As the name goes, the eastern gray kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) sports a light, steely gray coat. It is classified under the Macropodidae family of animals with large feet, along with the other great kangaroos, i.e., the red kangaroo and wallaroo. An adult gray kangaroo measures about 6 feet in height and weighs around 60 kg. In terms of size, it is second only to the red kangaroo species.
Facts about Eastern Gray Kangaroos
As far as adaptations are concerned, they are naturally gifted with strong hind legs. They have the ability to hop at a speed of 56 kmph, covering 8 meters with every jump. While hopping and standing, the long tail is used for support. Typical characteristics, like swiveling of ears, dependent movement of legs, using forelegs for grasping objects, and crawling walk are applicable to this species as well.
The habitat of this kangaroo spans open grasslands and woodlands in the eastern and southern regions of Australia, where their groups (or mobs that they are known as) are seen grazing. They also loiter in forest edge and forest floor. With their amazing adaptability to various habitats, eastern gray kangaroos are considered the most opportunistic of all large kangaroos.
Their diet is mainly made up of grasses. Hence, a simple way to find them is to look for open pastures with remnants of grasses. Being nocturnal in nature, they tend to rest during the daytime and come out for grazing in open grasslands when the temperature comes down at night. They are often spotted resting amongst trees during the day time.
Gray kangaroos are social in nature (not territorial) and thus, prefer to live in groups. Each group consists of one dominant male, 2 - 3 other males, and 2 - 3 female kangaroos along with their young ones. The leader male holds its position for about a year. Both, females and joeys make various sounds, mimicking clucks and squeaks, for communication purpose. Individuals with the same group fight very rarely for food and shelter.
The male gray kangaroo (boomer) becomes sexually mature after about 25 months, while the female (flier) attains sexual maturity between 17 - 28 months. After mating, the female enters the gestation period and gives birth to a joey under favorable conditions. The newborn is much smaller than a cherry (fruit) and stays in the pouch for 2 months continuously. In general, a joey is weaned after 550 days.
The female gives birth to a joey only when food is available and weather conditions are favorable, thus increasing their survival rate. During drought spells and food scarcity, the fertilized embryo is kept at a pause state. At one time, a female can nourish two young ones―a newborn joey in the pouch and an older joey that still suckles its mother. In order to meet their nutrition requirements, the mother kangaroo secretes two types of milk.
On an average, the lifespan of eastern gray kangaroo is about 18 years in the wild. In captivity though, they can live for more than 20 years. In the wild, dingoes are natural predators of these kangaroos. In the present scenario, their population has reached about 2 million, hence there is no threat of becoming extinct.