Kangaroos are iconic marsupials only found in Australia. These bouncy animals carry their young in pouches and can hop around on their powerful hind legs. While kangaroos may seem familiar, there are probably some intriguing aspects about them that you don’t know.
Get ready to expand your knowledge about kangaroos with these interesting facts:
1. Kangaroos are the only large animals to use hopping as their primary mode of transportation
Unlike most mammals, kangaroos get around by hopping on their muscular hind legs and thick tails. Their hopping locomotion is energy efficient and allows them to quickly bound across the landscape at speeds over 35 miles per hour.
2. They have excellent vision
Kangaroos have eyes specially adapted for long-distance vision. Their eyes are placed more on the sides of their head than the front, giving them a panoramic view of over 300 degrees around them. This helps them spot predators while on the lookout.
3. Kangaroos have good hearing too
Large ears swiveling independently of each other allow kangaroos to keenly pick up sounds. If they sense danger, they quickly turn their heads to listen more closely, much like radars. Their ears can pivot more than 180 degrees to detect where noises are coming from 1.
4. They have bouncy gaits
Red kangaroos exhibit energy recovery in their tendons to bounce back using less muscular effort. This elastic recoil helps propel them along in an energy-efficient manner. Hopping on their long feet and muscular legs is less tiring for red kangaroos.
5. Kangaroos have good balance
Kangaroos use their thick, heavy tail as a third leg when standing. It provides extra support and balance. Without their tail for balance, kangaroos would topple over. Their tail also serves as a handy rudder to help them turn while hopping quickly.
6. They are built for speed
The fastest documented speed of a hopping kangaroo was recorded at 44 mph! At full speed, their hops can stretch over 30 feet. Kangaroos retract their hind feet up near their body when hopping quickly, allowing them to leap enormous distances!
7. They have unusual reproductive abilities
Female kangaroos sport a fascinating trick called embryonic diapause. This means after conceiving, they can essentially pause their pregnancy until conditions become more favorable to give birth and raise young. Their babies are called joeys.
8. Kangaroos boast brawny legs
A red kangaroo’s leg muscles make up 25% of their total body weight. Their tendons stretch like rubber bands to propel their bounding leaps forward covering 25 feet in a single bound. Kangaroos truly have incredible leaping abilities.
9. They can be found across Australia
Kangaroos live in a variety of ecosystems across Australia including bushland, woodlands, grassland plains, and desert habitats. Different kangaroo species have adapted to survive and thrive in Australia’s various environments.
10. Kangaroos are marsupial mammals
As marsupials, kangaroo mothers have a forward opening pouch containing nipples to suckle newborn joeys. Baby kangaroos called joeys are highly underdeveloped at birth, weighing less than a gram! These tiny babies crawl into their mother’s pouch to continue developing.
11. They have unusual dentition
Kangaroos lack canine teeth. Their bottom incisors take a conveyor belt formation to grind up vegetation. Kangaroos regurgitate their food and re-chew it before it is ready to be completely digested – a process called merycism.
12. Kangaroos groom themselves
Kangaroos use their front paws and long tongues to groom their fur and keep cool. By licking their forearms, they can spread saliva over their bodies to promote heat loss through evaporation. Pretty nifty natural air conditioning!
13. They are prolific jumpers
It’s estimated that red kangaroos hop along at about 20-25 hops per minute. At this pace, they can rack up around 70 million bounds moving around over their lifetime. That’s a lot of bouncing action!
14. Kangaroos have good swimmers
Kangaroos can readily take to the water. Most species can swim to flee predators or disperse to new locations. They use their arms for steering and powerful hind legs for propulsion while swimming.
15. Kangaroos boogie down
Male kangaroos sometimes engage in ritualized fights called “boxing” with opponents by kicking them using their hind legs. They lean back on their tails and deliver blows by jabbing their forepaws and claws forward. These sparring matches establish dominance and can win the attention of female kangaroos.
16. They are an iconic symbol
Kangaroos are ingrained in Australian culture as an iconic national symbol. They even feature prominently on the Australian coat of arms. Kangaroos epitomize Australia’s wild beauty to the rest of the world.
17. Kangaroos are culled in some regions
As the kangaroo population increases, they compete with livestock for food sources. This causes them to be culled in some farming areas. Indigenous Australians hunt kangaroos for meat and hides following ancient traditions, but their numbers are carefully managed.
While kangaroos may seem familiar, they have some remarkable adaptations and abilities that set them apart from other mammals. Their specialized legs, feet, tail, vision, and reproductive strategy equip them superbly for survival in Australia’s harsh landscapes. Hopefully these interesting tidbits gave you some newfound appreciation for Australia’s iconic kangaroos!