In light of the horrific fires in Australia, we wanted to release one of our special episodes. This was recorded in December for our Patreon only listeners. However, with the tragedy unfolding in Australia we felt compelled to share this episode with you. Red Kangaroos are an iconic species of Australia and just fascinating. We hope you enjoy this episode to learn about one of the planet’s most unique mammals.
Red Kangaroo History
The term ‘kangaroo’ comes from the Aboriginal word “gangarru”, from the Guugu Yimithirr language, which is spoken in far north Queensland. Kangaroos are marsupials, whose evolution dates back nearly 125 million years. Marsupials first arrived in Australia around 70 million years ago. Australian marsupials evolved in many ways to meet the challenges of drier habitats over the last 15 million years. Teeth, for example, reflect adaptive changes from browsing (on woody vegetation in moist climates) to grazing (on grasses in arid climates). Kangaroo ancestors were quadrupedal (walking on four legs most of the time) in forested habitats and became progressively more bipedal as habitats dried out and opened up.
An example of an early kangaroo can be found in the rainforests of Queensland. There lives the tiny clambering musky rat-kangaroo, weighing not much more than half a kilogram. This species is a living fossil, having been around for tens of millions of years. There are over 60 species of Kangaroos that belong to the Family of Macropodidae (Macropods- large foot). These can be broken down into:
- Wallabies- smaller of the typical “kangaroo”
- Wallaroos- size in between wallabies and kangaroos
- Tree Kangaroos- smaller tree-dwelling kangaroos
- Kangaroos- largest of all the species and considered the “true” kangaroo
Red Kangaroos range over most of Australia in the semi-arid plains, grasslands, woodlands and open forests.
Red Kangaroo Physiology
Red Kangaroos are the largest kangaroo. They can can get almost 6 feet (2 m) tall with tails almost 40 inches (1 m) in length. They can weigh up to 200 lbs (85 kg). Males are also bigger than females. Other facts include:
- Live up to 23 years
- A red kangaroo can reach speeds of over 35 miles an hour (56 kph)
- Their bounding gait allows them to cover 25 feet(7.5 m) in a single leap and to jump 6 feet high (almost 2 m)
- Kangaroos are good swimmers — miraculously being able to move their back limbs independently when they are water.
- Kangaroos have excellent hearing, and like some other animals are able to move their ears in different directions without moving the rest of their hea
- Grasses, and occasionally shrubs
- Up to 95% of diet is grass
- If it is eating green plants it is able to go without water for long periods of time.
- Kidneys specialized to conserve water and concentrate their urine
Red Kangaroo Conservation
Kangaroos in general are doing quite well in Australia. So much so, some consider them pests. Undoubtedly many kangaroos have died in the current fire crises, but generally the larger kangaroos as a species are safe. Red Kangaroos are classified as Least Concerned with an estimated population of 11.5 million.
In the podcast we talk about not eating Kangaroos or using kangaroo by products. This is a tough issue for us as Kangaroos are wildlife and while yes we understand there may be culling needed to control populations. However, with the current fire and climate crisis in Australia, these animals and other Australian wildlife deserve careful observation to see how these populations respond.