One the most enigmatic inmates of the Australian animal kingdom is the kangaroo. It is closely related to marsupials like wallabies, wallaroos, Quokkas and pademelons; all of which come together to form the Macropodidae family of kingdom Animalia. While the kangaroo is endemic to Australia; other macropods from this family are also found in New Guinea.
Geographical Range of Kangaroo Species
Basically there are four macropods which are known as kangaroos.
Western and South Australia and the Darling River basin are home to the Western Gray Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus).
Characteristic Features of Kangaroo Habitat
Traditionally the habitat of a kangaroo is woods and bushland. However, kangaroos have adapted themselves excellently according to the changing landscape and environment of Australia after the advent of humans. They are known to survive in grasslands, forests, scrubland and even coastal heatland. Some have even adapted themselves to sub-alpine temperature regions of the land.
In their natural habitat, there is no dearth of food with grass, young shoots and leaves of plants and grass trees available in plenty. They need very little water to survive, and are capable of going for months without drinking at all. Though all kangaroos are herbivores, different kangaroo species have different diets. While some prefer shrubs and eat during the day, others eat varieties of grass at night.
The main reason for kangaroos to adapt to scrubland is the presence of scrubs during the hot and dry summer months and the presence of Eucalyptus trees in abundance. The heatlands possess a great variety of vegetation making it a great kangaroo habitat. The humid and sub-humid climes are conducive for the growth of dwarf-shrub that provide the kangaroos with vital feeding options.
Interesting Facts about the Kangaroo
- Though kangaroos are in huge numbers all across Australia, at least six species have become extinct since the arrival of the Europeans and several other species are endangered.
- Male kangaroos are called bucks or kacks, while the females are called does or jills. The young ones are referred to as joeys.
- The most unique feature, common to all marsupials, is the stomach pouch or marsupium. This pouch remains the home for joeys, during postnatal development. The young kangaroos are born the size of a lima bean, after a 36-day gestation period.
- Kangaroos hop for locomotion. They can cover ground at 70 km/h in search of food and water and to escape predators. The natural predators of kangaroo include wedge-tailed eagles, goannas, dingoes, foxes and feral cats.
- The digestive system of the kangaroo is unique to the fact that in spite of a herbivorous diet, methane is not exhaled. Instead, the hydrogen byproduct is converted into acetate and reused for the production of additional energy.
- Kangaroos are both, nocturnal and crepuscular, which means that they are most active by twilight and in the night. They are adept swimmers, and when pursued in water, they drown their predators by dunking the predator underwater with their powerful forepaws.
- Kangaroos cannot move backwards. They have powerful hind legs and a muscular tail that functions like a tripod-leg for balance.
- The marsupial enjoys an average life of anywhere between 4 and 6 years.
Kangaroos are not farmed, but are sought for their meat. This national symbol of Australia is commonly observed on the Australian Coat of Arms, currency and the tail of the nation's airline, Qantas. The marsupial enjoys an important place in Australian culture, with numerous references to its preferred habitat on the continent. The name kangaroo is derived from 'gangurru', a word for 'gray animal' from 'Guugu Yimidhirr' the Australian Aboriginal language. The earliest mention of the animal appears in the 1770 account by explorer, Captain James Cook.
Due to provision of pasture and additional water points, along with absence of predators, kangaroo numbers are increasing throughout Australia and are now found in greater numbers than prior to European settlement. The weather and soil conditions found in Australia make it an ideal land for them to live in and virtually anywhere you look, you can find kangaroo habitat.