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Parma Wallaby (Macropus parma) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Parma Wallaby Macropus parma


  • Background
    • Observed in wild-caught and individuals bred in managed care
    • Similar to other small macropodids
    • Female receptive 1-2 days per estrous cycle
  • Courtship
    • Stage 1: Inspection - probably provides information about estrous state of female
      • Male may inspect female for receptivity at any time during estrous cycle
      • Male approaches female from rear, scratches her rump, sniffs her cloaca (urogenital opening)
        • Often accompanied by rapid tail movements in the male
      • Female frequently hisses or hits at male with her forepaws
        • Male may respond in same way, exchanging blow
      • Most common response is for female to move away, ending courtship sequence
    • Stage 2: Rump pawing
      • Male begins to rapidly paw rump of female, typically making soft "clucking" sounds
        • Sometimes forcefully enough to remove hair
        • Preceded and followed by bouts of tail wagging
      • Female remains with forelegs on ground, may hiss loudly
      • If female not receptive, male moves away, repeats approach later with more persistence and vigor
    • Stage 3: Mating
      • Receptive female leans forward on forepaws and raises hindquarters to allow male to mount
      • Male may lie across female's back, grip her flanks with his forelimbs, and initiate copulation
        • Successful copulation followed by another bout of rump pawing, then female moves away
      • Instead of copulation, male may move to front of female and engage in "head rubbing" dominance behavior
        • Positions female's head toward his chest with side-to-side slaps from his forepaws
        • Female may sniff male's chest (sign of submission) but usually hisses and snaps instead


Timing of Breeding (Maynes 1973; Maynes 1977a; Maynes 2008)

  • Reproductive pattern
    • Similar to eastern and western grey kangaroos, Macropus giganteus and M. fuligenosis
  • Long estrous cycle - about 42 days
    • Monovular (1 egg released per cycle)
  • Polyestrous (more than 1 estrous cycle/year)
    • May have a postpartum estrous while carrying a pouch young, 45-105 days after birth
      • This is most striking difference from reproductive pattern of grey kangaroos
      • If mating successful at this time, development of new embryo is delayed (embryonic diapause)
    • Some females give birth 6-11 days after previous young leave pouch
    • Breeding may occur throughout year, but most births occur between February and July
      • Much more sensitive to environmental conditions and flexible in their breeding pattern than tammar wallabies

Gestation and Pouch Period

(Maynes 1973)

  • Long gestation period - about 35 days
  • Embryonic diapause (delayed development of the embryo)
    • Follows successful mating of a female carrying a pouch young
    • A new blastocyst (early embryonic stage) is arrested at an early stage of development and stored in the female
    • After previous young is out of pouch, development starts up again
    • Prevents occupation of pouch by 2 young of different ages
    • Several well-documented cases observed in managed care
    • Seen in most other macropodids but not other marsupials

Life Stages

(Maynes 1973; Maynes 1976; Maynes 2008)

  • Birth
    • Litter size: 1
    • About 0.5 g (0.02 oz) at birth
    • Young crawls from birth canal into pouch, attaches to 1 of the 4 teats
    • Morning after birth - pouch opening contracts, teats develop small "buds" at tip
  • Infant - Pouch Life
    • Young suckles on same teat until maturity
    • First excursions out of pouch at 23-25 wk (6 mo) old
      • Can hop well
      • Has tight, well-insulating fur
      • Can maintain body temperature for short periods
    • Permanently quits pouch at about 30 wk (7 mo) old
      • Body weight about 750 g (26 oz) - about 21% of mother's weight
      • Has full coat with guard hairs
      • Can maintain constant body temperature
  • Subadult
    • Weaning - completed at 9-12 months old
      • Young can be up to 50% of mother's weight by time fully weaned
    • Mother may give birth again while young out of pouch but not fully weaned
  • Adult
    • Sexual maturity
      • Females
        • 1 year old in Australia
        • 2-3 years old on Kawau Island, New Zealand
        • 11.5-16 months old in managed care
      • Males
        • 20-24 months old in the wild
        • About 22 months old in managed care

Typical Life Expectancy

In the wild

(Maynes 1977a; Miller 2001)

  • About 6–8 years, on average

In managed care

  • Median life expectancy
    •  5.5 years (AZA 2023)

Mortality and Health

(Miller 2001)

  • Common threats
    • Predation by feral cats and foxes
    • Collisions with road vehicles
    • Habitat fragmentation

A Young Parma Wallaby

parma wallaby joey

Close-up of a parma wallaby joey.

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

Page Citations

Maynes (1973)
Maynes (1976)
Maynes (1977a)
Maynes (2008)
Miller (2001)
Ord et al. (1999)

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