammal marsupials were able to develop and thrive in the country. They do not originate in Australia though, contrary to popular belief, actually originated in South America. 

While the marsupials thrived in Australia,(see also: Are There Marsupials Outside Of Australia? [A Guide]) they became extinct in other continents due to the competition posed by non-marsupial mammals in these other countries. 

While marsupials were fighting it out and becoming extinct in other places, in Australia there was very little competition for food and very few predators that were a danger to these vulnerable animals

While they are still very prominent animals in Australia, they have come into contact with some more threats from predators since humans started settling in the country.

The Aboriginals introduced the dingo, a very dangerous wild dog, onto the island which became a threat to these animals. 

As well as this, European settlers brought with them pigs, rabbits, horses, deers and many other animals (see also: Animals That Look Like Deer)that are not native to Australia. It was the lack of animals like this for millions of years that meant that marsupials were able to thrive. 

Did Marsupials Originate In Australia? 

It is commonly believed that because Australia is well known for its Marsupials they originate from the country. This is not true. Marsupials were around for 70 billion years before they made their way onto the island.

Where Did Marsupials Originate?

The first marsupials that are known were found in North America. They developed from placental mammals like dogs, cats, and other animals.

This happened over 125 million years ago, which is when the first mammal of this kind was thought to have lived. 

In the early years of the marsupial, there were between 15 and 20 species of animals that thrived in North America. They are all now extinct.

However, it is believed that around 66 million years ago these animals made their way from North to South America(see also: Animals That Live In South America). 

In South America, these animals mated with some of their close relatives and they became very successful animals.

They evolved in lots of different ways in South America and while lots of these animals are now extinct, there are still lots of marsupials found there today. 

How Did Marsupials Make It From South America To Australia?

It may seem very confusing to us to figure out how these animals made it from South America to Australia. However, the world looked very different then than it does today.

At that time, these two continents were connected to each other by the landmass of Antarctica. 

Then, Antarctica was not covered in ice, instead being covered by a fairly temperate rainforest. So, according to fossilized evidence, these animals worked their way down South America, through Antarctica (Also check out Animals That Live In Antarctica), and into Australia.

The Australian marsupials that you can find in Australia today were all present in Australia over 25 million years ago.

Fossils have been found of relatives of koalas, wombats and bandicoots as long ago as this.

Which Marsupials Live In Australia?

There are over 250 different species of marsupials in Australia. These include: 

The Koala 

Why Are There So Many Marsupials In Australia (1)

Koalas live in trees and they are very cute animals that have large black noses and are very furry. These animals are harmless and they will not attack unless they are provoked.

When provoked, they can bite or scratch. These animals grow up to 90 cm in length and they can weigh between 4 and 15 kg.

Koalas can vary in color. In warmer areas of the country, they are often lighter, and in cooler areas, they have darker fur.

These animals live in eucalyptus trees across the country and they eat eucalyptus leaves as well as some other leaves. Koalas live between 10 and 18 years and they sleep between 18 and 20 hours per day.


Wombats are another marsupial that are native to Australia. These animals are herbivores, and they are very rarely spotted. These animals have very soft fur that ranges from black to brown in color. 

There are two types of wombats found in Australia, the common wombat and the Northern hairy-nosed wombat.

Common wombats are found in forests and grasslands in the East of Australia, whereas hairy-nosed wombats can be found in a very small area of Queensland.

Wombats eat grass, tree bark and roots. They live for around 15 years and are herbivorous. While they have very poor eyesight, they have a very strong sense of smell.


Kangaroos can be found all over Australia and they are probably the most well-known marsupial out there. These animals have two large hind legs.

They are very fast, and they hop on their hind legs at a speed of around 45 mph or 70 kph.

These animals are covered in gray, dark brown or orange-brown fur. These animals are herbivores, eating shrubs and grass. They can live for as long as 25 years!

Tasmanian Devils 

Tasmanian Devils are marsupials that are the size of a small dog. They are scavengers, feeding off the bodies of dead animals. They will eat anything, and their strong teeth allow them to. 

These animals get their name from the way they look, sound and smell. These animals growl and screech, are aggressive and have a very foul smell. 

Tasmanian devils are endangered and they are at risk of extinction. This is due to the Devil Face Tumor Disease which is very infectious and is killing these animals. The Tasmanian Devil is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial.

Final Thoughts 

There are lots of different marsupials in Australia. It is home to at least 250 species of marsupial. There are a few reasons for this, and these have been explored in this article.

There are also a few misconceptions regarding the reason for the number of marsupials in the country, which have been addressed in this article!

Olivia Kepner