A distinctive characteristic common to most of these species is that the young are carried in a pouch.
Around 30% of all marsupial species live in the Americas, the other 70% are in Australia, New Guinea and the surrounding islands.
Close to 70% occur on the Australian continent (the mainland, Tasmania, New Guinea and nearby islands). The remaining 30% are found in the Americas—primarily in South America, thirteen in Central America, and one species, the Virginia opossum, in North America, north of Mexico.
The Virginia opossum is the original animal named "opossum", a word which comes from Algonquian wapathemwa, meaning "white animal". The opossum was not originally native to the West Coast of the USA. It was intentionally introduced into the West during the Great Depression.