The giant kangaroo lives in Australia. It may also be referred to as a gray oriental kangaroo, due to its color and region. Despite the fact that they are inferior to the red kangaroo in size and weight, representatives of this particular animal species are the undisputed leaders in jumping, as well as in their ability to develop great speed. Zoologists say that it is this species of Australian representatives of flora and fauna that is most open to contact with humans. Kangaroos have long been considered the most unusual and interesting animals of all that exist on earth.
Origin of the species and description
Giant kangaroos belong to the class of mammals, order of two-bladed marsupials, family of kangaroos, genus of gigantic kangaroos, species of eastern gray kangaroos. Animals were discovered only at the moment when, in 1606, a Dutch explorer and historian discovered Australia. The locals of that time called the animal “genguru”. Outlandish animals have delighted and bewildered scientists and researchers.
To trace the evolution of the animal, researchers, zoologists conducted a lot of genetic and other studies. They found that the distant ancestors of modern kangaroos are procoptodons. They did not know how to jump, like modern representatives of the kangaroo family. They tend to move on their hind limbs. Procoptodons became extinct about 15 million years ago.
Video: Giant Kangaroo
Scientists also came to the conclusion that the most ancient ancestor of the kangaroo, which gave rise to evolution, is the musky kangaroo rat. These animals weighed no more than half a kilogram and perfectly adapted to any environmental conditions. Presumably, musky rats appeared about 30 million years ago. They could live on the ground as well as in trees.
They were considered almost omnivores. They could eat the roots of various plants, foliage, fruits of trees and shrubs, seeds, etc. Musk kangaroo rats then gave rise to several animal species. Some chose the forest as their habitat, others began to develop valleys and flat areas. The second category of animals turned out to be more viable. They have learned to develop high speed – more than 60 km/h, and also eat dry types of vegetation.
Appearance and Features
The gray Australian kangaroo can reach a height of three meters. The body weight of one adult large individual reaches 70-85 kilograms. Animals show sexual dimorphism. Females are significantly inferior in size and body weight to males.
Interesting! The growth of the female body stops with the onset of puberty. Males continue to grow almost throughout their lives. Some males are 5-7 times larger than females.
The head of the animal is small in size, with large, elongated ears. Small, almond-shaped eyes are framed by lush eyelashes. They perform a protective function, preventing the ingress of dust and sand. Black kangaroo nose. Animals have a very unusual lower jaw. Its edges are wrapped inward. The number of teeth is 32-34. Teeth are designed for chewing plant foods and therefore do not have roots. Fangs are missing. Looking at kangaroos, it seems that they have underdeveloped upper limbs. Compared to the rear, they are too short and small. The hind limbs are just huge. They are very powerful with long, outstretched feet. Thanks to this structure of the legs, animals are able to develop high speed and be leaders in high jumps.
Interesting! Animals are able to reach speeds of up to 65 km/h and jump to a height of up to 11-12 meters.
The tail also performs a very important function. He is long and thick. The tail is used as a steering wheel during movement, and also helps to repel an opponent during a fight and serves as a support while sitting. The length of the tail in some individuals exceeds one meter. It is noteworthy that if the animals are at rest, then their body weight falls on the hind limbs. For jumping, they use mainly the fourth and fifth fingers of each hind limb. The second and third fingers are processes with long claws. They are used for hair care. The first toe is missing altogether. The forelimbs have small brushes with claws. Kangaroos skillfully use them like hands. They can grab food, dig the ground, and can strike opponents.
Interesting! Surprisingly, the forelimbs are used as a means for thermoregulation. Animals lick them, and when the saliva dries, it cools the blood inside the superficial blood vessels, lowering the body temperature.
The color of the coat is predominantly gray. May vary slightly depending on region. The region of the spinal column and sides is darker in color than the lower half of the body. Males are always slightly darker than females.
Where does the giant kangaroo live?
Everyone knows that the kangaroo comes from Australia. However, this is not the only region where they live.
Geographic regions of the giant kangaroo:
- New Guinea;
- Bismarck Archipelago;
- New Zealand;
- Kawau Island.
Animals can exist in a wide variety of climatic regions: from the dry, hot Australian climate in the central regions to humid tropical areas along the perimeter of the continent. These amazing animals are not at all afraid of people, so they can settle near densely populated human settlements. They are also attracted by the agricultural land located in the area, as food can always be found there. Farmers often feed animals with vegetables, fruits, and other crops grown on the farm. For the most part, giant kangaroos are terrestrial animals that prefer flat terrain with dense vegetation and shrubs as places to live.
There are some species of animals adapted to living in trees, as well as in mountainous areas. The largest number of animals is concentrated in the southern part of Australia in the area of Queensland, Victoria, New Wales. Also favorite places for the settlement of marsupials are the basins of the Darlin and Murray rivers. Open valleys, as well as rainforests near water sources, attract animals with a variety and abundance of food.
What does a giant kangaroo eat?
Marsupials are considered herbivores. They feed exclusively on plant foods. Due to the peculiarities of the structure of the lower jaw, as well as the digestive tract, the absence of fangs, they are able to chew and digest only plant foods. Moreover, it can be quite coarse and dry vegetation. Anything that animals can grab and that is nearby can become a food source.
