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Pouch (marsupial)

pouch (marsupial) photos, pouch (marsupial)
The pouch is a distinguishing feature of female marsupials and rarely in the males as in the water opossum and the extinct thylacine; the name marsupial is derived from the Latin marsupium, meaning "pouch" Marsupials give birth to a live but relatively undeveloped fetus called a joey When the joey is born it crawls from inside the mother to the pouch The pouch is a fold of skin with a single opening that covers the nipples Inside the pouch, the blind offspring attaches itself to one of the mother’s nipples and remains attached for as long as it takes to grow and develop to a juvenile stage


  • 1 Variations
  • 2 See also
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links


Pouches are different amongst different marsupials, two kinds distinguishable on the front or belly: opening towards the head and extending the cavity under the skin towards the tail forward, or up or opening towards the tail and extending towards the front legs to the rear, backward or down For example for quolls and Tasmanian devils, the pouch opens to the rear and the joey only has to travel a short distance to get to the opening resting place of the pouch While in the pouch they are permanently attached to the nipple and once the young have developed they leave the pouch and do not return The kangaroo's pouch opens horizontally on the front of the body, and the joey must climb a relatively long way to reach it Kangaroos and wallabies allow their young to live in the pouch well after they are physically capable of leaving, often keeping two different joeys in the pouch, one tiny and one fully developed In kangaroos, wallabies and opossums, the pouch opens forward or up

Female koalas have been described as having a ‘backward-opening’ pouch like wombats, as opposed to an upward-opening pouch like kangaroos However, that's not true When a female Koala first gives birth to young her pouch opening faces neither up nor down, although it is located towards the bottom of the pouch rather than at the top It faces straight outwards rather than ‘backwards’ It sometimes appears to be ‘backward-facing’ because when the joey is older and leans out of the pouch, this pulls the pouch downwards or ‘backwards’ The pouch has a strong sphincter muscle at the opening to prevent the joey from falling out

In wombats and marsupial moles, the pouch opens backward or down Backwards facing pouches would not work well in kangaroos or opossums as their young would readily fall out Similarly, forward-facing pouches would not work well for wombats and marsupial moles as they both dig extensively underground Their pouches would fill up with dirt and suffocate the developing young Kangaroo mothers will lick their pouches clean before the joey crawls inside Kangaroo pouches are sticky to support their young joey Koalas are unable to clean out their pouches since they face backwards, so just prior to giving birth to the young koala joey, a self-cleaning system is activated, secreting droplets of an anti-microbial liquid that cleans it out In a relatively short time, the cleansing droplets clean out all of the crusty material left inside, leaving an almost sterile nursery ready to receive the tiny joey

Some marsupials eg phascogales lack the true, permanent pouches seen in other species Instead, they form temporary skin folds sometimes called "pseudo-pouches" in the mammary region when reproducing This type of pouch also occurs in echidnas

See also

  • For more about the nature and usage of the pouch, see Marsupials>Description


  1. ^ Nogueira, José Carlos, et al "Morphology of the male genital system of Chironectes minimus and comparison to other didelphid marsupials" Journal of mammalogy 855 2004: 834-841
  2. ^ Anna Salleh 2004-08-05 "Koala pouch may have its own bug buster" Australian Broadcasting Corporation Retrieved 2017-02-28 
  3. ^ Gabrielle Bobek, Elizabeth M Deane 2002-03-26 "Possible antimicrobial compounds from the pouch of the koala, Phascolarctos cinereus" Letters in Peptide Science doi:101023/A:1016257920016 
  4. ^ "Brush-tailed phascogale videos, photos and facts – Phascogale tapoatafa" Arkiveorg Retrieved 12 February 2017 
  5. ^ "Dasyurids" Marsupialsocietyorg Retrieved 12 February 2017 
  6. ^ P A Woolley; M F Patterson; G M Stephenson; D G Stephenson1 2002 "The ilio-marsupialis muscle in the dasyurid marsupial Sminthopsis douglasi: form, function and fibre-type profiles in females with and without suckling young" PDF The Journal of Experimental Biology 205: 3775–3781 Retrieved 2017-02-28 
  7. ^ "Short-beaked echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus" Arkiveorg 

External links

  • Media related to Marsupial pouches at Wikimedia Commons

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Pouch (marsupial)

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