Wallaby

Wallabies are small to medium-sized jumping marsupials. They are almost identical to kangaroos. They have an upright posture supported by two disproportionately large hind legs and small forelimbs, as well as a large thick tail. Using jumping as its main mode of transportation, the wallaby can easily travel at 25 km/h and reach a top speed of 48 km/h.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Wallaby

Photo: Wallabies

Australia was once considered the home of marsupials, but in fact, according to new genetic research, all living marsupials such as wallabies, kangaroos, and opossums now may have originated in South America. With the help of modern methods, it was possible to use new genetic data on some of these species to trace the family tree.

By comparing the genomes of the South American opossum (Monodelphis domestica) and the Australian wallaby (Macropus eugenii) for specific genetic markers, scientists have found that these animals must come from the same branch of mammals.

Video: Wallaby

The results showed that the marsupials began from a common ancestor in South America, and the branching happened long ago when South America, Antarctica and Australia were connected to each other as part of a large landmass called Gondwana. This allowed the animals to populate Australia. The discovery contradicts previous opinion. But it has not yet been possible to confirm the results obtained by excavated fossils.

Wallaby (Macropus eugenii) is a species of mammals of the kangaroo genus (Macropus) and a member of the kangaroo family (Macropodidae). The first mention of this species can be found among Dutch sailors in 1628. The term wallaby itself is taken from the language of Eora. This tribe previously lived in what is now Sydney. Wallabies, like other marsupials, are called joeys.

Appearance and Features

Photo: Wallaby animal

Photo: Wallaby Animal

Wallabies are small to medium sized marsupials. They belong to the same taxonomic family as the kangaroo and sometimes to the same genus. The term “wallaby” does not have a clear definition. It is usually used to refer to any marsupial of small size. Wallabies are not a separate biological group, but a kind of association of several genera. There are about 30 types of wallabies.

Good to know! In the narrow sense of the term wallaby, the Wallabia genus includes one extant species (the Swamp Wallaby) and the discovered fossils of other now defunct species.

The powerful hind legs of animals are used for jumping long distances. Mountain wallabies (genus Petrogale) specialize in rugged terrain and have feet adapted for gripping rock rather than digging into the ground with large claws. Wallabies' forelimbs are small and primarily used for feeding. They have a pointed muzzle, large ears and a fur coat that can be gray, black, red, brown or white.

Like kangaroos, they have powerful and long tails used for balance. Dwarf Wallaby — the smallest member of the genus and the smallest known member of the kangaroo family. Its length is about 46 cm from the nose to the tip of the tail, and its weight is about 1.6 kg. In addition, there are forest wallabies or philanders (padenelomas), five species of which have survived in New Guinea.

The wallaby's eyes are high on the skull and provide the animal with a 324° field of view with 25° overlap (humans have a 180° field of view with 120° overlap). His eyesight has a sensitivity comparable to that of rabbits, cattle, or horses. Wallabies have large pointed ears that can rotate 180° independently of each other.

Where do wallabies live?

Photo: Wallaby Kangaroo

Photo: Wallaby Kangaroo

Wallabies are widely distributed throughout Australia, especially in more remote, heavily forested areas, to a lesser extent on large semi-arid plains that are better suited to large ones. slender and faster-footed kangaroos. They can also be found on the island of Guinea, which until recent geological times was part of mainland Australia.

Rock wallabies live almost exclusively in rugged terrain, along rocky hills, boulders, sandstone and caves. Other species prefer arid grassy plains or well-landscaped coastal areas, tropical forests. In South Australia, agile and reddish-gray wallabies are common. Other species are less common.

