Parenthood takes on many different forms in the animal kingdom. Marsupials are well known for their pouches, but the first few months of life present an array of peculiarities. Here are three marsupial joeys with fascinating early lives.
(Eastern Quoll) – Survival isn’t easy
Eastern Quoll mothers give birth to up to 30 young! After birth, the young must swim from the womb up a column of mucus and then latch on to some hair before working their way to the pouch. But, with limited space and resources, only five to eight quolls survive. After birth, they stay in the den for up to five months as their mother hunts during the night. Wild quolls live between two and four years, so this period might represent a quarter of their entire life expectancy. Quolls also breed in their first year of life. No rest for the wicked, or the extremely cute.
(Tammar Wallaby) – Jellybean babies
Tammar Wallabies are widely studied due to their unique reproductive abilities and gestation. They’re polygynous breeders; in other words, a female can mate with several males, holding a joey in her pouch while another embryo remains dormant in their womb until the first joey leaves.
The young joeys are bald, blind and about the size of a jellybean when they’re born.
It takes them up to 200 days to leave the pouch. They will venture to nearby food sources, but tend to stay very close to their mothers until it’s time to venture further.
(Eastern Ringtail Possum) – Tails for exploring
Eastern Ringtail Possums have a unique adaptation: prehensile tails! Prehensile tails mean that the possums can grip onto objects using only their strong tail. During the first six months of their lives, a joey relies on their mother's pouch for protection and nourishment, eventually coming out to learn how to forage and avoid predators. In the early days of exploration, the possum joey clings onto its mother’s tail. When they’re ready, they can use their own prehensile tail to move throughout the canopy, before wandering off to find their own territory.