The kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae (macropods, meaning “large foot”). In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, the red kangaroo, as well as the antilopine kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, and western grey kangaroo.
Kangaroos are indigenous to Australia and New Guinea. The Australian government estimates that 42.8 million kangaroos lived within the commercial harvest areas of Australia in 2019, down from 53.2 million in 2013.
As with the terms “wallaroo” and “wallaby”, “kangaroo” refers to a paraphyletic grouping of species. All three refer to members of the same taxonomic family, Macropodidae, and are distinguished according to size. The largest species in the family are called “kangaroos” and the smallest are generally called “wallabies”.
The term “wallaroos” refers to species of an intermediate size. There are also the tree-kangaroos, another type of macropod, which inhabit the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, far northeastern Queensland and some of the islands in the region. This kind of kangaroo lives in the upper branches of trees.
A general idea of the relative size of these informal terms could be:
- wallabies: head and body length of 45–105 cm and tail length of 33–75 cm; the dwarf wallaby (the smallest of all known macropod species) is 46 cm long and weighs 1.6 kg;
- tree-kangaroos: ranging from Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo: body and head length of 48–65 cm, tail of 60–74 cm, weight of 7.2 kg (16 lb) for males and 5.9 kg (13 lb) for females; to the grizzled tree-kangaroo: length of 75–90 cm (30 to 35 in) and weight of 8–15 kg (18–33 lb);
- wallaroos: the black wallaroo (the smallest of the two species) with a tail length of 60–70 cm and weight of 19–22 kg (41.8–48.5 lb) for males and 13 kg (28.6 lb) for females;
- kangaroos: a large male can be 2 m (6 ft 7 in) tall and weigh 90 kg (200 lb).
Kangaroos have large, powerful hind legs, large feet adapted for leaping, a long muscular tail for balance, and a small head. Like most marsupials, female kangaroos have a pouch called a marsupium in which joeys complete postnatal development.
Because of its grazing habits, the kangaroo has developed specialized teeth that are rare among mammals. Its incisors are able to crop grass close to the ground and its molars chop and grind the grass. This process is known as polyphyodonty and, amongst other mammals, only occurs in elephants and manatees.
The large kangaroos have adapted much better than the smaller macropods to land clearing for pastoral agriculture and habitat changes brought to the Australian landscape by humans. Many of the smaller species are rare and endangered, while kangaroos are relatively plentiful.
The kangaroo is a symbol of Australia, appears on the Australian coat of arms and on some of its currency, and is used as a logo for some of Australia’s most well-known organisations, such as Qantas, and as the roundel of the Royal Australian Air Force. The kangaroo is important to both Australian culture and the national image, and consequently there are numerous popular culture references.
Kangaroo meat has perceived health benefits for human consumption compared with traditional meats due to the low level of fat on kangaroos.
Size and weight
A kangaroo can reach heights from anywhere between 3- 8 feet (1 to 3 meters) and can weigh between 40 and 200 lbs (18-100kg). The eastern gray kangaroo is the heaviest marsupial in the world and the red kangaroo is the largest.
The kangaroo has powerful hind legs and large feet, and a large muscular tail to keep it balanced while in motion. It is the only large animal to use hopping as its primary means of locomotion. A male kangaroo can leap to lengths of close to 30 feet and at a height of up to 10 feet. Its can reach speeds of up to 40 mph (60kmh).
The kangaroo is an herbivore, though its diet varies according to species. The animal has a chambered stomach, similar to that of cows, to help with the digestion process. The species also has highly specialized teeth. The species has an unusual eating practice.
The kangaroo regurgitates grass and shrubs that it has already eaten and chews it once more before swallowing it for final digestion. A kangaroo can survive for long periods without drinking water—hydrated by the moisture in the vegetation it consumes.
The kangaroo is endemic to Australia. The species is also found in Tasmania and nearby islands. Other marsupials can be found in some parts of Asia and the Americas, though the continent of Australia has by far the most, both in terms of species and population numbers.
Woods and bushland, as well as grassland, savannas, forests, and scrubland. The species is highly adaptable and can live successfully in a wide range of habitats.
Breeding and Social Structure
The species often live in large groups known as mobs. These mobs can range in numbers anywhere from small groups to more than hundred kangaroos. The kangaroo is a highly social species, and often engages in nose touching or sniffing to build cohesion within the group. The dominant male leads the mob and has exclusive access to the females for mating.
A baby kangaroo is born only after about a month-long gestation period. Like all marsupials, the female kangaroo has a pouch, called a marsupium. Immediately after birth, the newborn—which is born hairless, blind, and under an inch in length—crawls into the pouch where it nurses and continues to develop. The joey, or baby kangaroo, remains in the pouch from anywhere between 120 and 400 days, depending on species.
Even after leaving the pouch, it continues to feed off the mother for approximately a year and a half. Females produce two different types of milk, one for newborns and another for more mature joeys. During periods of drought, a female kangaroo loses the ability to conceive. As necessary resources are again available to the population, a female regains the ability to have offspring. In good conditions, a female gives birth annually.
Primarily humans who hunt the species for its meat and hide.
What is a group of kangaroos called?
The kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae (macropods, meaning “large foot”). In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, especially those of the genus Macropus: the red kangaroo, antilopine kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, and western grey kangaroo.
Kangaroos are indigenous to Australia. The Australian government estimates that 34.3 million kangaroos lived within the commercial harvest areas of Australia in 2011, up from 25.1 million one year earlier.
A group of kangaroos is called a “mob”.
One may ask, why is a group of kangaroos called a mob and not something else, like herds or flocks?
The reason why kangaroo groups are not called herds of flocks is that they do not have herding behavior, which refers to all the individual animals in a group acting collectively, and each one following the group’s behavior and movement.
Kangaroo groups are called mobs because it describes their behavior of scattering away when threatened, and individual members of a group moving at liberty.
Collective noun for kangaroos
But another reason it’s easy to spot kangaroos is that they usually hang out in groups. The collective noun for kangaroos is a mob. If you see a group of kangaroos, you have officially seen a mob of kangaroos.
It is reasonably common to see a lone male, particularly in the outback, where male red kangaroos are sometimes separate from the mob.
Most of the time, however, kangaroos are social animals. They live in family groups, which will usually have ten or more roos together. Some of the bigger mobs can have hundreds of kangaroos in.
What is a Baby Kangaroo Called?
A baby kangaroo is called a “joey”. A joey is born only after a very short gestation period of one month.
Baby kangaroos, at birth, are blind, hairless, and are just about an inch in length. At this stage, their forelegs tend to be more developed than their hind legs. And they use the same to reach their mother’s pouch through her abdomen. The mother kangaroo’s pouch is where the vulnerable newborns feel safety and comfort.
Why Do Kangaroos Live in Groups?
Belonging to the marsupial family Macropus, which literally translates to “big foot”, kangaroos live and travel in mobs, or groups, for their own protection, and to protect the members of their group from any potential danger.
If any member of the mob senses the danger, it will warn other individuals, usually by stomping on the ground. (source)
In any particular mob, it is the largest male kangaroo of the group, called a “boomer”, that leads and dominates (based on his age and size), especially during mating season.
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