Love working with animals? Get to know one Australia’s favourite species! Australia is the undisputed kingdom of marsupials with over 330 species found on the mainland and on our coastal islands. This course is ideal for animal carers, wildlife managers, animal foster carers or anyone who would like to work with these amazing native animals.
The Certificate of Marsupial Biology will teach you about marsupial evolution taxonomy and external morphology, including of quolls, devils, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats, possums, gliders, bandicoots and bilbies (to name a few!)
In this online biology course you will also study the diversity, behaviour, biology, habitats, metabolism, mating systems and wellbeing of marsupials, and understand the health issues and diseases common to this species. You will then be able to apply what you’ve learnt to better manage individual animals or populations of animals, in the wild or in captivity.
Outcomes achieved by undertaking an online biology course include:
- Learning about marsupial evolution taxonomy and external morphology
- Exploring marsupial orders
- Studying families with orders
- Gaining insights into diversity
- Examining external morphology – size, limbs and feet
- Understanding different marsupial body parts
- Learning about internal anatomy, physiology and senses
- Exploring neural systems and intelligence
- Studying vision, dentition and digestion
- Gaining insights into skeletons, the head and post cranial
- Examining scent glands and olfaction
- Understanding reproduction, embryonic development, lactation and litter size
- Learning about basal metabolism
- Exploring social behaviours, territoriality and home range
- Studying thermoregulation, torpor and hibernation
- Gaining insights into mating systems, care of young and den sites and nests
- Examining communication
- Understanding habitat, feeding and diet
- Learning about predators and predation
- Exploring marsupial health
- Studying pathogens and parasites
- Gaining insights into viruses, cancer, parasites, pathogens and facial tumour disease (DFTD)
- Understanding marsupials as disease vectors
- Learning about non-infectious health issues in marsupials
- Exploring malnutrition and starvation
- Studying pollution, shock and injury, bite wounds, stress and diet
- Gaining insights into marsupial carnivores
- Examining Dasyuridae – quolls, devils and their relatives
- Understanding the Tasmanian Devil, quolls, dunnarts and antechinuses
- Learning about numbats and Myrmecobiidae
- Exploring Thylacine and Thylacinidae
- Studying Macropods
7 Fascinating Facts about Marsupials
When you undertake an online biology course, you will discover some amazing facts about the world and the creatures that inhabit it, including marsupials. Here are seven inspirational facts about these fascinating animals.
- There are over 330 species of marsupials, and around two-thirds of them live in Australia (the other third live mostly in South America).
- As opposed to “placental mammals” that keep their babies in their uterus while the baby feeds from the placenta, marsupials have a short-lived placenta. It nourishes their young for only a few days before they’re born and the rest of their nutrition comes from the teats in their mother’s pouch.
- Baby marsupials are born early on in their development — typically before they’ve even developed eyes or hind legs! They climb up their mother’s front and into her pouch where they cling to a nipple for milk which enables them to grow and develop.
- The largest living marsupial living is the red kangaroo, and the largest confirmed, a male red kangaroo that was over two metres tall. The smallest living marsupial is the long-tailed planigale — its skull is only three to four millimetres from top to bottom.
- Female marsupials have two uteruses and two vaginas, which join up to form a third vagina and birth canal. They also have an extra pubic bone which supports their pouch.
- However, not all marsupials have pouches. The short-tailed opossum has no pouch or fold at all, but teats that can retract into the mother’s body.
- Australian marsupials can be divided roughly into three groups —Dasyurids (which are meat-eating marsupials like quolls and the Tasmanian Devil), Peramelemorphs (which are omnivorous marsupials like bilbies and bandicoots), and Diprotodonts (which are the largely herbivorous marsupials like possums, koalas, wombats and wallabies).
Why Are There So Many Marsupials in Australia?
An online biology course that focuses on marsupials will unearth a surprising fact — Australia is the marsupial kingdom! However, marsupials actually existed at least seventy million years before they came to Australia … so, basically, they are immigrants!
Where did they originate?
The oldest known marsupials are from North America, where they evolved during the Cretaceous period after diverging from placental mammals at least 125 million years ago. They flourished here and then made their way to South America, where they diversified within two to three million years after arriving. Marsupials and their close relatives evolved into weasel and bear-sized carnivores and others evolved to eat seeds and fruit.
The first historic record of a marsupial occurred in 1,500 AD when to Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were presented a Brazilian opossum collected during the first voyage of Columbus.
When did they arrive in Australia?
Up until about 40 million to 35 million years ago, South America and Australia were connected to Antarctica, forming one giant land mass. At that time, Antarctica wasn’t covered with ice, but with a temperate rainforest. Marsupials and their relatives left South America, crossed Antarctica and ended up in Australia. This has been proven by fossil evidence found on Antarctica’s Seymour Island.
The oldest fossil marsupials from Australia were found at a 55-million-year-old site called Tingamarra, near the town of Murgon in Queensland. Some of these are similar to those found in South America. However, there is a big gap in the Australian fossil record. After Tingamarra, the next oldest marsupial fossils on record are (only) 25 million years old.
So between that period, there was an enormous amount of diversification occurring. By this time, all the major Australian marsupial groups were evident including relatives of koalas, wombats and bandicoots. A Portuguese administrator first described an Australasian marsupial in 1540, a northern common cuscus, Phalanger orientalis.
But why did they thrive in Australia? One suggestion is that when times were tough, marsupial mothers could “move on” any developing babies in their pouches. On the other otherhand, mammals had to wait until the end of gestation, thus spending precious resources on their young.
Today, there are over 200 marsupial species alive in Australia, over 100 in South America and just one (the Virginia opossum) that can be found in North America.
What Is the Largest Marsupial?
The largest marsupial that has ever existed was the Diprotodon. It is now extinct, and some may say thank goodness, as it weighed two tonnes! Native to Australia during the Pleistocene epoch, the word “diprotodont” is Greek for “two forward teeth”. This animal looked superficially like a modern rhinoceros in size and appearance, but seems to have had a social lifestyle more like an elephant.
What is most resembled, however, was an enormous wombat. Like its modern counterpart, it possessed powerful, clawed feet that were used to dig for roots and tear at vegetation. However, unlike modern wombats, it would have no need to extend its digging underground for shelter, as only the hardiest of predators would have targeted it!
Early European colonists searched feverishly for a living specimen of Diprotodon, and hundreds of skeletons have been unearthed in Lake Callabonna, a dry salt lake located in the far north of South Australia. Multiple family groups seemingly wandered in search of food during the dry season, but unfortunately fell through the brittle surface and become trapped in the mud. The bunyip, a lake monster that was said to drag unsuspecting passers-by into its watery lair, may be a cultural Aboriginal memory from the days when many Diprotodon wandered the swamps of Australia.
Gain the knowledge and skills to confidently manage and care for marsupials with an online biology course, such as our Certificate of Marsupial Biology.