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Kangaroo Island Travel Guide
Kangaroo Island Wildlife - Marsupials
Kangaroos - General
- A marsupial mammal. It is a macropod which means 'big foot'.
- Strong back limbs
- Long back feet
- Ability to hop (most spp.)
- Inability to walk backwards
- Lack of thumb
- Powerful and long, clawed fourth toe, which does much of the work in completing the push of a hop.
- Tail that helps with balance during fast hopping - and can function as a fifth leg during the animals small speed gait, helping to stabilize the back end of the body while the back limbs are in the air (most species).
- Mostly vegetarian diet
- Marsupial pouch for young
- Ability in adult females to be constantly pregnant and constantly lactating from first pregnancy until death (most species).
- There are over 60 different species of Kangaroo and their relatives. The smallest ones are usually called Wallabies, and the largest is the Red Kangaroo (it is also the largest marsupial in the world).
- A male kangaroo is called a buck or a boomer
- A female kangaroo is called a doe or a flyer
- A baby kangaroo is called a joey.
- When European explorers first saw these strange hopping animals they asked an Australian Aboriginal person what they were called. He replied "kangaroo", which means "I don't understand" your question. The explorers thought that this was the animals' name, and it has stuck since.
How fast are Kangaroos?
Top speed for:
- Humans: 35km/h
- Kangaroos: 50km/h
- Ostrich: 65km/h
- Cheetah: 100km/h
Why do Kangaroos hop?
- Hopping appears to be more efficient than running or galloping.
- The faster they hop, the less energy is used (up to their cruising speed of about 40km/h)!!
- Important to be energy efficient in Australia, as there may be long distances to travel between water and food.
- Hopping kangaroos store 70% of their energy in their tendons. Every time it hits the ground, some of the energy is shifted to the tendons, stored there, and then released as an elastic bounce (humans can only store and reuse about 20% of their energy).
- A hopping kangaroo uses less energy to breathe than one standing still. Part of the reason for this lies in the way the abdominal organs 'flop' within the kangaroo's body. Instead of using muscle power, air is pushed out of the lungs by the impact of the organs against the diaphragm on each landing (thus conserving energy that would have otherwise been used for respiration).
- When scientists put kangaroos on treadmills, they discovered that kangaroos maintain a constant number of hops per minute. Regardless of how much the treadmill speeds up, they simply take longer and longer hops.
General Kangaroo Information
- On the Australian coat of arms, the Kangaroo and Emu were selected as symbols for Australia to represent the country's progress, as they were always moving forward, never backwards.
- Kangaroos are found in Australia and New Guinea.
- Kangaroos can have 3 babies 'on the go' at one time; one becoming mature and just out of the pouch, another developing in the pouch and one embryo in 'pause mode' (embryonic diapause).
- If conditions are unfavourable for rearing offspring, they can halt the development of the embryo until conditions improve (ie. more food and water are available). If a Kangaroo is being chased, it may also drop its joey from the pouch, so that the mother has a greater chance of survival. This makes survival sense, because if the mother survives, she will be able to reproduce again, whereas it is likely that the joey will die anyway if the mother dies. Therefore, through the sacrifice of one joey, many more may possibly be produced.
- In a fully mature kangaroo mob, females outnumber males by about 5 to 1. The dominant male pushes other males out of the mob.
- Competition for female partners will lead to fighting amongst males. This is where the phrase 'the boxing kangaroo' came from, with the competing males rearing up on their hind legs, and using their forearms to push and scratch their opponent. They are even able to temporarily rest on their tail and use their large hind feet to kick their opponent. After a boxing fight, it is common to see both parties bleeding and exhausted from the encounter.