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Posts Tagged ‘Kangaroo’

Kangaroos

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Kangaroos are the largest surviving marsupials in the world. A male buck can reach 6 ½ feet tall, and weigh 200 pounds. Female flyers are slightly smaller. Their babies, called joeys, are born at only 31-36 days gestation.

At only 0.35 ounces, the joey’s forelimbs are developed enough to climb from the birth canal to its mother’s pouch, where it attaches to one of four teats. There it stays cuddled up for nine months, transforming from a hairless, pink, bean-sized mite, to an irresistibly furry, doe-eyed darling. Then it will venture out of the security of its pouch for a short adventure before hopping back in. Its mother will feed and protect it another nine months, until her next joey is born.

Flyers are perpetually pregnant once they reach maturity. Immediately after giving birth they go into heat. The fertilized embryo will go into a dormant state until the older joey has vacated the pouch. The milk produced by the flyer is specially suited to its growing joey’s needs. If she is simultaneously feeding an older and a younger joey, a flyer may produce two different kinds of milk!

The rangeland where kangaroos graze is hot and arid, but kangaroos are suited for their environment. To conserve energy and keep cool kangaroos are crepuscular, meaning that they rest during the day and are most active at twilight hours. They shelter under trees and in caves and rock clefts during the day. Instead of sweating and panting, kangaroos lick themselves all over to cool off.

Their long hindquarters have a stretchy tendon and studies have shown that even the kangaroo’s breathing is synchronized with their rhythmic leaping. In this way their agile bodies are designed to be fast and energy-efficient, two important qualities that are needed to cover the long distances in search of food and water.

Kangaroos are not built for walking, and their legs do not move independently of each other. Because of this they cannot walk backwards. This fact won kangaroos a prominent position on the Australian coat-of-arms, where it symbolized progress and forward movement.

Kangaroos travel in groups of ten or more called mobs, led by the largest dominant male, called the boomer. Boomers may wander in and out of the mob, but they retain exclusive breeding rights with the females. If the mob is approached by an infrequent predator, the group will scatter. Sometimes a kangaroo will fight its enemy, and can be a formidable foe. Using its front paws to hold its attacker, the kangaroo will disembowel the enemy with its powerful hindquarters.