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Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Red-necked Wallaby Macropus rufogriseus

Physical Characteristics

Body measurements

M. r. banksianus = Australian mainland
M. r. rufogriseus = Tasmania

Note: Subspecies differ in size and weight.

Attribute Males Females
Body weight M. r. banksianus: 15-23.7 kg (33.1-52.2 lb)
M. r. rufogriseus: 15-26.8 kg (33.1- 59.1 lb)
M. r. banksianus: 12-15.5 kg (26.5-34.2 lb)
M. r. rufogriseus: 11-15.5 kg (24.3-34.2 lb)
Head-body length M. r. banksianus: 770-888 mm (2.5-2.9 ft)
M. r. rufogriseus: 712-923 mm (2.3-3 ft)
M. r. banksianus: 708-837mm (2.3-2.8 ft)
M. r. rufogriseus: 659-741 mm (2.2-2.4 ft)
Tail length M. r. banksianus: 703-876 mm (2.3-2.9 ft)
M. r. rufogriseus: 691-862 mm (2.3-2.8 ft)
M. r. banksianus: 664-790 mm (2.2-2.6 ft)
M. r. rufogriseus: 623-778 mm (2.0-2.6 ft)

 

Data source: Jarman & Calaby (2008)

General Appearance

General

  • A small member of the kangaroo family
  • Long tapering tail
  • Prominent ears
  • Forelimbs appear small compared to the well-developed hind limbs

Pelage (Jarman & Calaby 2008)

  • Muzzle, paws, and largest toe black
  • Upper lip has white stripe
  • M. r. banksianus: male medium grey to reddish on back, with reddish-brown neck; white or pale gray on belly
  • M. r. rufogriseus: males and females darker gray, neck browner; fur longer for more southern latitudes

Sexual Dimorphism

  •  Pronounced sexual dimorphism; the sexes have many differences (Jarman 1989):
    • Males grow faster than females
    • Adult males are are up to twice as large as females
    • Males' shoulders and arms proportionally larger than females'
    • Coat color of female Bennett's subspecies is lighter than males' coats
  • In macropod species weighing less than 5 kg (11 lb) there is no sexual dimorphism (Tyndale-Biscoe & Renfree 1987)

Other Physical and Physiological Characteristics

  • Features shared with all other members of the taxonomic order Diprotodontia (Nowak 1999) (Agar 2008):
    • A large outward projecting incisor on each lower jaw
    • Second and third digits of hind foot are fused (syndactyly), joined by a skin covering with a single claw
  • Features shared with all macropods (Nowak 1999):
    • Long narrow feet
    • Hind limbs longer and stronger than forelimbs
    • Forelimbs have 5 digits
    • Pouch opens forward, has 4 teats
    • Very small or non-existent vocal cords (Symington 1898)
  • Hind limbs in large and medium-sized members of kangaroo family have unusual properties compared to other animals (McGowan et al. 2008) (Bennett & Taylor 1995):
    • Tendons that extend the ankle generate larger than normal stresses and store more elastic strain energy
    • Higher elastic strain energy results in a reduced tendon safety factor
    • The need to minimize tendon and bone stresses limits the largest body size possible for hopping kangaroos and wallabies
  • Large ears can move independently through 180° (Tyndale-Biscoe 2005)
  • Visual capacity of large kangaroos and wallabies similar to that of rabbits and ungulates (Tyndale-Biscoe 2005)
    • Eyes high on skull
    • Field of vision wide - a tammar wallaby can see 324° for detecting movement in almost any direction
    • Overlap of vision from both eyes is about 25°
      • A rabbit has about 24° of binocular vision
      • A cat has 98° of binocular vision
      • Predators typically have more binocular vision for pinpointing a prey's position
  • Teeth move forward slowly and eventually fall out of jaw, making room for molars erupting behind (Nowak 1999)
    • Four sets of molars thus erupt in a lifetime
    • Animals with similar tooth development: elephants, manatees
    • Very old kangaroos may have only one or two teeth left in each jaw (Marshall & Corruccini 1978)
  • Hands used only occasionally (Weisbecker & Sanchez-Villagra 2006):
    • Pulling down branches
    • Fighting
    • Grooming
    • Holding open the pouch for cleaning
  • Respiration and hopping were linked in a study of tammar wallaby (Tyndale Biscoe 2005):
    • Upon leaving ground - breathe in
    • When landing - breathe out as guts press against diaphragm
    • Researchers suggest that since the force of internal organs striking the diaphragm aids in expelling air, the diaphragm itself isn't very muscular
  • Sense of smell acute observed in Red Kangaroo (Hunt et al. 1999)

Small Paws

Red-necked wallaby on haunches

Wallabies have small forepaws and prominent ears.

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

Page Citations

Agar (2008)
Hunt et al. (1999)
Jarman (1989)
Jarman & Calaby (2008)
Marshall & Corruccini (1978)
McGowan et al. (2008)
Newsome (1995)
Nowak (1999)
Symington (1898)
Tyndale-Biscoe & Renfree (1987)
Weisbecker & Sanchez-Villagra (2006)

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