Marsupials of Australia

Lesser bilby from specimen at the Grande galerie de l’évolution stuffed specimen at the Natural History Museum Pisa illustration by John Gould of an eastern hare-wallaby black and white photo of two Tasmanian tigers in a zoo

Pattern of extinction

All mammals native to Australia, except for human beings, are marsupials, that is, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, phalangeriformes, opossums, wombats, and Tasmanian devils. Since Europeans settled in Australia starting in 1788, 24 birds, 9 frogs and reptiles, and 27 marsupials became extinct.

Lesser bilby

The lesser or white-tailed rabbit-eared bandicoot was like a small rabbit with a long tail. A burrowing nocturnal omnivore, it fed on ants, termites, roots, seeds. It most likely was hounded to extinction by house cats and wild foxes introduced by settlers.

Pig-footed bandicoot

The toes of the forelimbs were unusually pig-like. The hind legs were horse-like. The ears and the nose were long and pointed. Had a 9 to 10 inch body with a 5 to 6 inch tail. Nothing else like it lives today.

Broad-faced potoroo

Potoroos resemble very small wallabies and the broad-faced potoroo was the smallest of these weighing less than two pounds with a seven-inch tail, blunt nose, broad face, and small round ears.

Eastern hare-wallaby

The eastern hare-wallaby, about 20 inches long with a 13-inch tail, could jump 5 feet into the air. Solitary and nocturnal, it made a seat for itself during the day in a sheltered place. Predation by house cats and trampling of its grassland habitat by sheep and cattle may have caused its extinction.

Tasmanian tiger

The largest carnivorous marsupial was striped on its lower back and called a dog-headed opossum. It filled the ecological niche of a wolf, and was shaped like a wolf or dog. The marsupial pouches opened to the rear of the female and hid the genitals of the male. Hunters encouraged by bounties, domestic dogs, and diseases drove it to extinction.