The tree-kangaroos are a genus of Mevilidae marsupials of the genus Dendrolagus adapted for arboreal locomotion. They inhabit the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, far northeastern Queensland and some of the islands in the region. Most tree-kangaroos are considered threatened due to hunting and habitat destruction. Tree-kangaroos are the only true arboreal members of the kangaroo family.[2]


The evolutionary history of tree-kangaroos begins with a rainforest floor dwelling pademelon-like ancestor.[3] This ancestor evolved from an arboreal possum-like ancestor as is suspected of all macropodid marsupials in Australia and New Guinea. During the late Eocene the Australian/New Guinean continent began a period of drying that caused a retreat in the area of rainforest.[4] The retreat of the rainforest forced the ancestral pademelons to begin living in a dryer, rockier environment. After some generations of adaptation to the new environment, the pademelons evolved into rock-wallabies (Petrogale spp.).[5] The rock-wallabies developed a generalist feeding strategy due to their dependence on a diverse assortment of vegetation refuges.[6] This generalist strategy allowed the rock-wallabies to easily adapt to malesian rainforest types that were introduced to Australia from Asia during the mid-Miocene.[4][5] The rock-wallabies that migrated into these introduced forests adapted to spend more time climbing trees. One species in particular, the proserpine rock-wallaby (Petrogale persephone), displays equal preference for climbing trees as for living in rocky outcrops.[5] During the late-Miocene the semi-arboreal rock-wallabies evolved into the now extinct tree-kangaroo genus Bohra.[7] Global cooling during the Pleistocene caused continent wide drying and rainforest retractions in Australia and New Guinea.[8] The rainforest contractions isolated populations of Bohra which resulted in the evolution of today's tree-kangaroos (Dendrolagus spp.) as they adapted to lifestyles in geographically small and diverse rainforest fragments, and became further specialized for a canopy dwelling lifestyle.[9]


The Seri's tree-kangaroo (D. stellarum) has been described as a subspecies of the Doria's tree-kangaroo (D. dorianus),[10][11] however, some recent authorities have treated it as a separate species based on its absolute diagnostability.[1] It has further been suggested that the D. mayri taxon may represent a valid species,[12] but as it is known only from a single preserved specimen, most authorities have retained it as a subspecies of D. dorianus.[1] The case for the golden-mantled tree-kangaroo (D. pulcherrimus) is comparable to that of D. stellarum; it was first described as a subspecies of D. goodfellowi,[10] however, recent authorities have elevated it to species status based on its absolute diagnostability.[1] A population of the Tenkile (Scott's tree-kangaroo) recently discovered from the Bewani Mountains may represent an undescribed subspecies.[13]


The following species are assigned to the genus Dendrolagus:[1]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Tree-kangaroos inhabit the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, far northeastern Australia and some of the islands in the region, in particular, the Schouten Islands and the Raja Ampat Islands.[14] Although most species are found in mountainous areas, several also occur in lowlands, such as the aptly named lowlands tree-kangaroo. Most tree-kangaroos are considered threatened due to hunting and habitat destruction. Because much of their life-style involves climbing and jumping between trees, they have evolved an appropriate method of locomotion. Tree-kangaroos thrive in tree tops as opposed to terrestrial kangaroos which survive on mainland Australia. Two species of tree-kangaroo are found in Australia, Bennett's (Dendrolagus bennetianus), which is found north of the Daintree River and Lumholtz's (Dendrolagus lumholtzi). Tree-kangaroos have adapted better to regions of high altitudes.[15] There are at least fifteen known subspecies of tree-kangaroo living in Papua New Guinea and Australia. Tree-kangaroos must find places comfortable and well adapted for breeding as they only give birth to one joey per year. They are known to have one of the most relaxed and leisurely birthing seasons. They breed cautiously in treetops during monsoon season. Their habitats are breeding grounds for danger as they can easily fall prey to their natural predator, amethystine pythons, which also climbs and lives amongst the treetops in the forests. Tree-kangaroos are known to be able to live in both mountainous regions and low-land locations.[16]


Tree-kangaroos have several adaptations to an arboreal life-style. Compared to terrestrial kangaroos, tree-kangaroos have longer and broader hind feet with longer, curved nails. They also have a sponge-like grip on their paws and soles of their feet. Tree-kangaroos have a much larger and pendulous tail than terrestrial kangaroos, giving them enhanced balance while moving about the trees. Like terrestrial kangaroos, tree-kangaroos do not sweat to cool their bodies, rather, they lick their forearms and allow the moisture to evaporate in an adaptive form of behavioural thermoregulation.[17]



