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all you ever wanted to know about kangaroos

Natural History & Ecology frontal view of a kangaroo's head
Evolution Adaptations
Environment Kangaroos & the Future

Evolution
About eight million years ago, the continent of Australia experienced dramatic climate changes. The climate became cool and dry. This climate change caused the center of the continent to dry out. Starting around 30 million years ago, rat-sized creatures that lived on the tops of trees, leapt down from the safety of trees. They evolved into modern day kangaroos.

Environment
Kangaroos are found mostly on Australia and surrounding countries such as New Zealand, Tasmania, and New Guinea. The red kangaroo is found in dry conditions in central Australia. Red kangaroos are also found in grasslands, savannas, and open woodlands. Gray Kangaroos tend to live in the southwest regions of Australia. They prefer dense scrub found in open forests and woodlands. Tree kangaroos are found high up the rain forest canopy. Once predators, such as humans, disturb kangaroos they may settle into a new region several miles away.

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Adaptations
kangaroo drinking from a stream
Over the years, kangaroos have developed special adaptations. They have the ability to hop 15-25 miles per hour for several miles. While hoping in short distances, they are able to get up to 40 miles per hour. This allows them to outrun predators and use resources in a large area because they are capable to cover large distances rapidly. To cool down after running long distances, they pant and also sweat.

Kangaroos & the Future
Over the past few decades, Australia has been trying to control the population of the kangaroo because they overgraze pasture land. According to Australia’s Federal Department, in 1997 there were over 19 million kangaroos. Over the last thirty years, the population has been increasing little by little; however, the population is trying to be controlled by hunting for their meat and skin. Weather has also been a factor in population control. Droughts play a huge factor because if there is no rainfall, plants are not able to flourish, which then leads to limited resources. At this time, Australia has allowed hunting to be done on kangaroos. Currently, there are only five species of large kangaroos that are considered fair game. Hunters focus mainly on red and gray kangaroos and also the common wallaroo.

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Questions? Contact Caryn at sissonce@uwec.edu
Page Last Updated on November 7, 2003