Bandicoots (loosely meaning pig-rat) are probably best known because of a certain gaming character in the 1990’s. Crash Bandicoot could have easily been ‘Willy the Wombat’ but producers (in my opinion) thankfully changed the name and the character. Bandicoots are marsupials, which are an ‘infraclass’ of mammals. Marsupials are bound to the continents of Australia and South America and it is this geological barrier which have meant that they were able to diversify themselves from other land mammals.
The major difference between Mammals and Marsupials can be found in the development of their young. Mammals have their young attached to the mother during gestation and can therefore pass nutrients to them to help them grow. Marsupials, on the other hand, keep their young separated in an egg-like fashion inside the mother. This means that nutrients cannot pass between the two and this leads to a shorter gestation period and diminished growth in marsupial young. This means the young of a marsupial are much more dependant on their mother than their mammal counterparts.
What makes the Bandicoots different to almost all marsupials is that they form a placenta-like organ which connects the young to the uterine wall. The implications of the existence of this organ is not fully known, but it has been suggested that it allows the Bandicoots to receive nutrition from their young. This may explain why the Bandicoot’s offspring is proportionally larger than most other marsupials.
There are about 20 species of Bandicoots in the world and are only found in Australia. Another bizarre trait of the Bandicoot is that they have a bifurcated penis. This means that their penis splits into two, forming a y-shape, with two functional ends. Bandicoots are also highly susceptible to infection by ticks. The ticks carry the bacterium Coxiella burnetii and this gets transmitted from one Bandicoot to another by their faeces. This is dangerous for humans in Australia because the bacterium can then spread onto cattle and poultry in the area and make them become infected.