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Wallaby

Macropus (Notamacropus)

Photo: Baby wallaby

Photo: Baby wallaby (View larger version)

Photograph by Anne Keiser

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Wallabies are members of the kangaroo clan found primarily in Australia and on nearby islands. There are many wallaby species, grouped roughly by habitat: shrub wallabies, brush wallabies, and rock wallabies. Hare wallabies are named for their size and their hare-like behavior.

All wallabies are marsupials or pouched mammals. Wallaby young are born tiny, helpless, and undeveloped. They immediately crawl into their mothers' pouches where they continue to develop after birth—usually for a couple of months. Young wallabies, like their larger kangaroo cousins, are called joeys. Even after a joey leaves the pouch, it often returns to jump in when danger approaches.

Wallabies are typically small to medium-sized mammals, but the largest can reach 6 feet (1.8 meters) from head to tail. They have powerful hind legs they use to bound along at high speeds and jump great distances. When wallabies are threatened by predators, or when males battle each other, they may also use these legs to deliver powerful kicks.

These marsupials also have large and powerful tails. Wallaby tails are not prehensile (gripping), but are useful nonetheless. The animals use them for balance when moving and to prop themselves up in a sitting posture. Nail-tailed wallabies even sport a sharp growth at the end of their tails.

Wallabies are herbivores, and the bulk of their diet is grasses and plants. Their elongated faces leave plenty of jaw room for the large, flat teeth necessary to chew their vegetarian meals.

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