The Trouble With Kangaroos

Consider this a public service alert: Kangaroos are in the Macropodidae family, and you should be worried if this family moves in next to you.  One day they will seem fine, grazing pretty as a picture out on the lawn, but look a short time later and there will be twice as many, thanks to a reproductive assembly line that is capable of churning out three babies in only two years.  Not only that, but all the babies are named Joey.  This is undoubtedly part of their desperate attempt to try and normalize an awkward situation, but do they look like any Joeys you know?

            Adult male kangaroos are all named Buck, Jack, or Boomer.  Females are all named Jill, Flyer, or Doe.  Guessing a stranger’s name at a party is never a problem for a kangaroo.  If they even bother with introductions that is.  At the almost plague-like rate that kangaroos reproduce, they might just pair off at Hello.

            And then there’s the relatives, a kangaroo superfamily of 67 peculiar species from evolution’s trial and error department.  These include the Woylies, the Quokkas, the Pandemelons, the Boodies, the Wallaroos, the Narbaleks, the Bettongs, the Potoroos, and others with names that may sound interesting, but really only disguise a limited grasp of how the world works.  Take any of these Macropods out of Australia or Papua New Guinea and before you know it they’ll be trying to convince you that hopping is the best way to get around, and that funny names help you succeed in life.  They don’t seem to realize that most all of them are hopping towards extinction.  To me this is horribly wrong, but how can you argue with the cats, dogs, cows, and pigs of the world.

            When we think of kangaroos, and who doesn’t, we are usually thinking of three species – the Red, the Western Gray, and the Eastern Gray.  Together they are referred to as the “Great Kangaroos.”  Let me be clear about this, there is nothing great about them.  They have huge, oversized feet (macropod MEANS big foot), and heads that are too small for their bodies.  If they were truly meant to get anywhere in life this would be reversed.  They are plantigrade and syndactylous, and just let that sink in for a minute.  They may be the world’s largest marsupials, but as mammals go, that leaves a lot of room for improvement.  About the best thing you can say about them is that at least they’re not monotremes.  (Although I do have to say that their built-in pockets, or pouches, would be pretty cool for keeping snacks in if it weren’t for the constant presence of a hungry Joey.)

            The Red Kangaroo is the largest of the bunch, and gets the most attention.  Rightfully so.  At six feet and 200 pounds, it might be comforting for you to know that it’s supposedly an herbivore.  Don’t let that fool you.  Just as with the short-armed boxing pose it may strike if it takes a disliking to you, these things are merely designed to make you laugh and lower your guard before it disembowels you with one powerful kick from its legs.  Legs that hop 40 mph and jump 10 feet high and 25 feet far in a single bound.  Just be thankful that the kangaroo’s ancient ancestors aren’t still around.  Some were nine feet tall and weighed 500 pounds.  Others had fangs.  Herbivores my eye.

            Kangaroos are social animals that live in groups.  These groups, however, are called mobs.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that mobs of anything can be called social, unless your idea of a friendly get-together involves torches and pitchforks.  There’s a reason why the word mob is usually preceded by angry.  Mobs have one purpose, and that is to intimidate.  Try playing a round of golf in Australia someday with mobs of Eastern Grays roaming the fairways and see how well you do.

            Here’s a couple of real oddities about kangaroos I bet you didn’t know.  I mean not counting the fact that they are essentially extremely large and very aggressive rabbits who are used to having things their own way.  One, they cannot move backwards.  I have to believe that this structural defect must cause an absolute panic whenever one finds itself at the edge of a cliff.  Two, their legs cannot move independently of each other, unless they’re swimming.  Yes, kangaroos are good swimmers, so you might not even be safe from them in your pool or at the lake.

            In conclusion then, if after all this you still feel like you could live with the Macropodidae family next door, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Just be aware that I never even got to mention the tree kangaroos.

Published by boblorentson

I am a retired environmental scientist and an active daydreamer. I love one-legged air dancers (I think that's what you call them), and I still hate lima beans.

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