Kangaroo A Large Hopping Animal from Australia
What is a Kangaroo? Description of a Kangaroo
The Kangaroo is a macropod which means "big foot". It is a marsupial mammal. Marsupials like the Kangaroo carry their babies in a pouch in their abdomen (tummy).
There are over 40 different types (species) of Kangaroo. The smaller ones are usually called Wallabies. The largest is the Red Kangaroo. It stands taller than a man and can weigh 85 kgs. It is the largest marsupial in the world.
A female kangaroo carries its baby in its pouch. The baby is born really tiny and crawls up into its mother's pouch. The baby lives in its mother's pouch till its quite large. Even when its quite large it still drinks milk from a teat in its mother's pouch.
It sometimes jumps into its mother's pouch head first when frightened.
How Did the Kangaroo Get its Name? Where does the word 'Kangaroo' come from?
The first description of the strange hopping animals of Australia was in 1629 by the Dutch navigator Francois Pelsaert while sailing off the western coast of Australia. He didn't, however, give these animals a name.
The first detailed accounts of this hopping animal came from members of the crew of Captain James Cook's voyage to Australia in 1770. Cook's ship, the Endeavour, was badly damaged while trying to cross the Great Barrier Reef and beached itself near what is modern-day Cooktown in Queensland for urgent repairs. While there the crew came across many weird animals. They even shoot and killed a few kangaroos, noting that the animal's meat was quite delicious.
It was Joseph Banks, a naturalist on the Endeavour, who wrote the following note in August 1770 "Quadrupeds we saw but few and were able to catch few of them that we did see. The largest was called by the natives kangooroo".
This was his interpretation of the word "gaNurru" used by the Guugu Yimidhirr aboriginal people who lived in the area where the Endeavour was beached. It is believed to be the word these aborigines used to describe a large grey kangaroo.
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Popular legend has it that the first European explorers asked a local Australian aboriginal what the name of the hopping animal was. He replied 'kangaru'. The explorers thought this was the name of the animal, but in actual fact what the aborigine was merely saying was hey "I don't understand your question". This interpretation is not correct.
What Does a Kangaroo Eat?Kangaroo Diet
Kangaroos are herbivores. They eat mostly grass. Some like the Red Kangaroo also eats the leaves off shrubs.
They prefer to graze at night when it's cool but also graze early in the morning and late evening when it's cool. They rest in the shade during the day.
The Kangaroo has a chambered stomach similar to other herbivores like cattle and sheep. Like cattle they regurgitate their food and chew it again and swallow it. This extra munching breaks down the rough fibres of their diet and greatly improves their digestion.
The Kangaroo is well adapted to the dry hot Australian climate. It needs very little water to survive. It can survive without drinking for months.
How does A Kangaroo Hop?The Kangaroo's Got Springs
The Kangaroo moves by hopping on its powerful hind legs. Its legs are specially designed for hopping and jumping. It can only move its legs together which is perfect for hopping.
A Kangaroo's legs act like powerful compression springs. It jumps using its strong long hind legs and when its toes touch the ground the tendons in its legs act like giant springs compressing. Part of this compressed energy is then used for the next jump. The kangaroo's legs works on the same principle as a Pogo Stick. In this way a Kangaroo uses very little energy to move itself. It uses its thick long tail and a counter-weight to balance its body while hopping. It can hop at up to 60kmh (40mph). It can also leap over obstacles up to 3m (10ft) high.
Because of the unusual shape of its legs and its bulky tail a kangaroo can't walk or move backwards. That is to say that it can't move its legs independently like we can. For this reason it can't walk like other animals do. It can only hop.
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