How does a red kangaroo survive unfavourable conditions?

Red kangaroos are uniquely adapted to life in Australia, a country that suffers frequent droughts.

  • The mother kangaroo spends most of her adult life pregnant, but in drought times, she has the ability to indefinitely "freeze" the development of the young embryo until food sources are replenished.
  • Kangaroos are able to travel long distances at a high speed, expending very little energy. They are very energy-efficient, and this is linked directly to the physical action of bringing their hind legs up with each hop. Every hop literally refills the lungs. They do not migrate, but they do move around to areas where food is more plentiful.
  • Kangaroos have large, strong tendons in their hind legs which act as "springs". The springing motion requires less energy than running does, so kangaroos are able to bound for longer distances than other mammals with the standard four legs can run. They have strong back legs and elongated hind feet for bounding.
  • Kangaroos are strong swimmers. Many parts of Australia are subject to seasonal flooding rains, but the kangaroo's body shape does not prohibit it from swimming. In fact, kangaroos have been observed swimming to offshore islands off the southern coast. This is the only time the kangaroo's hind legs move independently of each other.
  • Kangaroos are more active in the cooler hours of the early morning and the late afternoon. During the heat of the day they are more sedentary, lying around quietly and chewing their cud.
  • Kangaroos are able to move their ears at a variety of angles to hear if there is any danger close to them.
  • In hot weather, kangaroos use saliva to cool down, licking their forearms where there is little muscle tissue and blood veins run close to the surface. When the saliva evaporates from the fur, it cools down the kangaroo.