We think it’s safe to say that all of us know what kangaroos are. Kangaroos have been portrayed on television and in films as big, brown animals who carry their young in their pouches. Which is true for this marsupial from the Macropods family, for they do have pouches in their tummies where they put their babies in – but there’s more interesting things that one has to know about them.
For one, the word Kangaroo is from gangurru, a Guugu Yimithirr word. Stories stated that this is the etymology of the word ‘kangaroo’, because when Sir Joseph Banks arrived at Cooktown, Queensland, Australia, he asked if what do they call kangaroos, but the natives responded ‘gangurru’. He thought it was the animal’s name, but the real meaning of that term is “I don’t understand you”. However, this myth was debunked by John B. Haviland, a linguist who researched about the said dialect.
What Do Kangaroos Look Like?
Now that you know their name, you should also have an in-depth knowledge of how they look like. In contrast to our common perception that all kangaroos look alike, they actually come in four different species who look the same but have various distinct characteristics from each other.
Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus), the most common type of kangaroo we see are present in all parts of the world. They have long, pointed ears and short, red-brown fur, fading to pale buff below and on the limbs. The females of their kind are smaller than males and usually have a brown tinge, pale grey below, except for the ones that are present in arid countries, which has more colored fur than males.
We also have the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), which trumps the population of Red Kangaroo, in spite of its popularity. They are the most adaptable specie of all kangaroos and are the heaviest too. Although they look almost the same as red kangaroos with grey fur, the difference is in their muffles. Red Kangaroos have markings in their muffles while Eastern Grey Kangaroos have none.
Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) also has grey-brown fur and dark colouration around the head, which makes it difficult to be distinguished from Eastern Grey Kangaroos. The only difference is their fur is darker compared to the Eastern Grey Kangaroos.
Antilopine Kangaroo (Macropus antilopinus), on the other hand, does not resemble the former types of kangaroos that were mentioned above. As a matter of fact, antilopine kangaroos were named as such because they have an uncanny resemblance with antelopes.
Where do Kangaroos Live?
Kangaroos are endemic to Australia, so even if you see kangaroos in your local zoo, this can mean that they might be imported from Australia to your country because they originate from this place.
A rough estimate of the Australian government has also shown that 34.3 million kangaroos lived within Australia in 2011. This is a really big figure, considering that the population in Australia is 36 million last 2009.
What Do Kangaroos Eat?
Red kangaroos, western grey kangaroos and antilopine kangaroos mostly eat shrubs in their diet while eastern grey kangaroos eat a wide variety of grasses. However, in spite of these differences, all of them only eat plants. Some of the smaller species also consume fungi sometimes, but they are strict herbivores.
Kangaroos also drink water, but according to research, they could still survive amidst the absence of it. According to University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, in hot summer days, kangaroos also need to drink but they only hydrate at least twice a week. They are capable of such because they have eaten enough succulents to keep them going which supplies their need for water.
What Do Kangaroos Eat in Captivity?
In zoos, kangaroos are mostly fed with specially formulated for grazers. They also eat willows and maple branches which they munch on so much. Zoo keepers feed them fruits and vegetables at times and extra greens such as dandelion leaves and romaines.
Do Kangaroos Eat Carrots?
Kangaroos love carrots! They eat a wide variety of garden plants such as carrots, broccoli, apples and bananas. So, if ever you are thinking of adopting kangaroos but live in the urban areas where grass and shrubs are scarce, you can start shopping carrots now.
How Do Kangaroos Get Their Food?
It is essential to note that kangaroos have developed a specialized teeth for their diet. Their incisors (front teeth) can crop the grass even when they are so close to the ground. It’s molars can also chop and grind their food. These characteristics are important for herbivores, since they mostly gnaw on leaves. Have you also noticed their wide bite? This is because their lower incisors grow horizontally, instead of upright. This tooth structure is definitely efficient for grazers like them.
They also similar chambered stomachs like cattle and sheep. Since it’s known that one’s anatomical structure is related to its physiology, we can tell that regurgitation also occurs when they eat, masticate the cud once more, then swallow if after for the final digestion.
Do Kangaroos Eat Meat?
An infamous picture of a kangaroo devouring a bird has taken the internet by storm. One might think that this is highly improbable, since they are known as herbivores and their teeth structure also hinders them from being carnivores, because they do not have sharp canines to tear and shear flesh. And this is true. Kangaroos are herbivores by nature, but it is not impossible that they are trying on something new.
It is fun to see kangaroos on television, but it is definitely more interesting to get to know them by their physical features, their behavior and what they eat. By this, we can get a better of view of how they live and the way they interact with the environment. After all, we are also mammals like them, so this gives us more reasons why we should know the important facts about these furry friends.