There are some fascinating Australian animals like koalas, dingoes, wombats, and of course, one of the most known, the kangaroo!
Did you know a kangaroo can cover 25 feet in a single leap? Or that they can jump 6 feet high? The kangaroo is one of the coolest animals in the Eastern Hemisphere. Living in Australia and New Guinea, the kangaroo is a special and unique animal.
Kangaroos are marsupials and are from the animal family of Macropodidae. Macropodidae means ‘big foot’ in Latin and this name came from the animal’s large hind feet. Although many people only know about the red kangaroo, there are many different species:
- Eastern grey kangaroo
- Western grey kangaroo
- Antilopine kangaroo
- Grey kangaroos
In the wild, Kangaroos are very social animals. Kangaroos communicate with one another by stomping their big feet. A group of kangaroos is called a mob, troop, or herd. The number of kangaroos in a mob can range from a small group to more than 100 kangaroos. These groups usually are 5 to 40 kangaroos. Inside this group, you will find both male and female kangaroos. These kangaroos will groom each other and help protect one another from danger.
Each of these species has its characteristics and habitat.
Habitat of the Kangaroo
Most species of kangaroos live on the continent of Australia. However, the habitat of the kangaroo can depend on the species. The gray kangaroo lives in the forest of Australia and Tasmania. The rat kangaroo lives in the rainforests of northeastern Queensland. The Antilopine kangaroo loves the monsoonal eucalyptus woodlands in northern Australia. The red kangaroo can be found in the deserts and open grasslands.
In some of these habitats, the temperature can reach 105 degrees! These high temperatures are why many kangaroos choose to hunt at dusk or dawn and take a nap in a shady spot during the day. If a kangaroo gets hot, it sweats. But it only sweats while hopping. When it stops hopping, it will start to pant. Kangaroos pant up to 300 breaths per minute. Panting keeps a constant flow of air over their windpipes. These actions keep them from overheating.
Although many species of kangaroo live in warm environments, they can adapt to colder temperatures. They spend the fall getting acclimated or used to the cooler temperatures and grow a winter coat.
Food and Drink
Kangaroos are mostly seen between dusk and dawn and usually look for food during those times. Their favorite foods are leaves, ferns, flowers, fruit, and moss. The Terrestrial kangaroos or kangaroos that live on the ground mostly eat grasses. While kangaroos, like the Tree kangaroo, will eat leaves and fruit. They have a larger diet which includes bark, sap, and flowers. The Tree kangaroo may even eat eggs, birds, and other small animals!
Most ground kangaroos drink very small amounts of water and get most of the water they need by eating green plants. The Red kangaroo can go without drinking water for 2-3 months because its habitat is very dry! The tammar wallaby (related to the kangaroo) can even live off of saltwater.
Characteristics of the Kangaroo
The kangaroo is the world’s largest marsupial. All kangaroos, no matter the species, have small heads, powerful hind legs, small front legs, large feet, short hair, and a long tail. Depending on the species of kangaroo, the fur coat is light to dark brown, red, or grey.
Kangaroos have large ears, excellent hearing, and incredible eyesight. Kangaroos can swivel their ears in all directions to pick up sounds. A male kangaroo is called a boomer, and a female is a jill.
The strong tails of the kangaroo were once thought to have been used to help with balance and support them as they walked. However, scientists have now figured out that kangaroos actually use their thick tails to help propel themselves. A kangaroo can cover long distances in a day traveling up to 30 miles per hour when hopping.
Kangaroos and other marsupials can see in full color. They are the only mammal besides primates who can! Kangaroos sleep a lot like humans. They like to find a shady spot and lie down on the ground. You may see them on their side or their back. They use their arms to hold their head up.
Kangaroos will fight each other by boxing with their front paws. Male kangaroos often fight other males to establish dominance or win a mate. Kangaroos will balance on their tails, kick their opponent and try to knock them off balance.
Kangaroos will also defend themselves with powerful kicks from their hind legs. If danger approaches, a kangaroo will stomp the ground with their big feet or hit the ground with its tail. These actions help warn the other kangaroos in their mob.
The dingo and wedge-tailed eagle are predators of the kangaroo, but humans are also known as predators. Humans have shot more than 90 million kangaroos in the last 30 years. They are hunted for their skin and meat. Kangaroo leather is made into hats, bags, and other products. The meat may end up in restaurants or as pet food.
Baby Kangaroo Facts
After a female kangaroo and male kangaroo mate, the gestation period of a kangaroo is 21 to 38 days. They can give birth to up to four baby kangaroos at a time. But, this is very rare. At birth, a newborn joey (baby kangaroo) can be as tiny as a grain of rice or the size of a grape, which is less than one inch long!
Kangaroo mothers make specific milk depending on the age of the joey. Newborn joeys get a high protein and simple carb, immunity-rich milk while older joeys get high carb, high protein, and some fat-filled milk. If the kangaroo has multiple joeys at different ages, she will have multiple types of milk at once. Young kangaroos are about 1.5 years old when they’re weaned from the mother kangaroo’s milk.
The joey will stay in the mother’s pouch until it is big enough to survive outside the pouch. Around 6 months old, the joey will start to explore and be able to walk around. At 8 months old, the joey will be fully independent and no longer needs the safety of the pouch. Adult males do not have a pouch and do not help with caring for the young.
Here are some interesting facts about kangaroos you may not have known!
- Kangaroos can not move backward because of their long feet and large tail.
- The Tree kangaroo would rather climb a tree than hop on the ground.
- There are more kangaroos in Australia than there are Australian people.
- Kangaroos can swim.
- Kangaroos regurgitate their food, chewing it twice before it passes through their chambered stomach.
These are just a few fun facts about kangaroos! What other facts do you know?