Pouch (marsupial)

Pouch (marsupial)
Kangaroo joey inside the pouch
Female Eastern Grey with mature joey in pouch

The pouch is a distinguishing feature of female marsupials (and rarely in the males as in the water opossum and the extinct Thylacine); the name marsupial is derived from the Latin marsupium, meaning "pouch". Marsupials give birth to a live but relatively undeveloped fetus called a joey. When the joey is born it crawls from inside the mother to the pouch. The pouch is a fold of skin with a single opening that covers the nipples to protect the joey as it continues to develop.

Pouches are different amongst the different marsupials: for example for Quolls and Tasmanian Devils, the pouch opens to the rear and the joey only has to travel a short distance to get to the opening (resting place) of the pouch. While in the pouch they are permanently attached to the nipple and once the young have developed they leave the pouch and do not return. The kangaroo's pouch opens horizontally on the front of the body, and the joey must climb a relatively long way to reach it. Kangaroos and wallabies allow their young to live in the pouch well after they are physically capable of leaving, often keeping two different joeys in the pouch, one tiny and one fully developed.

See also

  • For more about the nature and usage of the pouch, see Marsupials#Description