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Parma Wallaby (Macropus parma) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Parma Wallaby Macropus parma

Physical Characteristics

Body measurements

Attribute Males Females
Body Weight 4.1-5.9 kg (9.0-13.0 lb) 3.2-4.8 kg (7.1-10.6 lb)
Head-body Length 482-528 mm (19.0-20.8 in) 447-527 mm (17.6-20.7 in)
Tail Length 489-544 mm (19.2-21.4 in) 405-507 mm (15.9-20.0 in)

General Appearance

Size (Ganslosser 1990; Maynes 1976; Maynes 1977b; Menkhorst & Knight 2011)

  • Notable for its small size
    • Smallest member of the genus Macropus
  • Size differs between Australian and Kawau populations
    • Adult females: individuals from Australia significantly larger than individuals from Kawau in all measurements and weight
    • Adult males: individuals from Australia only larger in ear length

Appearance (Hume et al. 1989; Maynes 2008; Menkhorst & Knight 2011)

  • Shape - similar to other species of Macropus:
    • Head - relatively small
    • Forelimbs - short, thin
    • Body - long
    • Hindquarters - large
    • Hind limbs and feet - long, powerful
    • Tail - about same length as head + body (Maynes 2008)
  • Skin and pelage
    • Dark reddish brown to grizzled gray-brown
    • White throat and upper chest; remaining underparts grayish
    • Narrow dark strip along spine, from forehead to mid-back
    • Grayer on face
      • White stripe along upper lip, extending to below eye
      • White fringe around base of ear
    • Tail blackish, thin fur; white-tipped in about half of individuals

Sexual Dimorphism

Size difference between the sexes (Hume et al. 1989)

  • Present but less pronounced than in most macropods
    • Male is larger than female by about 8% in most length measurements
    • Male weighs about 30% more than female
    • Male has more robust chest
    • Male forelimbs are much larger (by about 18.5%) and more robust - useful during mating

Other Physical and Physiological Characteristics

Few specifics for the parma wallaby available in scientific literature - information below highlights some common features found in macropods

  • Teeth (Lentle et al. 2003)
    • Challenge - grasses contain silica, which is harder than tooth enamel
    • Tooth form and function in grazing kangaroos show adaptations to cope with diet of grasses
      • Cutting teeth - designed to crop many blades at once
        • 6 incisors on a long upper jaw are aligned to form continuous cutting edge
        • 2 blade-like lower incisors angle forward from a shorter lower jaw, press against tough pad on roof of mouth behind upper incisors
      • Canine teeth - none
        • Large diastema (gap)
        • Allows tongue to arrange cut grass into packages that can be moved backward for chewing
      • Grinding teeth - replaceable
        • Molars high-crowned (tall), wear down with use
        • Molar progression (serial replacement - also seen in elephants)
          • Premolars and molars erupt from front to back in slow succession as animal grows
          • Older teeth in front used for grinding - wear down, are shed
          • Newer teeth move forward along jaw to replace them
          • Provides kangaroos with effective grinding teeth throughout life, instead of a single set that gets uniformly worn down
  • Senses & nervous system (Miller 2001)
    • Macropods have well-developed senses of smell, touch, and hearing
      • Ears can be rotated independently
    • Vision less well-developed
  • Digestive system (Jackson & Vernes 2011; Miller 2001)
    • Complex 3-chambered stomach
    • Foregut bacterial fermentation
      • Bacteria used to break down hard-to-digest plant material
    • Urogenital system (Maynes 1973; Menkhorst & Knight 2011; Tyndale-Biscoe & Renfree 1987)
      • Urine and feces released from cloaca (single posterior opening)
      • Female reproductive organs in macropods
        • 2 ovaries, 2 oviducts, 2 separate uteruses
        • 3 vaginas open into a shared urogenital sinus
          • 2 lateral vaginas through which sperm travels up to each uterus
          • 1 central birth canal (transient in some marsupials, remains open in most macropods)
        • Forward-facing pouch, 4 functional teats
      • Male reproductive organs in macropods
        • 2 testes, 2 epididymides, 2 vas deferentia
          • Testes carried in external scrotum in front of the penis
          • Parma wallaby testes descend into scrotum by about 91 days after birth
        • Prostate and bulbourethral glands are the only accessory male sex organs

    Adapted to the Forest

    parma wallaby

    The parma wallaby has a small body and a long tail. They have white on their chest and muzzle.

    Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

    Page Citations

    Ganslosser (1990)
    Hume et al. (1989)
    Jackson & Vernes (2011)
    Kar et al. (2003)
    Lentle et al. (2003)
    Maynes (2008)
    Menkhorst & Knight (2011)
    Miller (2001)
    Tyndale-Biscoe & Renfree (1987)

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