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The red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is the largest of the 61 species comprising the kangaroo and wallaby family, and stands up to 1.8m tall on its hind legs. This marsupial mammal has a unique way of travelling. When grazing, it moves around slowly by supporting its body on its forelegs and tail and swinging its back legs forewards. When moving fast however, it hops on its powerful back legs and can make single leaps of more than 9m.

This is a very efficient way of moving across rough terrain, and kangaroos bounce along at speeds of up to 48kph on their springy back legs, using much less effort than a running placental mammal of similar size.

Kangaroos live in dry conditions and can live for long periods without water. They are able to survive on low-quality vegetation found in dry habitats, thanks to a digestion process that uses gut bacteria to help break down tough plant material. However, unlike other large species of kangaroos, reds usually move in search of better feeding conditions during droughts, sometimes travelling more than 200km. Red kangaroos are not territorial, but males will fight one another by boxing with their arms and kicking with their back legs, to win control of groups of females during the breeding season.


ARKive photos and videos of the red kangaroo

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