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Quick links: Pouch wars Molars on the move Macropod mates Training times Boxing buddies Long-time residents
  Adaptable animals        

Interesting facts about kangaroos and their kind

Pouch wars

Female and young-at-foot western grey kangaroo

Most species increase their reproductive rate by having three overlapping generations: a diapausing blastocyst (about 100-cell embryo) in utero, a pouch young and a young-at-foot. Each of these may have a different father and so sibling rivalry is expected to be intense. Even so there is no evidence that the young-at-foot directly interferes with the pouch young even though it puts its head back into the pouch to suckle from one of the other four mammary glands until weaning. The majority of species have the capacity to be ‘perpetually pregnant’ from sexual maturity until death.
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Molars on the move

Female antilopine wallaroo

Like all herbivorous mammals, the kangaroo family suffer high tooth wear from the silicates in grasses. As a molar wears it moves forward in the tooth row and may eventually be shed to be replaced by a new emergent molar. The latter are limited so eventually a very old individual will run out of teeth. The exception is the Nabarlek which continues to produce molars to cope with a diet of ferns growing on sandstone.
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Macropod mates

Antilopine wallaroos

One of the most sociable species of kangaroo is found in the Top End (wet-dry tropics) of Australia. The Antilopine Wallaroo forms large aggregations and individuals whether male or female regularly allogroom (e.g. one grooms the neck and shoulders of another), lean on each other and lie resting in contact. Several species have long-term associations between female kin forming a matriline of mothers, daughters, grand-daughters etc.
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Training times

Female and young-at-foot red kangaroo
©Ulrike Kloecker

Young of all species are extremely playful. When they exit the pouch they will hop in circuits around their mother or dash off and back at full speed. En route they may bat at shrubs and trees and return to their stoic mother and give her a clip on the ears.
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Boxing buddies

Red kangaroo males
©Ulrike Kloecker

Few species show strong territorial behaviour but shelter sites like rock overhangs and caves for Rock-wallabies and the nests of Potoroos and Bettongs may be strongly defended. In most of the larger species males and females freely intermingle in open membership mobs. Even so competition amongst male kangaroos for dominion over other males for mating opportunities with females in their home range is intense. Size and reach matter and fights are usually swift and decisive. However, boxing matches are a frequent occurrence amongst all male size classes and they cooperate to exercise fighting skills. The evidence for this comes from observations of self-handicapping where a larger male may stand flat-footed to engage a smaller one and suffer kicks from the latter without resorting to a king hit (kick). The abdomen of males has thickened skin (dermal armour) to provide some protection against raking toe nails.
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Long-time residents

Red kangaroo and rabbits

The macropods evolved around 16 million years ago from a possum-like ancestor and familiar species like Eastern Grey Kangaroos have been around for a few million years. The Red Kangaroo is one of the more recently evolved species but still has a million year history on the continent. Contemporary writers and commentators often state that there have never been more kangaroos of some species than now following the introduction of European farming practices a few hundred years ago. With the long evolutionary history of the macropods in Australia it is rather presumptuous of such people to claim that a species has never been in a region or in a particular abundance. Exaggerated claims of kangaroos in ‘plague proportions’ or as overabundant species are propaganda to support lethal control measures or to justify commercial exploitation of meat and hide products. Six species are extinct and many have suffered massive range contractions since European colonisation of Australia. Have the macropods really never had it so good?
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Adaptable animals

Eastern grey kangaroo

The macropods include species that live in burrows and ones that live in trees. You can find them hopping in the snow, seashore and desert. The species with the largest longitudinal range is the Common Wallaroo which is pan-continental but absent from Tasmania. The Eastern Grey Kangaroo has the largest latitudinal range from northern Tasmania to Cape York. The smallest range is a single population of the recently rediscovered Gilbert’s Potoroo. Actions to establish a second island population are underway and hopefully will achieve the same success as reintroduction of the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby which suffered a similar plight.
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Last modified: 11/23/08