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Kangaroos (Macropodidae macropus) are the largest of Earth's marsupials and live mostly in Australia with a few being found in Tasmania and parts of Papua New Guinea. There are over 60 species of Kangaroo ranging in size from the diminutive Rat Kangaroo to the 6ft, 200lb Red Kangaroo. The Kangaroo family incorporates potoroos, tree kangaroos, walleroos and wallabies but it is only the Red, Western Gray, Eastern Gray and Antilopine that are considered Kangaroos. Kangaroos have few natural enemies, only the dingo and humans.

Kangaroos are gentle herbivores, subsisting on grasses, shoots and shrubs and can draw enough moisture out of their food to go for long periods without water. The kangaroo has a chambered stomach, much like sheep and cows, and will regurgitate its cud before chewing and swallowing for digestion. Kangaroos generally stand upright and use their long thick tails as support—like a third leg—when standing or fighting, and for balance when hopping. Kangaroos are the largest mammals to use hopping as a sole means of locomotion. Their extremely long feet make them incapable of walking. The kangaroo's forelimbs are short and not used for foraging. Instead the kangaroo will use them to "box" with playmates, or wrestle with an adversary. The kangaroo will also use its front paws to hold a rival or predator still, balance on its tail, and bring its powerful rear legs into play by kicking or even disemboweling.

The Red Kangaroo is the largest of all kangaroos. They live across the continent of Australia and prefer arid, open grassy areas. They travel in "mobs" of about 10 males and females and are led in their nomadic ways by a single male known as a "boomer." The boomer establishes his position through age, size and intimidation and is the only male allowed access to the females for mating. A female Red Kangaroo is the fastest of all kangaroos being able to reach speeds of 35 mph with short bursts of up to 45 mph. A kangaroo can easily clear more than 23 feet with each bound. Kangaroos do not jump "up" so much as jump "forward" and this allows the roo to efficiently cover vast distances in search of food.

All kangaroos are marsupials with pregnancies as brief as 33 days. When the young is born it is about the size of a cherry. Hairless, blind and still far from developed, the newborn will crawl up the outside of its mothers belly until it enters her pouch where it will latch onto a teat and remain, suckling, for the next 2 months. The joey usually stays in his mothers pouch for 9 to 18 months, depending on species.

Fun Kangaroo Facts

- Kangaroos can go months without drinking, and when they do need water, will dig their own water wells to find it.

- Male kangaroos are known as Bucks, Boomers, or Jacks. Females are known as Does, Flyers or Jills. Baby kangaroos, regardless of sex, are called Joeys.

- Joeys can frequently be seen peeking from their mothers pouch and it was this "two-headed" appearance that caused early explorers to be disbelieved when they returned to Europe with stories of the kangaroo.

- The female kangaroo will give birth to a new offspring right about the time she ejects the older joey from her pouch. During this time of transition, she will simultaneously produce two different types of milk for the different needs of her young. Each joey knows which teat is theirs and will only nurse from the appropriate one.


[National Geographic] Red Kangaroo, Gray Kangaroo

Enchanted Learning

World Wildlife Federation

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