Birth in marsupials

Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Apr;131(4):621-30. doi: 10.1016/s1096-4959(02)00016-7.


Birth is an event that allows the relatively immature marsupial to move from the internal environment of the uterus to the external environment of the pouch. The newborn marsupial passes down from the uterus to the urogenital sinus and then makes its way to the pouch and attaches to the teat at a very early stage of development. From the studies available, there appear to be three methods used by the newborn to move from the uterus to the pouch. In marsupials with a forward pouch such as the red kangaroo, tammar wallaby and the brushtail possum, the mother positions her urogenital sinus below the pouch and the newborn climb upward towards the pouch. The young climb with a swimming motion, moving the head from side-to-side and use the forearms in alternate strokes. In the bandicoot with a backward facing pouch, the mother positions the urogenital sinus above the pouch and the young slither down into the pouch. The young do not have a definite crawl, as seen with the macropodids and possum. The third method of birth has been observed in the marsupials without a definite pouch that have a mammary region that develops as the young grow in size. This type of pouch is observed in the dasyurids. The mother was noted to stand on four legs with her hips raised so that the urogenital sinus was above the pouch and the newborn young crawled downwards from the sinus to the pouch. In all species, birth was completed in 2-4 min.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Female
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • Marsupialia / physiology*
  • Placenta
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal*
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Factors