A Mouse Without Lungs

We have had the opportunity to visit Australia. This is a land of very unusual conditions and surprising forms of life. Until man brought other forms of life to Australia, all of the life forms of warm-blooded animals in Australia were marsupials. What that means is that, instead of the baby developing to near self-sufficiency inside its mother and then being born, the baby is born shortly after conception and develops in a pouch outside the mother's body. A baby horse is a placental mammal and not a marsupial, and within hours after being born is up and walking around. A baby kangaroo is less than an inch long and will spend months in the mother's pouch before it even attempts to walk.

In 1998, a group of scientists found a marsupial mouse called the Julia Creek dunnart that was the size of a rice grain when it is born. Weighing in at .015 grams, the animal was not big enough to have lungs or muscle structures to operate them. The question was how the animal could survive without breathing? Now another animal called the Tammar wallaby has been shown to be the same kind of creature. In both cases, that animal eventually develops lungs and breathes normally; but in the case of the dunnart, it takes several weeks.

Both of these animals breathe through their skin. The skin surface allows toxic gases to diffuse out and oxygen replace them, enabling the animal to carry on a respiration that sustains life even in the confines of the pouch. Much of the creation in which we live is made up of animals so small that we do not notice them; but as we study them and see how they operate and the design that enables them to survive, we have to be amazed at all the different methods that the Creator used to allow life on this planet to be as diverse and as marvelous as it is.

--Reference: National Geographic, April 2001, page 4.

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