What kangaroos can eat:
- Roots of shrubs, grass;
- Leaves, young shoots;
- They like eucalyptus and acacia leaves;
- Fruits of fruit trees;
- Legus in bloom;
- Porcupine Grass
Animals that live in rainforests, as well as pools of water sources, have the opportunity to eat more juicy, diverse vegetation. Kangaroos that live in the central regions of Australia with a dry, hot climate are forced to eat rough, dry plants, thorns. Scientists have found that males need about an hour and a half more time to saturate than females. However, females, especially those that carry and feed their young, choose those types of vegetation that are richest in protein.
Marsupials of the Australian flora and fauna are distinguished by unpretentiousness in food. And it is common to easily change the diet, while eating even such types of vegetation that they have never eaten before. Vegetables and fruits grown on farms are considered a special delicacy for them. Marsupials almost never consume water, since it enters the body with plants in sufficient quantities.
Character and Lifestyle Features
Giant kangaroos are animals that live as part of a group. These are small groups of animals, which include one or more males and several females, as well as cubs. The leading position is assigned to the male. Grown up cubs leave their native family to build their own. The group exists in a strict hierarchy. Leaders are given the best place to sleep and rest, as well as the most delicious and juicy food.
It is noteworthy that it is unusual for groups of kangaroos to occupy certain territories, so there is no enmity for their habitat among them. If the habitat contains the required amount of food, as well as favorable climatic conditions, and predators do not live on it, kangaroos can form numerous groups, which include up to 7-8 dozen individuals. They can simply, for no apparent reason, leave the area where they settled and go to another place.
They are most active at night and in the dark. This reduces the risk of being hunted by predatory animals. During the day, they prefer to rest, or sleep in a shady area, hiding from the intense heat. For permanent habitation, animals dig holes for themselves with their front paws, or build nests from grass and other types of vegetation. As soon as any member of the group feels the approach of danger, he begins to knock on the ground with his front paws and make certain sounds, reminiscent of clicking, grunting, or hissing. The rest of the group takes this as a signal to flee.
Interesting! Kangaroos use their hind limbs as a means of self-defense and defense, which have tremendous impact power.
Social structure and reproduction
There is no definite time of the year when the mating season begins. They can breed all year round. Males fight for the right to care for a female. It resembles human fights without rules. Animals stand on their hind limbs, leaning on their tail, and begin to beat each other with their forelimbs. In such fights, they can inflict serious injuries on each other. Males tend to mark their territory with saliva, which has a specific smell. He can leave such marks on grass, bushes, trees, and on females that attract their attention. Thus, they give information to other males that this female is already occupied.
Females reach sexual maturity at about 2-2.5 years. In males, this period occurs somewhat later. With age, males increase in size, which increases their chances of winning the fight for the right to enter into marriage relations. In some groups, the largest male may do most of the mating.
Pregnancy lasts only a month. It is noteworthy that in animals there is no placenta and there are as many as three vaginas. One of them is intended for carrying and giving birth to a baby, the other two are for mating. Most often, one female gives birth to one cub. Due to the lack of a placenta, kangaroos are born very weak, underdeveloped and helpless. After birth, the female transfers them to her fur bag. There they stick to the nipple and spend almost another year, until they get stronger and grow up. Underdeveloped babies do not have a sucking reflex, so the female herself regulates the flow of milk to the cub by contracting certain muscle groups. The babies stay in the mother’s pouch until she has new offspring.
Giant kangaroos’ natural enemies
In their natural habitat, marsupials do not have many enemies. The main and most important enemy are dingo dogs. However, in recent years, their numbers have declined sharply, which has had a positive effect on the kangaroo population. In addition to dingoes, kangaroos can become prey for foxes, and larger predators of the cat family. Large feathered predators are of particular danger to kangaroos. They very often hunt kangaroo cubs, they can pull them out with tenacious claws right from their mother’s paws. Animals also die due to fires that spread at lightning speed over vast areas in a hot, arid climate.
Contributes to the reduction of the population and human activity. People are developing more and more territories, destroying the natural habitat of animals, and also killing them, protecting their farms. At all times, kangaroos were killed in order to obtain meat and skins. Animal meat is considered a low-calorie, easily digestible food. However, it differs in some rigidity, with the exception of meat in the tail area. The skin of the animal is also of great value. Aborigines appreciate it very much for its strength and warmth. It can be used to make belts, bags, wallets, and other items.
Population and species status
Today, the giant kangaroo population is approximately 2,000,000 individuals worldwide. In comparison, about 20 years ago, the number of individuals in the world totaled about 10,000,000 individuals. However, in recent years, stable stability in the growth of the number of individuals has been noted. Today, animals are not threatened. They actively breed in their natural habitat. In Australia, even at the legislative level, hunting is allowed upon the purchase of a license.
In the early 20th century, the marsupial population was sharply reduced due to a strong increase in the population of dingoes, which are the main enemies of kangaroos in nature. They were also massively destroyed by farmers, whom they caused serious damage, destroying their crops. To date, the population of giant kangaroos is not threatened. No measures were taken to protect and increase the species. Animals can get along well with humans, feel comfortable in captivity.