Tree-kangaroos are slow and clumsy on the ground. They move at approximately human walking pace and hop awkwardly, leaning their body far forward to balance the heavy tail. However, in trees, they are bold and agile. They climb by wrapping their forelimbs around the trunk of a tree and, while allowing the forelimbs to slide, hop up the tree using their powerful hind legs. They are expert leapers; 9 metres (30 ft) downward jumps from one tree to another have been recorded and they have the extraordinary ability to jump to the ground from 18 metres (59 ft) or more without being hurt.[citation needed]


The main diet of the tree-kangaroo is leaves and fruit that it gathers from the trees, but occasionally scavenged from the ground. Tree-kangaroos will also eat grains, flour, eggs, sap, young birds and tree bark.[17]


Little is known about the reproduction of tree-kangaroos in the wild, the only published data are from captive individuals.[18] Female tree-kangaroos reach sexual maturity as early as 2.04 years of age and males at 4.6 years. The female's fertile period is estimated to be approximately two months. They have one of the longest marsupial offspring development/maturation periods; pouch life for the young is 246–275 days long and weaning occurs 87–240 days later.[19]


The two most significant threats to tree-kangaroos are habitat loss and hunting. Tree-kangaroo habitats are being destroyed or replaced by logging and timber production, along with coffee, rice and wheat production. This habitat loss can make tree-kangaroos more exposed to predators such as domestic dogs. Being hunted by native tribes and communities also contributes markedly to the declines in tree-kangaroo populations.[17] Research conducted on the Lumholtz's tree-kangaroo, a species that dwells in the rain forests of north-eastern Australia, determined the frequency of causes of death. This showed that of 27 deceased tree-kangaroos, 11 had been killed by vehicles, 6 by dogs, 4 by parasites and the remaining 6 died from other causes.[20]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 59–61. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ Procter-Gray, Elizabeth; Udo Gansiosser (May 1987). "The Individual Behaviors of Lumholtz's Tree-Kangaroo: Repertoire and Taxonomic Implications". Journal of Mammalogy 67 (2): 343–352. doi:10.2307/1380888. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  3. ^ . CSIRO. July 2005. ISBN 978-0-643-09072-9  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b Archer, Mike (1991). Riversleigh: The Story of Animals in Ancient Rainforest of Inland Australia. Bangowlah, NSW: Reed Books. 
  5. ^ a b c Martin, Roger William (July 2005). Tree-kangaroos of Australia and New Guinea. CSIRO. ISBN 978-0-643-09072-9. 
  6. ^ Tuft, KD; Crowther, M.S.; McArthur, C. (2011). "Multiple scales of diet selection of brush-tailed rock-wallabies (Petrogale penicillata)". Australian Mammalogy 33: 169–180. doi:10.1071/am10041. 
  7. ^ Flannery, Timothy; Martin, Roger; Szalay, Alexandra (1996). Tree-kangaroos: A Curious Natural History. Melbourne VIC: Reed Books. pp. 68–72. ISBN 978-0-7301-0492-6. 
  8. ^ Hopkins, M. S.; J. Ash; A. W. Graham; J. Head; R. K. Hewitt (1993). "Charcoal evidence of the spatial extent of the Eucalyptus woodland expansions and rainforest contractions in North Queensland during the late Pleistocene". Journal of Biogeography 20: 357–372. doi:10.2307/2845585. 
  9. ^ Prideaux, G. J., Warburton, N.M. (2010). Macropods:. Collingwood, VIC: CSIRO. pp. 137–151. 
  10. ^ a b Flannery, T. (1995). Mammals of New Guinea. Reed Books. ISBN 0-7301-0411-7. 
  11. ^ Nowak, R., ed. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World (6th ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9. 
  12. ^ Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo Tenkile Conservation Alliance
  13. ^ Tenkile Tree Kangaroo Tenkile Conservation Alliance
  14. ^ "Matschie's Tree Kangaroos, Matschie's Tree Kangaroo Pictures, Matschie's Tree Kangaroo Facts - National Geographic". 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  15. ^ Sullivan, Rachel (2007-12-13). "Treetop kangaroos " Nature Features (ABC Science)". Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  16. ^ "Tree Kangaroo - Animal Facts and Information.". Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  17. ^ a b c "WWF - Tree Kangaroo". Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  18. ^ "Tree-Kangaroo and Mammal Group - helping to conserve North Queensland's rich mammal fauna - TREE KANGAROO INFO". Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ John Chambers. "! Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo ! Tropical Rainforest, Far North Queensland Australia". Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
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