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Western gray kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus).—Warren Garst/Tom Stack and Associates
Most specifically, any of six large Australasian marsupials of the family Macropodidae. The term is also used to refer to any of the family's 54 species. Most kangaroos graze on the Australian plains, but tree kangaroos are arboreal; they climb trees and leap from branch to branch. Kangaroos generally have long, powerful hind legs and feet and a long tail, thickened at the base. The hind legs enable their spectacular leaps and are also useful for self-defense; the tail is used for balance. The head is small, the ears large and rounded, and the fur soft and woolly. Females have one young (called a joey) annually; it is suckled in its mother's pouch for six months and often returns to be carried in the pouch later as well. The gray kangaroo, the best-known and second-largest species, can leap more than 30 ft (9 m). The red kangaroo is the largest species; the male may stand 6 ft (1.8 m) tall and weigh 200 lbs (90 kg). Millions are killed annually for their meat and hides and because they compete with livestock for forage. See alsowallaby; wallaroo.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on kangaroo, visit Britannica.com.