Posted By: Keith McGuinness, Faculty Biology
Date: Mon Nov 25 19:54:31 1996
Message ID: 845059250.Zo
Barry Hall asked:
During a recent class discussion about nocturnal animals,
one student insisted that kangaroos are nocturnal. We
researched the topic and found that some are active at night,
but are they classified as nocturnal animals?
To answer this question I went to The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals (edited by Ronald Strahan, Angus and Robertson Publishers, 1983; the museum has a site here).
The book makes it clear that most kangaroos and related animals, like most Australian native mammals, are nocturnal. This is true even of some of the large kangaroos which we Australians would probably not think of as nocturnal (for example, the Red Kangaroo). While many of these animals are strictly nocturnal, and are very rarely, if ever, active during the daylight hours, several may be active during part of the early morning or late afternoon.
So...the short answer to your question is: "Yes, many kangaroos and wallabies are nocturnal".
A few appropriate quotes:
"Kangaroos and their kin are characterised by powerful hindlimbs and long hindfeet which are usually employed in a fast hopping gait." This group of animals, often referred to by the semi-technical term "macropods", includes rat-kangaroos, potoroos, bettons, kangaroos, wallabies, hare-wallabies, nailtail wallabies, rock wallabies, pademelons, the Swamp Wallaby, the Quokka, tree-kangaroos, and the forest wallabies of New Guinea.
"Most macropods are nocturnal but the larger species may be active in the early morning and late afternoon. Potoroids construct nests, but no macropodids do so, although many retire to dense vegetaion during the daytime. The Red Kangaroo requires no more than the shade of a tree or bush but other kangaroos of the arid regions retire to caves or rock crevices during the heat of the day."
The Musky Rat-kangaroo is an example of a smaller macropod which is not nocturnal; it forages for fruit and small invertebrates in rainforest during the early morning and late afternoon. (More information about this animal is here.)
An example of a larger macropod is the Eastern Grey Kangaroo which "during the hours of daylight...usually rests in the shade or shelter of trees and shrubs, moving out to graze from late afternoon to early morning, whenanimals tend to aggregate in more open country."
The Red Kangaroo, "one of the largest living marsupials" grazes on grasses and other green herbage "mostly at night but may extend into the late evening and early mornings".
Some sites with information about kangaroos:
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