The kangaroo, one of the many types of marsupials, still flourishes, but only in Australia, as they have for millions of years, housing their babies in outside pockets. While many other animals have adapted over the years, the kangaroo has remained relatively unchanged. There are 50 some species, some of which are small like rabbits and some which can climb trees, living in Australia, Tasmania, northward to New Guinea and also in some neighboring islands.
The new born kangaroo is less than an inch long and semi-transparent like a worm. Three could easily fit in a teaspoon. The only part of the baby that is fully developed is its tiny front paws which are very similar to hands. The tiny baby grips a hold of mom’s fur and makes the journey to his mother’s pouch. Once there he attaches himself to her milk gland and she pumps milk into him, as he does not have the ability to feed himself. In order to keep him safely inside she has special muscles which keep her pouch securely around him.
The marsupials vary not only is size and appearance, but also in behavior. Some of the differences are:
- A kangaroo can survive longer without water than a camel
- Kangaroos graze on grass.
- The koala lives in trees and has a fondness for eucalyptus. It will carefully smell the leaf before eating as it quite discriminating and will not
- eat just any eucalyptus.
- The Tasmanian devil will attack other marsupials and animals and eat them.
- The wombat burrows underground like a groundhog.
- The opossum is the only marsupial which is still present in the United States.
- The kangaroo rat scurries around eating grains, insects and berries. It can cover territory quite quickly also.
- Macropods is another name used to refer to kangaroos, because it means big foot. Standing upright, they are actually on their tip toes. The heel of their hind feet appears to be a backward bent knee, but this long foot enables them to leap great heights.
- Horses have nothing on a kangaroo, when it comes to speed.
- Some marsupials, like the kangaroo, have pouches facing up, some like the koala, wombat, and bandicoot have pouches facing down, some only have fold of skin rather than a full pouch and some have no pouch at all.
The opossum defends itself by playing possum, and does it so well that one might actually believe it be dead. They assume a catatonic state and remain there until the danger has passed. Unfortunately, according to Discovery , this does not assist the opossum in the case of an oncoming car.
Quick facts about opossums:
- Quite adaptable and will live wherever it can find water, food and shelter.
- It climbs trees but does not hang by its tail,
- Have many predators: humans, humans in cars, dogs, cats, owls and larger wildlife.
- Is a solitary animal, moves slow, they will hiss and growl showing all 50 Sharp teeth but avoid confrontations and will generally play “possum” rather than fight
- Are omnivorous, eating insects, snails, rodents, berries, fruit, grasses, leaves, carrion, eggs, vegetables, cock roaches, beetles, slugs, dog and cat food, table scraps and sometimes snakes.
- Had a thumb on each hind paw.
- Belongs to the earth’s oldest surviving mammal family, being around for some 70 million years
- Gives birth only 13 days after conception of 5 to 8 young.
- The ones who are lucky enough to survive will do the same
- Babies are 7 to 9 inches long from nose to bottom and weigh from 10 ounces to 1 pound.
- Tests performed on this animal show an intelligence higher than a dog, and similar to a pig
- Is beneficial in removing pests from our vegetation
- Causes no property damage or harm to humans
- Carries the smallest danger of disease to the population
- Has a distinctive waddle as it crosses the road
While rats may not appeal to many, this tiny rat kangaroo is kind of cute. Note the hind legs. Like its cousin, the kangaroo, the rat kangaroo leaps from place to place. Like a field mouse it is a valuable link in our food chain ridding our vegetation of unwanted pests.
Unfortunately, it is in danger of extinction because of dogs, foxes, rabbits, goats, pigs and mankind.
The Koala seldom drinks but frequently sleeps
The koala seldom drinks water, relying on the moisture found in the eucalyptus leaves, bark and other leaves such as the wattle tree, tea tree and paperbark tree which are indigenous to Australia.
They eat approximately 200 to 500 grams of leaves per day and sleep approximately 16 hours a day. Their diet consists of very little protein so they must conserve energy to survive.
The wombat is quite interesting to look at. It is more like the koala than any of the other marsupials.
There are some very interesting stories to be found at Rob Screiner’s site along with photos, which state they are copy written, so I left them there for the reader to visit on their own.
Among some of the more interesting facts was:
- The wombat’s teeth are rootless, meaning that they grow continuously throughout their lives,
- The baby is raised in the pouch for about 6 months and then remains with mom for another year.
- They have a life expectancy of around 5 years.
- Their enemies are Dingos, humans and car accidents.
- They are territorial and will defend their territory from strange wombats.
- There are three species known, and all are pictured at Screiner’s site.