The gray kangaroo is an amazing and unusually beautiful representative of the Australian flora and fauna. The large gray kangaroo is also referred to as the gigantic kangaroo. This species of animals, depending on the region of habitat, is further subdivided into two subspecies: western and eastern. Under natural conditions, the two subspecies never interbred, and in captivity they could well produce joint offspring. Eastern gray kangaroos are champions among their relatives in size and body weight.
Origin of the species and description
Kangaroos are representatives of chordate mammals , allocated to the order of two-cut marsupials, the family of kangaroos, the genus of gigantic kangaroos. The first mention of these amazing animals falls on 1606, when a native of the Netherlands explored modern Australia.
In his notes, he described an incredible beast, which the locals call “genguru”. All members of the expedition were amazed by the unusual, unprecedented beast and its habits and curiosity. Having studied the notes of the researcher and members of his team, zoologists of that time became interested in this representative of the Australian flora and fauna.
Video: Gray kangaroo
Scientists have conducted a lot of genetic and other studies to determine the origin and evolution of kangaroos. Based on the results obtained, it was possible to determine that the founders of the genus were Procoptodons. They did not have such long hind limbs, and therefore they were not able to jump like modern animals. The hind limbs were used by animals for locomotion. Procoptodon completely died out a little over 15 million years ago.
According to other studies conducted, it was possible to establish a connection between modern gray kangaroos, procoptodons and musky kangaroo rats. The mass of rodents was 800 – 1000 grams. They were distinguished by excellent adaptability and survival. Well adapted to almost any environmental conditions. It has been established that kangaroo rats already existed on earth about 30 million years ago. Animals ate everything that was edible and lived almost everywhere, including trees. They then spread to different regions and gave rise to several animal species.
The largest individual of the gray kangaroo is a male, whose height exceeded three meters and weighed 65.5 kilograms.
Appearance and features
The gray kangaroo is considered the largest of all existing animal species. Its growth reaches about two meters in height. A distinctive feature of the species is a very long, powerful tail, the length of which is almost equal to the length of the body. The average length of the tail is one meter.
The tail performs the function of balancing and is used to maintain balance while jumping. If the animals are on the defensive, or enter into a fight, they lean on the tail and hit the enemy with their hind limbs. The mass of one adult is from 30 to 70 kilograms. Animals have pronounced sexual dimorphism, and males are significantly larger than females, sometimes almost twice.
Animals have thick, not long and rather coarse hair. Its color is determined by the region where it lives. The coat can be light brown, grey, or deep grey. The area of the neck, chest and abdomen is noticeably lighter than all other parts of the body. Animals have a small head and long protruding ears.
The hind limbs are very wide, powerful and long. Their length reaches 50-65 centimeters. They have long claws and strong, very well-developed muscles. Compared to them, the forelimbs look too small and weak. They have five fingers, and their marsupials often use them as hands, taking food and sending it to their mouths. Females have a special bag in the lower abdomen, which is designed to transport and raise cubs.
Where does the gray kangaroo live?
The homeland of the animal is Australia, in particular, almost the whole of Queensland. Marsupials are distributed almost throughout the continent. The exception is the zone of the western parts of Cape York, South Wales, some regions of Tasmania, especially the North East. There are numerous populations in New Guinea and in the area of the Bismarck archipelago. Kangaroos were brought by man to New Guinea, where they successfully took root.
Gray kangaroos live in:
- southern regions of Australia;
- New South Wales;
When choosing a habitat, the gray kangaroo is not picky and selective. It can be found in a variety of areas – in woodlands, meadows, desert areas. Woodlands and mountainous terrain are no exception. As a habitat, gray kangaroos prefer regions with high rainfall, but they feel quite comfortable in regions with a semi-arid climate.
Kangaroos are not at all afraid of people, so they often settle near human settlements. They can be found on the outskirts in sparsely populated settlements. The vast majority of gray kangaroo populations live on flat terrain with thickets of shrubs, tall grass or in forests. Because of this, they are even called forest kangaroos. They can be found in rocky areas, where they feel quite comfortable.
What does the gray kangaroo eat?
Animals are herbivores, so the main part of the diet is food of plant origin. They feed mainly on juicy green grass, young shoots of shrubs and other types of vegetation. They can eat seeds, fruits of fruit and vegetable plants. Due to the fact that there is a sufficient amount of water in the succulent vegetation, kangaroos practically do not drink, they cover the need for water with moisture from succulent green plants.
What is the food base of the gray kangaroo:
- beans in bloom;
- eucalyptus leaves;
- fruits and seeds of various types of vegetation;
- insect larvae, worms.
Giant gray kangaroos go out to feed mainly at night. According to zoologists, males spend one hour more per day on food than females, but females choose food richer in proteins, which ensures richer and more nutritious milk during the period of feeding offspring.
