Sorry to inundate you with such cuteness on Monday morning, but this photo was too adorable to not to share. This pademelon youngster following its mother around is about 6-8 months of age. Interestingly, mum is likely to already have another joey in the pouch. The reproductive cycle is a bit complicated, but stick with me on this. When mum gives birth to a new born (after 3 weeks gestation) the little jelly bean climbs up her tummy and into the pouch where it lives for the next 6 months. As soon as the baby is born, mum is immediately receptive to mating again. If she does and the egg is fertilized, it is put into a state of suspended animation until the current joey exits the pouch. When the pouch is vacated, the blastocyst continues to develop and the newest baby is born. It then climbs into the pouch and attaches itself to a teat for milk. The youngster outside the pouch will still put its head into the pouch for milk (where it meets its younger sibling). Even more interesting is that mum is making newborn milk for the little joey, and from a separate teat, toddler milk for the older sibling, and has a blastocyst in suspended animation as a backup. Talk about a very efficient parenting strategy!
For my other post about pademelons click here.