Koala bears aren't bears: They're marsupials.

Koala bears aren’t bears: They’re marsupials.

Koala “bears” aren’t a type of bear at all, as it turns out, and their non-scientific name doesn’t include “bear” on the end, as is commonly spoken outside of Australia by the English speaking world. They are simply “Koalas”.

So if they aren’t a member of the family Ursidae (bears), what are they? In fact, they are marsupials, along with kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and possums, among others. Marsupials have the distinctive feature of a pouch, called a “marsupium”. Unlike most marsupials though, a female Koala’s pouch opens downward, rather than upward.

The name “Koala Bear” is thought to come from English speaking settlers around the 18th century. They frequently would name new animals they saw based on what animal it looked like that they were familiar with. Around this same time, Koalas were also often referred to as “tree-bear”, “sloth”, “monkey-bear”, and other such names by these same settlers.