Scientists note that kangaroos are distinguished by resourcefulness, unpretentiousness and excellent adaptability. Due to this, they are easily able to switch to other types of food if necessary. In the absence of a sufficient amount of food, they may well feed on dry vegetation, shrubs.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Gray kangaroos have an excellent sense of smell and very acute hearing. Large ears are able to turn after the sound source. Animals are peaceful in nature, but if they feel threatened or need to defend themselves, they can be very dangerous. The main combat weapon is the hind limbs with powerful and very developed muscles and huge claws.
The animals are in excellent shape. They are very fast capable of developing great speed. The maximum allowed speed for short distances is 87 km/h. The average speed of movement of gray kangaroos is 40-50 km/h. When moving at a higher speed, they spend less energy. If they move at low speed, they rely on all four limbs, which gives the impression that they are crawling.
Animals are the absolute champions among the representatives of the animal world in high jumps. The maximum jump height can be up to 10 meters!
It is unusual for gray gigantic kangaroos to lead a solitary lifestyle. They gather in groups that the locals call “mobs”. At the head of each mob there is a leader, whose task is to take care of the order in the group, as well as warn other participants about the onset of danger or the approach of enemies.
Groups of animals consist mainly of young individuals and females. Males are included in the group only during the mating season. Several mobs can safely feed on the same territory, while not being hostile at all. When one of the members of the group feels the approach of danger, he begins to drum on the ground with his hind legs, warning the others about this.
The greatest activity is observed at night or twilight. During the day, animals hide in the shade of trees and shrubs, as well as in holes they dig themselves.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The mating season is not tied to a specific season. The peak of birth rate falls on the spring-autumn period. Males reach sexual maturity at 16-17 months, females at 19-20 months. At the onset of the mating season, the male occupying the leading position in the group mates with the females that exist within it. The right for the leadership of the male is defended in the process of fights. Such skirmishes often end in serious injury.
After mating, a gestation period begins, which lasts only one month. One, less often two blind cubs are born. The mass of one newborn does not exceed a kilogram, most often it is 0.7-0.8 kilograms. After birth, the baby moves into a warm and cozy mother's bag and sticks to the nipple. In it, the baby will be non-stop for the next 4-5 months of his life. After that, for a few more months, the baby kangaroo will crawl into its mother's bag to feed.
It is noteworthy that as the needs of kangaroos change, the composition of mother's milk changes. When the cub grows up and gets stronger, he leaves the warm shelter. After that, the female can mate and give offspring again. The average life expectancy of a giant gray kangaroo in natural conditions reaches 10 years, in captivity life expectancy can double.
Natural enemies of gray kangaroos
In natural conditions, kangaroos do not have too many enemies.
The main natural enemies of gray kangaroos are:
- large predators;
- some feathered predators.
Dingo dogs are the main enemies among representatives of the local flora and fauna. However, they tend to attack immature cubs, as well as old or weakened individuals. They cannot defeat adults and strong animals. The main enemy of marsupials was and remains a man. He kills kangaroos in order to obtain meat, which is considered very tasty and healthy. It is appreciated and bought as a delicacy in many countries of the world. Many locals hunt them for their skins.
Kangaroos are not at all afraid of people and often live in close proximity to them. Agricultural lands with grain crops are used as a forage base. Farmers shoot animals to protect their property. The increase in the number of local population, the expansion of the boundaries of the territory developed by them also contributes to a decrease in the number of kangaroo populations.
Another reason for the mass death of animals is fires, which quite often occur in areas with arid Australian climate. They quickly cover vast territories, and animals do not have time to move to other regions.
Population and species status
According to the latest data, the number of animals is about 2 million individuals. The last census was carried out by zoologists in 1996. Then the results were obtained on the exact presence of 1.7 million individuals. Zoologists say that today the number of animals has not changed.
Despite the fact that the number of gray giant kangaroos is declining, today they are not threatened with complete extinction. However, the authorities of the Australian continent at the legislative level decided to independently control the number of amazing marsupial representatives of the local flora and fauna. Despite the fact that meat is a great delicacy and very useful, and the animals themselves often cause serious damage to farms, it is forbidden to shoot them in order to protect agricultural land and meat production.
Permission for hunting and shooting by local authorities is issued only when the number of animals exceeds the maximum allowable, and they pose a serious threat to agriculture.
A sharp tendency to reduce the number of animals was observed in the middle of 20 centuries, when in nature the number of the main enemies of marsupials, dingo dogs, increased at a high rate. To date, this problem has been dealt with, and the number of wild dogs does not exceed the maximum allowable. Today, zoologists define the status of kangaroos as follows: having a minimal risk of extinction.
The gray kangaroo is a very interesting animal that is not at all afraid of people, and sometimes even vice versa, shows great interest in them. Many tourists come to Australia to admire these amazing animals. They are fairly common on Australian golf courses. In this regard, people can observe the manner of their behavior, and sometimes even communicate with them at arm's length in large, open spaces.