The largest kangaroo, and largest of all marsupials, is the great red kangaroo, M. rufus, which inhabits the inland plains of Australia. Males of this species may be over 7 ft (210 cm) tall and weigh over 200 lbs (90 kg). They are bright maroon in color, with white faces and underparts. Females, called blue flyers, are blue-gray; smaller and faster than the males, they may achieve speeds of 30 mi (48 km) per hr. The great gray kangaroo, M. canguru, is almost as large; it is found in open forest areas of E and W Australia and in Tasmania. A related kangaroo, M. robustus, is known as the wallaroo and inhabits rocky hills throughout most of the continent.
Smaller, but quite similar in appearance and behavior, are members of the kangaroo family called wallabies and pademelons, of which there are many species, classified in several genera. Some of these are plains dwellers, others live among rocks or in scrub country; most are about the size of a rabbit. Of similar size are the tree and rat kangaroos. Tree kangaroos, species of the genus Dendrolagus, are the only arboreal members of the family. Found in the rain forests of New Guinea and N Australia, they climb well and can leap from branch to branch. Rat kangaroos are omnivorous animals of ratlike appearance. They feed largely on roots and fungi; members of many species live in burrows. They are classified in several genera and are distributed throughout the Australian region.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.