Brown adipose tissue expressing uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) is responsible for adaptive nonshivering thermogenesis giving eutherian mammals crucial advantage to survive the cold. The emergence of this thermogenic organ during mammalian evolution remained unknown as the identification of UCP1 in marsupials failed so far. Here, we unequivocally identify the marsupial UCP1 ortholog in a genomic library of Monodelphis domestica. In South American and Australian marsupials, UCP1 is exclusively expressed in distinct adipose tissue sites and appears to be recruited by cold exposure in the smallest species under investigation (Sminthopsis crassicaudata). Our data suggest that an archetypal brown adipose tissue was present at least 150 million yr ago allowing early mammals to produce endogenous heat in the cold, without dependence on shivering and locomotor activity.