To see an adult kangaroo up close you might wonder, how these magnificent, strong and agile animals are even related to the tiny, vulnerable peanut sized infants they once were. They have quite some journey from birth, to the pouch and then to adulthood. But with the nurturing care of a loving mother, somehow these magnificent marsupials are transformed!
In this post we look at some of the most amazing baby kangaroo facts, as well as offer some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
8 Amazing Baby Kangaroo Facts
Baby Kangaroos Are Called Joeys
Like their baby possum and baby koala marsupial cousins, baby kangaroos are called ‘joeys‘. When born, baby joeys spend the first few months of their life in their mothers ‘pouch’. Some breeds, like the musky-rat kangaroo, likes to live in ‘nests‘ but most kangaroos are happy just to rest in scrub or cover, depending on their habitat.
As baby joeys grow up males are known as ‘boomers‘ and females are called ‘flyers‘. There is no specific collective noun for a group of joeys, but groups of kangaroos in general are known as either ‘mobs‘, ‘troops‘ or ‘courts‘.
They are quite social animals outside of their own family group, but some species more than others. They communicate with each other by touching noses, stomping their hind legs, growling and making clicking sounds.
Mother Kangaroos Can Perform Embryonic Diapause
Females have the unique ability to delay birth of their baby until their previous Joey has left the pouch. This is called ’embryonic diapause’. By using this process of developmental arrest, gestation of a baby joey can be extended for up to 11 months.
When this happens, the embryo is suspended at blastocyst stage, in the form of a bundle of around 100 cells. It stops growing and waits for the mother to be ready and the pouch to be empty.
Baby Joeys Are Tiny – About The Size Of A Jellybean!
Baby kangaroos are extremely small, about 2 centimetres, the size of a cherry or a jellybean. Joeys are also born blind and have no fur. They really are very vulnerable during this first stage of life. Most of what a human would do in the womb, a kangaroo does in it’s pouch.
The joey will suckle on one of the females 4 teats continuously, in the safety of their mother’s pouch for the first 6-9 months of its life. It varies from species to species. They are not strong enough to exist outside of the pouch on their own during this time.
Even once they emerge from their mothers pouch, they will continue to suckle for a few months after. Red kangaroos leave the pouch at around 8 months and suckle for about 3 or 4 months after. Whereas grey kangaroos don’t leave the pouch until about 11 months and continuing to suckle up to around 18 months of age.
Joeys Use Their Tail Like A Fifth Limb
Baby kangaroos develop prehensile tails, which they can use as a fifth limb, like an extra leg or arm. They are not the only marsupial to develop this, the possum does too. While possums use their tail to grab onto things, baby kangaroos learn how to use their tails for balance.
A joey’s tail becomes increasingly stronger as they age. Some kangaroos have even been seen using their tails as an extra leg when walking. Their tail acts as a support when learning to jump and stabilizes them upon landing.
When they grow up, males will use their tail to balance on while they fight other males for the privilege of mating rights.
Baby Kangaroos Can Only Move Forwards, Not Backwards
Baby kangaroos might learn a lot from their mothers before and after leaving the pouch, but one thing they don’t learn is how to move backwards. In fact, they can’t do that.
The kangaroo’s long feet and large tail make it impossible to walk or hop backwards. They move by saltation, which is a series of hops. Their tails and muscular legs give them great balance and the ability to move at some pace moving forward, but these same attributes prevent them from moving backwards.
Mothers Milk Changes As Joeys Age
As a joey nurses, its nutritional needs change over time. The remarkable thing is that the composition of the mothers milk alters to adapt to the joeys needs. Its nutrients are constantly changing.
New-born joeys receive watery milk that is high in protein and simple carbs as well as immunity-building properties. Older joeys still living in the pouch get heavier milk with more carbs, fat, and protein. Joeys that have started to venture beyond the pouch are provided milk that contains vast amounts of fat and protein but fewer carbs.
As if that wasn’t magnificent enough, if a mother is feeding two joeys from different breeding seasons, she will create a different milk composition for each joey respectively. Remarkable!
The Pouch A Joey Lives In Changes Elasticity
How would it feel to have a blanket that was stretchy and light on a warm day, but tight, warm and secure on a cold day. Sounds good to me.
Well, a kangaroos pouch does change in elasticity in different situations, to provide space, or security.
On a warm day, you might find a baby kangaroo spread out, in it’s stretchy, open hammock-like pouch. Snoozing with limbs akimbo, with plenty of room. The moment a mother goes from resting to moving however, the pouch tightens up.
