Everyone knows about the more famous marsupials like kangaroos and koalas, but there are hundreds of marsupials you've never heard of that are equally as adorable. Marsupials are a specific type of mammal most known for carrying their babies in small pouches attached to their bellies. These aggressively cute marsupials may not be the most popular of their kind, but they are some of the most interesting and rare animals on the planet. And while most think of these creatures as strictly Australian, there are quite a few species living in the Americas as well.
Unfortunately, a lot of these precious mammals are either endangered or threatened, meaning there is a good chance we could lose them in the near future. Habitat loss, exposure to humans, and predation by introduced species are disrupting the fragile ecosystems that allow these animals to thrive. With increased public awareness, well funded conservation efforts, and thorough research into the lives of these unique mammals, maybe there is a chance these adorable marsupials can bounce back and survive for years to come.
Also known as the banded anteater, numbats are insectivores that live on an all-termite diet. Numbats have long, sticky tongues that can reach into termite-infested logs and scoop out a meal. They can also use their pointed noses to root around vegetation and search for their favorite snack.
Unfortunately, numbats are critically endangered and are facing extinction. There are fewer than 1,000 numbats alive in the wild, which is a smaller population than pandas or orangutans. The leading drivers of their extinction is habitat loss and predation from invasive species like cats and foxes. If something isn’t done to help these guys soon, the world could lose their cuteness forever.
The monito del monte is the sole living descendant of a near-extinct order of marsupials known as microbiotheria, a lineage that goes back 40 million years. They are not much bigger than a mouse and live in the trees and bushes of South America. Also known as the mountain monkey, these animals play a hugely important role in their local ecology. This tiny creature is responsible for seeding 80% of the fruit bearing trees in its habitat. They feed on fruits, and the seeds pass undigested through their system and are deposited with some natural fertilizer on the forest floor.
The fat-tailed dunnart is just one of 19 species of dunnart, which are a group of small marsupials closely related to the Tasmanian devil. They are carnivores, going after all sorts of insects and the occasional lizard or rodent. These critters get their name from - you guessed it - their fat tails. This dunnart species likes to gorge when there is excess food available, and they will store that excess in their tails. Their tails can account for 15% of their body fat, truly living up to their name. In certain parts of Australia, you can get one of these as a pet!
Quokkas are quite possibly the greatest animals to ever exist. They are balls of hopping fluff that’s resting face is an adorable smile perfect for taking selfies. They are native to Rottnest Island off the coast of Australia, a place where thousands of tourists come every year to see these cuties.
Unlike numbats, quokkas have recently seen an explosion in their population. It’s gotten to the point where local authorities are worried there may be too many, and that they could have an adverse effect on the environment. The reason for this sudden baby boom? An unpopular golf course. The course was built to attract golfing tourists, but the only visitors attracted to the course were thousands of quokkas. It’s estimated that 20% of the entire quokka population now lives on this golf course, and that number is likely to rise. That’s good news for anyone who wants to visit these creatures in their sort-of natural habitat.