This species of kangaroo is found in the southern part of the continent of Australia including southern Queensland, southern New South Wales, and western Victoria. In addition, it is found on Kangaroo Island off of the southern coast of Australia.
Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )
This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, whereby males are larger than females. Western grey kangaroos vary in color from light brown to reddish shades of dark brown. They have a pale throat, chest and abdomen. The muzzle is distinctly different from other kangaroo species in that it is covered with much finer hair. These kangaroos can grow to be as large as 7 ft. tall. The tail is used as a balance in locomotion. Tail length ranges from 425-1000mm in males and 438-815mm in females. Muscle mass makes up approximately 80% of the body weight for this species.
Range mass: 3 to 53.5 kg.
Range length: 946 to 2225 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Habitat and Ecology
Western grey kangaroos are capable of using several different types of habitats. They can be found in woodlands, open forests, coastal heathland, and open grassland areas. They have also been found near city areas and on golf courses. These kangaroos prefer areas with heterogeneous habitats, because these areas are the most likely to meet their requirements for food and cover.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: urban ; agricultural
Western grey kangaroos eat grasses, forbs, leaves, tree bark, and shrubby browse. They use microorganisms in an organ called the cecum to digest the cellulose of plants. This kangaroo requires very little water and is able to survive on plants high in fiber. Western grey kangaroos spend between 6 and 10 hours grazing per day, mostly at dawn and dusk. In captivity, these kangaroos are often fed a pelleted grain or hay.
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
The western grey kangaroo controls vegetation growth by feeding on grasses and forbs.
The dingo (Canis familiaris dingo) preys upon the western grey kangaroo. Healthy large males are usually not preyed upon by the dingo because of their size. However, young and old age classes are vulnerable to predation by the dingo.
- dingos (Canis lupus dingo)
Canis lupus dingo
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Western grey kangaroos have lived to be upward of 20 years old in captivity. However, the maximum lifespan of these kangaroos in the wild is approximately 10 years.
Status: wild: 10 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 20 (high) years.
Status: wild: 20.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Males compete for females, whereby dominant males mate. Dominancy is determined through "boxing", which is a form of male competition.
Mating System: polygynous
Western grey kangaroos can breed continuously, but a peak in reproductive activity exists in the seasons of spring and summer. Sexual maturity is reached at approximately 20 months for males and 17 months for females. Females have an oestrous cycle of approximately 35 days. Interestingly, the western grey kangaroo is not capable of embryonic diapause. Usually, only a single offsping weighing approximately 0.8g is born after a mean gestation period of 30.5 days. The offsping, commonly called a joey, will climb from the birth canal to the pouch where it grabs hold of a teat and nurses. The joey will begin to leave the pouch after an average of 46 weeks, and may continue to nurse from the pouch for up to an additional 6 months after leaving the pouch. After the joey has left the pouch, the female is capable of mating again.
Breeding season: year round with a peak in spring and summer
Range number of offspring: 1 to 1.
Average gestation period: 30.5 days.
Average weaning age: 18 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 17 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 20 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous
Average birth mass: 0.93433 g.
Average gestation period: 30 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 880 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 670 days.
Generally, exclusively the female cares for the young.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Macropus fuliginosus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
Despite the crop damage from this kangaroo species, it is a protected species and is controlled exclusively by the state faunal authorities. In 1987, there was an estimated population of 1.7 million western grey kangaroos. Permits to harvest the western grey kangaroo are issued in areas where this species interferes with successful agricultural operations or management programs to rehabilitate vegetation communities.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Crops and pasteurs may be damaged by western grey kangaroos through their foraging in these areas.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Tourists enjoy viewing this species of kangaroo on golf courses and in national parks. Australian kangaroo meat is marketed throughout the world as a quality game meat.
Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism
Western grey kangaroo
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The western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) is a large and very common kangaroo or macropod, found across almost the entire southern part of Australia, from just south of Shark Bay to coastal South Australia, Western Australia, western Victoria, and the entire Murray–Darling Basin in New South Wales and Queensland. The subspecies on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, is known as the Kangaroo Island kangaroo.
The western grey kangaroo is one of the largest kangaroos in Australia. It weighs 28–54 kg (62–120 lb) and its length is 0.84–1.1 m (2 ft 9 in–3 ft 7 in) with a 0.80–1.0 m (2 ft 7 in–3 ft 3 in) tail, standing approximately 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) tall. It exhibits sexual dimorphism with the male up to twice the size of female. It has thick, coarse fur with colour ranging from pale grey to brown; its throat, chest and belly have a paler colour. It feeds at night, mainly on grasses but also on leafy shrubs and low trees. It has a nickname "stinker" because mature males have a distinctive curry-like odour.
The kangaroo lives in groups of up to 15. The males compete for females during the breeding season. During these "boxing" contests, they lock arms and try to push each other over. Usually, only the dominant male in the group mates. The gestation period is 30–31 days, after which, the baby joey attaches to the teat in the pouch for 130–150 days.
Long known to the Aboriginal people of Australia, for Europeans, the western grey kangaroo was the centre of a great deal of sometimes comical taxonomic confusion for almost 200 years. It was first noted by European settlers when the great explorer Matthew Flinders landed on Kangaroo Island in 1802. Flinders shot several for food but assumed that they were eastern grey kangaroos. In 1803 French explorers captured several Kangaroo Island western grey kangaroos and shipped them home to Paris, where they lived in the zoological gardens for some years. Eventually, researchers at the Paris Museum of Natural History recognised that these animals were indeed different and formally described the species as Macropus fuliginosus in 1817. Unfortunately, for reasons that remain unclear, it was described as native to Tasmania.
There the matter rested for over 100 years, and it was not until 1917 that researchers realised that the "forester kangaroo" of Tasmania was in fact Macropus giganteus, the same eastern grey kangaroo that was, and still is, widespread in the more fertile south-eastern part of the mainland. By 1971, it was understood that the Kangaroo Island species was the same as the kangaroos of southern Western Australia, and that this population extended through much of the eastern part of the continent as well. For a time, three subspecies were described, two on the mainland and one on Kangaroo Island. Finally, by the early 1990s, the current understanding emerged.
There are two subspecies of the western grey kangaroo:
- Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus, which is endemic to Kangaroo Island
- Macropus fuliginosus melanops, which has a range of different forms that intergrade clinally from west to east.
The western grey kangaroo is not found in the tropical north or the fertile south-east of Australia, and the eastern grey does not extend beyond the NSW–South Australia border, but the two species are both common in the Murray–Darling Basin area. They never interbreed in the wild, although it has proved possible to produce hybrids between eastern grey females and western grey males in captivity.
The western grey kangaroo is also referred to as a black-faced kangaroo, mallee kangaroo, sooty kangaroo and carno kangaroo.
- Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 64. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
- Burbidge, A., Menkhorst, P., Ellis, M. & Copley, P. (2008). Macropus fuliginosus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Menkhorst, P & Knight, F 2001, A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
- David Burnie & Don E. Wilson (eds), ed. (2005-09-19). Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife (1st paperback edition ed.). Dorling Kindersley. p. 101. ISBN 0-7566-1634-4.
- "Guide to the kangaroos of Fowlers Gap". The University of New South Wales. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- "Western gray kangaroo". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2007-02-25.