Kangaroos and Wallabies (Encyclopedia of Science)
Kangaroos and wallabies are pouched mammals, or marsupials, of Australia and nearby islands that are famous for their great leaping ability. The name kangaroo is usually used for large species and wallaby for smaller ones. They all belong to the family Macropodidae, meaning "big footed," and they are mainly herbivorous, or plant-eating. Most members of the family are nocturnal, feeding at night. Some live on the ground and some in trees. The largest kangaroo is the male red kangaroo, whose head and body can grow up to 6 feet (almost 2 meters) tall and tail to about 3.5 feet (1 meter) long. It can weigh 200 pounds (90 kilograms).
The two hind legs of kangaroos and wallabies are enlarged for leaping. The hind feet have four toes: two tiny ones used for grooming; a third, huge toe with a strong, sharp claw that can be used as a weapon; and another small toe. The kangaroo's two hands have five clawed fingers, all approximately the same length, used for grasping.
Kangaroos are often called "living pogo sticks"; indeed, the grey kangaroo has been known to jump up to 30 feet (over 9 meters) long and 6 feet (almost 2 meters) high. Because the springlike tendons in their hind legs store energy for leaps, it has been calculated that kangaroos actually use less energy hopping than a horse uses in running. A kangaroo tends to move in a leisurely fashion using all four feet plus...
(The entire section is 1538 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!