Pouched Desert creatures

The earth’s driest continent, Australia, is also home to dozens of marsupials—
mammals whose young are born at a very early stage of development, and which
continue their growth outside the womb in a body pouch or pocket (marsupium),
usually found on the belly of the female. Several marsupial species are highly
adapted to the arid interior of the country and follow lifestyles equivalent to the
nonmarsupial, or placental, mammals, in other desert regions.
The marsupial mole (Notoryctes typhlops), which is found mainly in
southwest Australia, spends its life tunneling through soft sand in search of
grubs, worms, and other soil creatures. The mole tunnels about 8 to 10
centimeters (3–4 in.) below the surface, using its hard nose pad and the massive
spadelike claws on its front feet to push through the soil. Since the usual
marsupial front-opening pouch for the young would soon fill with sand as the
mole digs underground, this species has evolved a rearward-opening version.
The rabbit-eared bandicoot (Macrotis lagotis) is an inhabitant of scattered
wood and arid scrub in Central and northwest Australia. It resembles a longnosed
rat but possesses large kangaroolike rear feet for hopping and huge rabbittype
ears. Such outsized ears are a common feature of many mammalian desertdwellers—
from jackrabbits and fennec foxes to wild asses. They catch the
faintest sounds of prey or predators and also help to radiate excess body heat
into the air.
Large ears are one of many desert-adapted features of the biggest marsupial,
the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus). The reddish-colored male may grow to 1.8
meters (6 ft.) tall and is known locally as a “boomer”; the female, by contrast, is
pale blue-gray and called a “blue flier.” Red kangaroos live in small family
parties of four to eight members and are the most desert-dwelling of the
kangaroos and wallabies, lazing in the shade of trees and termite mounds. They
smear saliva on their bellies, feet, and tail to cool by evaporation and become
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active in the evening as they consume grass, leaves, roots, and soft bark. Their
bouncy, hopping gait is ideally suited to open country with soft soil—a big
individual can bound along at about 50 kilometers per hour (30 mph), with
massive single hops some 10 meters (33 ft.) long and 3 meters (2.5 ft.) high.