This elasticity is provided through the use of strong muscles around the pouch area and has many advantages . If they need to move quickly from a potential threat, the joey needs to be secure, so the pouch tightens up, keeping them safe while their mother bounds around at pace.
But when they are safe and relaxed, the pouch relaxes to give the joey more space and flexibility.
Joeys Are Toilet Trained From Birth
Baby kangaroos are not very bright when it comes to going to the toilet on their own. In fact, they can only go when they are given encouragement from their mother. When the mother starts to wash them with her tongue, that is when they relieve their bladder or bowels.
They do this straight into the pouch, and the mother cleans it out regularly to keep everything tidy. When they are very little, they will actually defecate straight onto their mothers tongue.
Baby Kangaroo FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Kangaroo?
Young red kangaroo Joeys will permanently leave the pouch at around 7-9 months old, but will continue to suckle until it reaches 12 months of age. Some grey roos will continue to suckle much longer, but all should be fully weaned and only a solid only diet by 18 months.
Females reach sexual maturity between 14-17 months depending on the species, males can take as long as 20 months.
There are varying accounts of how long a kangaroo lives in the wild. Some accounts put it as low as 8 years, but most suggest a life span of around 23 years in the wild, particularly for the red kangaroo.
Both east and west grey kangaroos live a little shorter in the wild, between 10 – 18 years on average, and the antilopine kangaroo has a similar lifespan.
How Many Baby Kangaroos Are Born In A Litter?
Generally, only one kangaroo is born at a time. However, a mother kangaroo has room enough for two joeys in her pouch!
How Big Do Baby Kangaroos Grow?
Kangaroos are classified as the the four largest species of macropods.
Red Kangaroos are the largest, and males can grow up to 1.4 metres (4.6 feet) in body length and weigh up to 85 kilograms (187.4 pounds). Females measure 1.1 metres (3.6 feet) in length and weigh 35 kilograms (77.2 pounds). They also have very long tails which can measure 0.9 metres (3 feet) in length.
All species of kangaroo start off around the same size and weight as babies,
What Do Baby Kangaroo Eat?
Baby kangaroos grow into herbivores, but for most of their first year of life, they survive from their mothers milk in the safety of their pouch. After they start exploring outside of the pouch, they will begin to eat grasses, shrubs and herbs.
Baby kangaroos also require lots of sleep to grow properly and stay healthy. A young joey can sleep up to 18 hours a day. As they get older, their sleep needs will decrease and they will become more active during the day.
All species are grazers and the majority of their diet is made up of grasses. The red kangaroo and western grey also eat a lot of shrubs and low hanging trees, where as the eastern grey and antilopine live mostly on grasses.
Where Do Baby Kangaroo Live?
Baby kangaroos live with their mothers in the wild. The mother will typically have one or two joeys living in her pouch at any given time. After the joey is about 1 year old, it will start to live independently but may still stay close to its mother.
Kangaroo are native to both Australia and New Guinea. They inhabit different areas of Australia depending on the species. Red Kangaroos inhabit most of the dry inland of the central part of Australia in small groups called mobs. It prefers open plains where trees and bushes are scarce.
Antilopine kangaroos live along the Northern areas of Queensland, North Territory and Western Australia. The eastern grey kangaroo lives in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. Whereas the western grey kangaroo lives around the entire southern region of Australia.
What Are The Natural Predators Of Baby Kangaroos?
The natural predators of baby kangaroos include dingoes, Tasmanian devils, birds of prey, and snakes. These animals all prey on baby kangaroos for food. Baby kangaroos are vulnerable to these predators because they are small and have not yet reached their full size. They also rely on their mothers for protection, which makes them an easy target for predators.
While adult kangaroos are a much harder target for any would-be predator, dingoes and some types of eagle are still occasionally brave enough to give it a try. Young kangaroos are more vulnerable, and can also fall prey to wild dogs and foxes.
When grazing together, kangaroos are always on the lookout for danger and will warn others in the group by stamping their feet. This is a sign for young joeys to hop back into their mother’s pouch for safety.
Thankfully, baby kangaroos are fast and can often escape from danger. They can also use their powerful legs to kick and punch predators if necessary. Additionally, their mothers are very protective of their young and will often fight off predators to protect her joeys.
Where Does The Name Kangaroo Come From?
The term ‘kangaroo’ actually originates from the Guuga Yimithirr people of Queensland, Australia. The name they give to eastern grey kangaroos is ‘gangurru.’
Just as the rattlesnake is a symbol of American resilience – appearing on the Gadsden flag along with the words ‘don’t tread on me‘ – so is the kangaroo symbolic of Australian ambition and strength. So much so that it has appeared on the nation’s coat of arms since 1908.