What is a Kangaroo? Not All Hopping Marsupials are Kangaroos
Not every hopping Australian marsupial is a kangaroo. So which "hopper", and there are a lot of them, is a kangaroo? Its not as simple as it looks.
Let's Start with Macropods
The Kangaroo is macropod. It is a member of the scientific animal family classification Macropodidae. The word is derived from the Greek language and means 'big foot' (macro=big + pod=foot). The key characteristic of macropods is that they have elongated hind legs that they use for hoping and jumping and they are all marsupial herbivores. There are over 54 different species of animals in this family. These range in size from those as small as a mouse to ones as tall as a man. Macropods live predominately in Australia. A few species can also be found in New Guinea.
So is it a Kangaroo?
So how do we know if a particular macropod is a kangaroo? The classification is fairly arbitrary. The four largest macropods are referred to as kangaroos. These are the Red Kangaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo and Antilopine Kangaroo. Just to make absolutely sure we don't get it wrong - they are also need to be terrestrial. That is; they move on land. (This is not to confuse them with tree-kangaroos). So the proper definition of a kangaroo is; a terrestrial marsupial herbivore that is one of the top four largest animals in the family group, Macropodidae.
A Simple Definition of a Kangaroo
A simple definition of a kangaroo is a plant eating, ground dwelling, mammal that has elongated hind legs with big feet, hops and rears its young in a pouch in its abdomen.
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