Therian mammals give birth to live young without a shelled egg. This is possible thanks to key proteins called syncytins, which allow exchanges between the mother and its offspring through a placenta; even rudimental ones such as the marsupials. Genetic studies have suggested a viral origin of syncytins through the endogenization process.
The marsupials and the placental mammals evolved from a common therian ancestor that gave live-birth by suppressing the mother's immune system. While the marsupials continued to give birth to an underdeveloped fetus after a short pregnancy, the ancestors of placental mammals gradually evolved a prolonged pregnancy.
Pinnae (external ears) are also a distinctive trait that is a therian exclusivity, though some therians, such as the earless seals, have lost them secondarily.
The earliest known therian mammal fossil is Juramaia, from the Late Jurassic (Oxfordian stage) of China. However, molecular data suggests that therians may have originated even earlier, during the Early Jurassic.
The rank of "Theria" may vary depending on the classification system used. The textbook classification system by Vaughan et al. (2000) gives the following: