Marsupials are members of the mammalian infraclass Marsupialia. Whilst Australia is not the only country with endemic marsupials, two thirds of the over 330 species of marsupials live in Australia (the other third are mainly found in South America).1

One of the distinctive characteristics that are common to most of the species, is that the young are carried in a pouch. The word marsupial comes from marsupium, a pouch that protects eggs and offspring, or reproductive structures.

Euro - Wallaroo (Osphranter robustus erubescens)
Euro – Wallaroo (Osphranter robustus erubescens), Alice Springs NT

Central Australia is home to a number of marsupial species, including kangaroos and wallabies. Other marsupial species are the bettongs which were once common, but in some regions are now extinct.

Due to work by the various organisations including Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Bush Heritage Australia, the Brush-tailed Bettong (Bettongia penicillata) and Burrowing Bettong (Bettongia lesueur) have been reintroduced into protected areas such as the Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, located north-west of Alice Springs on Ngalia-Warlpiri and Luritja Country.

For visitors to Central Australia, the Alice Springs Desert Park offers opportunities to see various marsupials within the park. They sometimes display marsupials that are just temporary (on-route to other places such as wildlife sanctuaries).

Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus)
Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), Alice Springs Desert Park

A marsupial that is rarely seen (due to it living underground) are the elusive marsupial moles – Northern Marsupial Mole (Notoryctes caurinus) and the Southern Marsupial Mole (Notoryctes typhlops). See some of the links on our Marsupial Mole page.

There are three families of living marsupials, that are also commonly referred to as ‘macropods’. These include the families:

  • Hypsiprymnodontidae
    — smaller, omnivorous Musky Rat-kangaroo.
  • Macropodidae
    — herbivorous kangaroos, wallabies, tree kangaroos, pademelons and a number of others.
  • Potoroidae
    — smaller, omnivorous macropods such as Rufous Rat-kangaroo, bettongs, and potoroos.
Black-footed Rock Wallaby, Simpsons Gap, NT
Black-footed Rock Wallaby, Simpsons Gap, NT

More information in the following sections:

Western Quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii), Alice Springs Desert Park
Western Quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii), Alice Springs Desert Park NT

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Clade: Metatheria
  • Infraclass: Marsupialia
  • Superorder: Ameridelphia
  • Orders:
  • Superorder: Australidelphia
  • Orders:
Red Kangaroo with joey (Osphranter rufus)
Red Kangaroo with joey (Osphranter rufus), Alice Springs Desert Park NT

Footnote & References

  1. Quick facts about marsupials, CSIRO,
  2. Burrowing Bettong’s historic homecoming to Central Australia, Australian Wildlife Conservancy,
  3. Bettongs, Bush Heritage Australia,
Black-footed Rock Wallaby, Olive Pink Botanic Garden
Black-footed Rock Wallaby, Olive Pink Botanic Garden

Central Australia FaunaCentral Australia Birds Central Australia Insects Central Australia Marsupials Central Australia Reptiles Central Australia Spiders

Central Australia Fauna & FloraCentral Australia Fauna Central Australia Flora

Central AustraliaCentral Australia Attractions Central Australia Fauna & Flora Water in Central Australia Weather in Central Australia

Northern TerritoryCentral Australia Aileron Alice Springs Binns Track Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve Ernest Giles Road Finke Gorge National Park Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve Hermannsburg Historic Precinct Ilparpa Claypans Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve MacDonnell Ranges Mount Connor Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary Owen Springs Reserve Red Centre Way Drive Standley Chasm Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Watarrka National Park & Kings Canyon Wurre / Rainbow Valley