Several species of wallaby have been introduced to other parts of the world, and there are a number of breeding populations, including:

  • Kawau Island has become home to a large number of tammar (eugenii), parma (parma rediscovered, believed to be extinct within 100 years), marsh (bicolor) and rock-tailed wallabies (Petrogale penicillata) from 1870 introductions;
  • The Lake Tarawera area has a large population of tammar (eugenii) in New Zealand;
  • There are many wallabies in southern New Zealand Bennett’s;
  • There are over 100 red-and-grey wallabies in the area on the Isle of Man, descendants of a couple who escaped from a wildlife park in 1970;
  • Hawaii has a small population on Oahu, which originated from a stone-tailed zoo escape wallabies (Petrogale penicillata) in 1916;
  • In England's Peak District nature reserve, a population also originated from zoo escapees in 1940;
  • In Inchconnachan Island, Scotland, home to about 28 red-grey wallabies;
  • Several individuals were introduced to Lambay Island off the east coast of Ireland in the 1950s. The colony expanded in the 1980s after a sudden population surge at the Dublin Zoo;
  • In France, in the Rambouillet forest, 50 km west of Paris, there is a wild group of about 30 Bennett’s wallabies . The population began in the 1970s when wallabies escaped from the Emanse Zoo after a storm.

What do wallabies eat?

Photo: Wallaby Kangaroo

Photo: Wallaby Kangaroo

Wallabies are herbivores, the main part of the diet of grass and plants. Their long faces leave plenty of room for jaws and large, flat teeth for chewing vegetarian food. They can eat leaves and fruits, vegetables and berries, flowers, moss, ferns, grasses and even insects. They prefer to feed at night, early in the morning and late in the evening when it's cool.

Fun fact! The Wallaby has a chambered belly, similar to a horse. Its anterior stomach helps digest fibrous vegetation. The animal regurgitates food, chews again and swallows (chews cud), which helps to break down coarse fibers and improves digestion.

When grazing, wallabies often gather in small groups, although most species are solitary. To quench their thirst, they go to watering places, but in case of danger, they can do without water and food for a long time. The animal extracts moisture from food. It is a hardy species that can make do with little if need be.

Due to recent urbanization, many wallaby species now feed in rural and urban areas. They travel great distances in search of food and water, which are often in short supply in their environment. During the dry season, crowds of wallabies often gather around the same watering hole.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Wallaby Animal

Photo: Wallaby animal

Wallabies are well adapted to the dry, hot Australian climate. It also senses the weather very well and detects precipitation up to 20 km away and heads towards it.

That's curious! Wallabies produce virtually no methane, which is produced in large quantities by livestock and sheep. The wallaby's digestive system converts the hydrogen by-products of digestion into acetate, which is then absorbed and used for energy. Instead, the wallaby emits carbon dioxide, which is 23 times less harmful to the environment than methane.

The animal has very small, almost non-existent vocal cords. For this reason, they have a limited range of sounds. The marsupial moves by jumping. If he needs to move a short distance, he makes small jumps, if he needs to overcome large spaces, the length of the jumps increases.

Like all marsupials, wallabies have strong hind legs and large feet that are specially designed for jumping. He perfected this method of locomotion to make it one of the fastest and most efficient ways to travel great distances.

Wallabies move very quietly compared to other animals. The reason for this is the wallaby's soft feet and the fact that only two of its feet touch the ground. It can easily turn on one foot and quickly change direction. He can make a 180° turn in one jump.

The Wallaby is capable of making very limited backward jumps in combat. However, in reality it cannot be a means of transportation. In addition, the animal cannot walk forward or backward by moving its legs on its own. Wallabies live from 6 to 15 years.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Wallaby Cub

Photo: Wallaby Baby

A wallaby baby known as a joey is very small at birth. It resembles a 2 cm jelly and weighs only one gram. Human children are about 3,500 times larger. Marsupial babies have two stages of development. One inside the mother is similar to placental mammals such as humans, and the other outside the mother's body in a special outer pouch called a pouch. Hence the name marsupial.

Stage 1. Joey is born about 30 days after fertilization. The calf emerges from the mother's birth canal blind, hairless, with a plump forelimb and almost no hind legs. Using its tiny forelimbs in a swimming motion (breaststroke), baby joey crawls through its mother's dense fur towards the pouch. The pouch is located on the abdomen of the female. This journey takes about three minutes. He moves completely independently. The female does not help in any way.

