Marsupials Biology and Management


The majority of the world’s known mammals are placental mammals.  Placental mammals are specified by the presence of a placenta that enables the advanced development of the young before birth, a more developed brain, and some other skeletal features. Examples of placental mammals are humans, primates, bats, cats, dogs, ruminants, and rodents. Placental mammals comprise around 95% of the 5,220 species of known mammals. In contrast, marsupials are born at an embryonic stage of development. They then develop to independence by attaching firmly to the teat of the mothers. Teat may be external or throughout most marsupials covered by pouches of varying degrees of development until full pouches found in species like kangaroos.

Course Content

There are ten lessons in this course:

Lesson 1. Marsupial Evolution, Taxonomy and External Morphology

  • Introduction and History
  • Evolution
  • Taxonomy
  • Marsupial Orders - American and Australian
  • Families within orders
  • Comparing diversity

Lesson 2. Internal Anatomy, Physiology and Senses

  • Introduction
  • Neural Systems and Intelligence
  • Vision
  • Dentition
  • Digestion
  • Skeleton - head, postcranial, scent glands and olfaction
  • Reproduction - males, embryonic development, lactation and litter size
  • Basal metabolism - longevity, lifespan

Lesson 3. Behaviour

  • Introduction
  • Social behaviours
  • Territoriality and home range
  • Thermoregulation, torpor and hibernation
  • Mating systems
  • Caring for young
  • Vocalisation and threat behaviour
  • Feeding and diet
  • Den sites and nests
  • Habitat
  • Predation and predators

Lesson 4. Marsupial Health

  • Pathogens and Parasites
  • Viruses - hepatovirus, herpes, other significant viruses
  • Cancer - facial tumor disease, other cancers
  • Parasites and other pathogens -chlamydia, sarcoptic mange, coccidiosis, leptospirosis, tuberculosis
  • Nematodes
  • White muscle disease
  • Lumpy jaw
  • Marsupials as disease vectors
  • Malnutrition and starvation
  • Pollution
  • Shock, injury, bit wounds, burns, electrocution, ocular injury, skeletal trauma
  • Marsupial health care - stress, diet, housing

Lesson 5. Marsupial Carnivores

  • Dsyuridae - Quolls, Devils and relatives
  • Dasyuridae characteristics
  • Tasmanian devil
  • Quolls - review 6 species
  • Dunnarts
  • Antechinuses - review 10 species
  • Numbats, Myrmecobiidae
  • Thylacine

Lesson 6. Macropods

  • Introduction
  • Taxonomy
  • Kangaroos, Wallabies, Wallaroos- Macropus
  • Tree Kangaroos - Dendrolagus
  • Rock Wallabies - Petrogale
  • Quokka - Setonix 

Lesson 7. Diprotodontia Marsupials 

  • Introduction to wombats, koalas, possums and relatives
  • Koala -characteristics, diet, reproduction
  • Wombats characteristics taxonomy, review on 2 living species
  • Ringtail Possums
  • Brush tailed Possums
  • Gliders and striped Possums
  • Pygmy Possums
  • Feather tailed possums
  • Potoroos and relatives
  • Honey Possum

Lesson 8. Peramelemophs 

  • Peramelidae - bandicoots and echymiperas
  • Peramelinae – Australian Bandicoots.
  • Peroryctinae – Giant & Raffrays Bandicoots.
  • Echymiperinae – Echimiperas and Papuan Bandicoots
  • Chaeropodidae - the pig-footed bandicoot (presumed extinct)
  • Thylacomyidae - bilbies

Lesson 9. Other Marsupials

  • Notoryctemorphia - Marsupial moles
  • Didelpimorphia - American Opossums
  • Microbiotheria - Monito del monte 
  • Paucituberculata - Shrew and Rat Opossums

Lesson 10. Sustainable Management of Marsupials 

  • Introduction
  • Sustainable management
  • Threats and Amelioration
  • Political influence
  • Climate change
  • Habitat protection and modification
  • Control of exotic species
  • Disease Management
  • Monitoring
  • Fire management
  • Artificial habitats - conservation breeding, geographical isolation, genetic impoverishment
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Course Aims

  • Explain the likely origin of marsupials.
  • Explain classification of marsupials.
  • Identify common external anatomical features in marsupials
  • Explain common and diverging characteristics in the internal biology of marsupials.
  • Discuss and compare behavioural characteristics in a number of different marsupials.
  • Describe health issues that affect marsupials.
  • Identify and describe the biology, behaviour and care of marsupial carnivores. 
  • Identify and describe the biology, behaviour, and care of Macropods from the Diprotodontia order.
  • Identify and describe the biology, behaviour and care of non-macropod marsupials in Diprotodontia.
  • Identify and describe the biology, behaviour and care of marsupials in order Peramelemorphia.
  • Identify and describe the biology, behaviour and care of other marsupials, specifically from the taxonomic orders Didelphimorphia, Microbiotheria, Notoryctemorphia and Paucituberculata.
  • Discuss issues related to the sustainable management of marsupials.



Marsupials have certain key features that are shared with with other mammals. As mammals they have fur and lactate to feed their early young.

Other features though are not always  identical. Those other structures are often similar but not identical to what is found in other mammals.

Different orders, families, and genera will show adaptations of these basic structures as a result of a variety of evolutionary drivers, including environmental factors, genetic changes, and their biogeography.

Most marsupials are fossorial, terrestrial, or arboreal, with at least one species semi-aquatic and even having webbed feet.

Enrol Now!

Fee Information (S2)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $822.80  1 x $748.00
B 2 x $438.90  2 x $399.00

Note: Australian prices include GST. 
More information about
Fees & Payment Plans.

Enrol Now 5% discount!
Select a payment plan:

Courses can be started anytime
from anywhere in the world!

All orders processed in Australian dollars.