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Any mammal of the infraclass Marsupialia, characterized by premature birth and continued development outside the womb. The young remain attached to the mother's teats for a period corresponding to the late stages of fetal development of a placental mammal. More than 170 species (e.g., bandicoots, kangaroos, koalas, wombats) are found in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands. About 65 species of opossum occur in the Americas and seven species of ratlike marsupials in South America. Many species have a pouch (marsupium), a fold of skin covering the nipples on the mother's lower belly, where the young continue their development.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on marsupial, visit Britannica.com.