Stage 2 Once in his mother's pouch, Joey quickly attaches to one of the four nipples. Once the baby attaches to the female's nipple, it will be hidden inside for up to six and a half months. Joey then begins to carefully pull his head out of the bag and observe the world around him. After about two weeks, he will gain enough confidence to go outside and quickly jump back to safety if frightened.

Only at 8 months old, the wallaby stops hiding in the mother's pouch and becomes independent. Male wallabies don't have purses.

Wallabies' natural enemies

Photo: Wallabies

Photo: Wallabies

When threatened, wallabies hit themselves down their legs and make a hoarse sound to signal an alarm to others. They can strike hard with their hind legs and bite, a technique also used by males fighting each other.

Wallabies have several natural predators:

  • Dingoes;
  • Wedge-tailed eagles;
  • Tasmanian devils;
  • Large reptiles, such as crocodiles and snakes.

The wallaby is able to defend itself against predators by striking them with its long, powerful tail. Small wallabies fall prey to local lizards, snakes and wedge-tailed eagles. Humans also pose a significant threat to wallabies. For the locals, they are a traditional form of food, they are hunted for their meat and fur.

Interesting fact! The importation of foxes, cats, and dogs into Australia and their rapid breeding has had a detrimental effect on many species, pushing some to the brink of extinction.

To improve the population, some species of endangered wallabies bred in captivity are released into their natural habitat, where they immediately become easy prey for predators in the wild. Efforts to reintroduce them often lead to problems. If you can teach wallabies to be afraid of predators, this will prevent the problem.

Wallabies have a general and innate idea of ​​what their predators look like. Therefore, people seek to awaken memories in them. When a bunch of animals are released into the wild, they need support. It is still too early to tell if training will improve the wallaby's chances of survival.

Population and Species Status

Photo: Wallaby Animal

Photo: Wallaby Animal

Populations of most species have declined significantly since the European migration. Agricultural development has resulted in land clearing and habitat loss, a major threat to existing species.

In addition, population threats include:

  • Herbivores – rabbits, sheep, goats, cattle — compete with marsupials for food, especially in dry areas where food is scarce.
  • Many wallabies are involved in car accidents, as they often feed near roads and urban areas.
  • Most Changes in the traditional regimes of burning grasses on pastures have had a significant impact. This reduced the wallaby's food source and increased the number of destructive hot summer fires.
  • Deforestation is leading to a reduction in the forest variety of philanderer wallabies.
  • Some species are considered agricultural pests and are destroyed by local residents.
  • A number of introduced animals, such as dingoes, foxes, wild cats and dogs, wallabies attack.
  • Tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) have become virtually extinct in their home territory of mainland Australia, mainly due to foxes. But they survive where there are no predators – on small coastal islands and in New Zealand.

Many species are quite prolific and therefore not endangered. But some, such as alpines, are considered endangered.

Wallaby Conservation

Photo: Wallaby from the Red Book

Photo: Wallabies from the Red Book

Aborigines have had little effect on the overall survival of the wallaby population in the 50 million years of their coexistence. But since the arrival of European settlers, people began to have a greater influence. Some species of wallaby have been more severely affected and may even become extinct.

The following are listed on the IUCN Red List:

  • Endangered Black Forest wallaby;
  • Critically Endangered Proserpine Mountain Wallaby;
  • Endangered Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby;
  • Rufous Hare Wallaby or Warrup – Vulnerable to extinction;
  • Bridled Nail-tail Wallabies are Vulnerable to Extinction;

Five subspecies of Blackfoot Mountain Wallaby are in varying degrees of danger and are listed as either Endangered or Vulnerable. Captive breeding programs for mountain wallabies have had some success, and recently a small number have been released into the wild.

The striped wallaby hare (Lagostrophus flaviatus) is thought to be the last remaining member of the once abundant subfamily Sthenurinae, and although they used to be extremely common in southern Australia, the current range is limited to two islands off the coast of Western Australia that are free of predators. Unfortunately, some species of wallaby have become extinct completely. Oriental Kangaroo Hare, Crescent Fang Wallaby — these are two species that have become extinct since European settlement.

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