What goes on in my pocket?
The red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is the biggest marsupial alive. (National geographic) All marsupials carry their young in a pouch until they are old enough to survive outside of it. Like all species of kangaroos, only the female red kangaroos have a pouch. This pouch is located in front of their bodies.
It is a common misassumption that kangaroos are only able to house one joey in its pocket at a time. So, what actually goes on in the pouch of a red kangaroo?
Females only give birth to one baby at a time (National geographic). A newborn joey is securely attached to one of its mother’s two teats, which are located inside the pouch. (Ray, 2012) The joey is thus safe and will be ensured milk until it has grown enough to be able to leave the pouch. Once this happens, the female kangaroo can immediately give birth again to another joey, which will be attached to the other teat. (Ray, 2012) The kangaroo’s teats will each produce milk meant for different phases of growth to cater to both its newborn, and its older joey, which returns to the pouch to feed occasionally. (Ray, 2012)
It is also said that some kangaroos are able to interrupt the development of a partially developed embryo and resume gestation when there is vacancy in her pouch. (Ray, 2012) This might imply that some kangaroos are able to house a total of three young at any time.
So what happens when its pouch collects dirt? To ensure a healthy environment for growth in its pouch, the female kangaroo uses her tongue to clean out the dirt repeatedly before and during the joey’s confinement to the pouch. (Sharman & Pilton, 2009)
You have just taken a peek into some of the ways a female kangaroo brings up her young and this is one of the interesting areas of a kangaroo’s live cycle.
Ray, C. C. (2012, 08 13). Retrieved 04 08, 2013, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/science/how-do-female-kangaroos-keep-their-pouches-clean.html?_r=0
Sharman, G. B., & Pilton, P. E. (2009). THE LIFE HISTORY AND REPRODUCTION OF THE RED KANGAROO (MEGALEIA RUFA). Journal of Zoology , 142 (1), 29-48.
(n.d.). Retrieved 04 08, 2013, from National geographic: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/red-kangaroo/
“Female Red Kangaroo (Marcropus rufus)” URL:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Female_Red_Kangaroo_%28Macropus_rufus%29.jpg (accessed on 09 April 2013)