Why Do Koalas Only Live in Australia?

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Koalas, like all marsupials except the North American opossum, are found only in Australia because they migrated there when the earth was one large land mass. Because Australia is an island, it is impossible for koalas to migrate to other continents. Find out more about koalas with information from a science teacher in this free video on animal habitats.

Part of the Video Series: Animal Habitats
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Video Transcript

Cute and cuddly, but actually fairly aggressive and found only in one place on earth, Australia. I'm Janice Creneti. I'm an Environmental Science teacher with over twenty years of experience and I'm here today to answer the question, "Why do Koalas live only in Australia"? Well, let's talk a little bit about the Koala first and then we'll get into why they are where they are. Koalas are one of the pretty rare group of animals called Marsupials. Now they're mammals, but unlike most mammals that we're familiar with; cats, dogs and people, instead of giving direct live birth, they actually have a pouch in which the fetus develops. That pouch is connected to the uterus in the female and when the fetus is very small, about two inches, it actually crawls from the uterus up into the pouch. If it can make that journey, then it has a chance of surviving. It actually stays in the pouch for a number of months, growing and developing and depending on the species, it can take up to a year or so before the animal is ready to leave the mother's pouch and live on its own. Now all existing Marsupials are found only in Australia with one exception, the North American Possum. That's the only remaining Marsupial that lives outside of Australia. Scientists believe that at one time all of the continents that we have existed in basically one large piece of land, called Pangea. Over the years as the earth evolved, that, those pieces started to split apart and eventually became the seven continents that we know now. Well, when that land was one land mass, animals were migrating from the North to the South. Marsupials actually evolve, they believe in the area that is now North America and then due to some drastic climate changes, migrated South. As the climate, as the continent started to break apart, those animals continue to migrate and eventually they migrated into the area that would break off from Antarctica and become Australia. So that's why Marsupials are in Australia to begin with. But why don't they get anywhere else? Well, Australia is actually surrounded by a huge body of water which means it's virtually impossible for animals to leave or immigrate from there or to any of the other continents. The only Koalas that you're going to see outside of Australia will be Koalas that are kept in captivity. I'm Janice Creneti and this is, "Why do Koalas live only in Australia"?


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