Western grey kangaroo

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Western grey kangaroo[1]
Western Grey Kangaroo SMC 2006.JPG
Wild western grey at sunset, Western Australia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Macropodidae
Genus: Macropus
Species: M. fuliginosus
Binomial name
Macropus fuliginosus
Desmarest, 1817
Western Grey Kangaroo Range.jpg
Western grey kangaroo range

The western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) is a large and very common kangaroo or macropod, found across almost the entire southern part of Australia, from just south of Shark Bay to coastal South Australia, Western Australia, western Victoria, and the entire Murray–Darling Basin in New South Wales and Queensland. The subspecies on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, is known as the Kangaroo Island kangaroo.


The western grey kangaroo is one of the largest kangaroos in Australia. It weighs 28–54 kg (62–120 lb) and its length is 0.84–1.1 m (2 ft 9 in–3 ft 7 in) with a 0.80–1.0 m (2 ft 7 in–3 ft 3 in) tail, standing approximately 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) tall.[3] It exhibits sexual dimorphism with the male up to twice the size of female. It has thick, coarse fur with colour ranging from pale grey to brown; its throat, chest and belly have a paler colour.[4] It feeds at night, mainly on grasses but also on leafy shrubs and low trees. It has a nickname "stinker" because mature males have a distinctive curry-like odour.[5]

The kangaroo lives in groups of up to 15. The males compete for females during the breeding season.[6] During these "boxing" contests, they lock arms and try to push each other over. Usually, only the dominant male in the group mates.[4] The gestation period is 30–31 days, after which, the baby joey attaches to the teat in the pouch for 130–150 days.[4]


Long known to the Aboriginal people of Australia, for Europeans, the western grey kangaroo was the centre of a great deal of sometimes comical taxonomic confusion for almost 200 years. It was first noted by European settlers when the great explorer Matthew Flinders landed on Kangaroo Island in 1802. Flinders shot several for food but assumed that they were eastern grey kangaroos. In 1803 French explorers captured several Kangaroo Island western grey kangaroos and shipped them home to Paris, where they lived in the zoological gardens for some years. Eventually, researchers at the Paris Museum of Natural History recognised that these animals were indeed different and formally described the species as Macropus fuliginosus in 1817. Unfortunately, for reasons that remain unclear, it was described as native to Tasmania.

There the matter rested for over 100 years, and it was not until 1917 that researchers realised that the "forester kangaroo" of Tasmania was in fact Macropus giganteus, the same eastern grey kangaroo that was, and still is, widespread in the more fertile south-eastern part of the mainland. By 1971, it was understood that the Kangaroo Island species was the same as the kangaroos of southern Western Australia, and that this population extended through much of the eastern part of the continent as well. For a time, three subspecies were described, two on the mainland and one on Kangaroo Island. Finally, by the early 1990s, the current understanding emerged.


Family of Kangaroo Island kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus) in springtime, Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

There are two subspecies of the western grey kangaroo:

  • Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus, which is endemic to Kangaroo Island
  • Macropus fuliginosus melanops, which has a range of different forms that intergrade clinally from west to east.

The western grey kangaroo is not found in the tropical north or the fertile south-east of Australia, and the eastern grey does not extend beyond the NSW–South Australia border, but the two species are both common in the Murray–Darling Basin area. They never interbreed in the wild, although it has proved possible to produce hybrids between eastern grey females and western grey males in captivity.

The western grey kangaroo is also referred to as a black-faced kangaroo, mallee kangaroo, sooty kangaroo, and carno kangaroo.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Groves, C.P. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 64. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ Burbidge, A., Menkhorst, P., Ellis, M. & Copley, P. (2008). Macropus fuliginosus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ Menkhorst, P & Knight, F 2001, A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  4. ^ a b c David Burnie & Don E. Wilson (eds), ed. (2005-09-19). