Kangaroos belong to a group of mammals known as marsupials. These remarkable creatures are distinguished by their pouches. When a young kangaroo or any marsupial is born, it moves to a pouch outside the womb where it continues to grow and feed.
How Big is a Kangaroo Pouch?
A kangaroo pouch is stretchable to accommodate a growing baby kangaroo which is called a joey. A joey spends only a brief period in its mother’s womb, about one month. When it is born, the joey is about the size of a kidney bean, or less than one inch. It is hairless and blind.
The Kangaroo Womb and the Joey
While its hind legs are weak, the front legs are better developed. The joey uses them to crawl toward the kangaroo pouch immediately after birth. Because the joey is so small and its mother’s fur quite thick, the trip can take a few minutes. Once it is near enough, the joey falls down on its head and rolls onto its back unhurt. Inside the mother’s poach, the joey clings to one of her four teats. The teat then swells up to prevent the joey from falling.
Growth in the Kangaroo Womb
The joey will spend about six more months in the kangaroo pouch. The pouch is basically an extension of the womb, helping the tiny baby to grow. After six months, the joey gets big enough to move and jump out of the pouch for the first time, but it will still return often. Over the next several weeks, it will spend less and less time in the pouch. Then between 7-8 months, the joey will leave its “nest” permanently, and come back only to feed. By this time the joey has grown into a fully formed kangaroo with eyesight, strong hind legs and fur.
Kangaroo Fertility Cycle
A kangaroo mother is always pregnant. Just as soon as a joey has settled into her pouch, she will become fertile and receptive. She may conceive at this time. However nature has designed the kangaroo to delay the growth of the new fetus while she’s still caring for the older joey. When the latter has started living outside of the pouch, the new joey will be born and the cycle repeats itself.
Two Joeys, One Kangaroo Pouch
It is common to see mother kangaroos with one joey in its pouch and another one suckling from outside. In that instance, the mother will produce two different kinds of milk for them. The older joey may still return into the kangaroo pouch to rest or hide. Of course the kangaroo pouch stretches to make it fit. When it is mature enough, the mother will force the joey out for good.
The kangaroo is the animal symbol of Australia. It ahs thrived well amidst human society and is not an endangered species.