The Red Kangaroo: The Largest Marsupial

The Red Kangaroo: The Largest Marsupial

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                   Marsupials refer to an infraclass of mammals. An infraclass in turn refers to a further subdivision of a subclass (zoology). Marsupials are commonly characterized by a pouch by which they carry their young at infancy. Most widely known marsupials are kangaroos, koalas, wombats and sugar gliders.

                   The Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is the largest of all kangaroo species and the largest surviving marsupial. Found across mainland Australia except the fertile areas of the south, east coast and the northern rainforests, the males of this type of kangaroo grow up to a body length of 1.4 meters (4 ft 7 in) long and weigh up to 85 kgs (190 lbs). Females attain body lengths just a feet shorter than the males and weighs a hundred pound lighter on average. Reported sizes of large male red kangaroos reaching 2 meters (6 ft 7 in) had been occasionally noted.

                    Red Kangaroos are characterized by long pointed earlobes and squared off muscle. The smaller females usually appear in blue grey with brown tinge and pale grey below. They have two forelimbs with small claws, two muscular hind legs usually used for jumping and a strong, long tail which functions as a tripod support when standing upright. Red Kangaroos’ hind legs work like a rubber band or a bow string allowing them to leap over a distance. Males were known to have leaped at a maximum of 9 meters (30 ft) in a single bound.

                     Red Kangaroos display an amazing ability to maintain their internal temperature at a point of equilibrium at 36°C (97°F). They utilize a variety of physical, behavioural and physiological ways to achieve this. Their fur further functions as an insulating layer keeping them from extreme heat and an act of panting, sweating and licking of their forelimbs has been known to aid in cooling them out of the typical temperature of Australian outdoors. Their numbers cover grasslands, scrublands and desert environments over Australia although they were known to avoid areas characterized by shade and many trees . Red Kangaroos thrive on grasses and shrubs. They have the ability to endure long periods without water as long as green plants are within reach (they are capable to extract moisture from plants).

                       Humans tend to be the ultimate threat for Red Kangaroos. Their increasing numbers poses a threat to livestock and they were often taken as pests by farmers in Australia. Their increasing numbers compelled Australian authorities to regulate them as a subject of hunting to harvest their hides and meat. A recorded 1,173,242 of these animals were killed in the year 2000 and in 2009, the government put a limit at 1,611,216 for the number of these animals to be utilized commercially. The contribution of the kangaroo industry to the Australian economy was estimated at AU$ 270 million a year and keeps 4,000 people employed.  Kangaroo meats are ideal for human consumption owing to less fat content and are known to be processed as pet food. As for kangaroo skins, they were noted source of the lightest and strongest leather where professional soccer players prefer to wear boots made out of it.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Kangaroo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsupial

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Richard Wing
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