Kangaroos and their relatives

Related Articles

Two families of animals are included in this grouping; the macropodoids and the potoroids. Members of both families have short forelimbs and long hindfeet that enable them to move in a fast hopping gait. All have a pouch that opens forwards. Most are active at night and seek shelter to rest during the day.

Family Macropodidae

Of the 40 species of macropods found in Australia, only two occur elsewhere (in New Guinea). The family contains kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, quokka, pademelons and ranges in size from the Red Kangaroo at 1.8m (6ft) and 90kg (198lb) down to the Monjon at 35cm (13in) and 1.4kg (3lb).

The distinction between ‘kangaroo‘ and ‘wallaby’ is made by size; the six largest species are known as kangaroos. Because females tend to be considerably smaller than the males, this tends to be an arbitrary distinction as females of one species may be smaller than males of another.

Features: Rest during the day under bushes and logs

Diet: The larger members of the group graze in grasslands whilst others browse on leaves

Within this Family there are several groupings:

Kangaroos, Wallabies, and Wallaroos

A very diverse group, collectively found in most habitats

Number of species: 13


Spend most of their time in trees, primarily rainforest

Able to move one hind leg at a time which allows them to walk along branches rather than hop

Number of species: 2

Nailtail Wallabies

Horny spur at the tip of their tails

Number of species: 2


About the size of a hare

Move very rapidly if chased and zigzag to avoid capture hence the name Lagorchestes (Greek for dancing hare)

Number of species: 3


Medium-sized inhabit rainforest & dense eucalypt forest

Generally solitary, they gather on open feeding grounds at night but never venture far from cover

Number of species: 3


Well known on Rottnest Island, WA but found only in isolated pockets on the mainland

Number of species: 1

Swamp Wallaby

Quite distinct from the other wallabies live in forested areas with a dense understorey

Feed throughout the day and night on grasses, low shrubs, ferns but during the day they stay in forested areas that provide cover from predators

Number of species: 1


Found on rocky escarpments, cliffs shelter in caves and crevices can climb trees if the trunks are not vertical

Relatively short hind feet, soles are thickly padded and provide traction on slippery surfaces

Number of species: 15

Family Potoroidae

Commonly called rat-kangaroos.

Diet: fruits, roots, leaves, seeds, fungi, some also eat invertebrates

Within this Family there are three groupings:

Musky Rat-kangaroo

Lives in rainforest uses all 4 feet for moving around

Active during the day


Build nests to shelter during the day (one species burrows)

Live in open forest areas

Number of species: 5


Live in forests with a dense understorey shelter under tussocks and shrubs

Feed mainly on fungi

Number of species: 2

More on this topic

Previous articleMarsupials
Next articlePossums and Gliders

Popular stories


Taxonomy <> </> FamilyMacropodidaekangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, quokka, pademelonsGenusThylogalepouched weasel3 species in Australia4th species only in New...


The sources of this information are provided under Resources AliasesTaxonomic classificationSuperfamilyMacropodoideabig footed62 species in Australia & Papua New Guineasize 1...

The Ultimate List on Natives to Plant in your Garden

Australia has a wide range of unique native flora which are well suited to our climate and beautiful to behold. With strong...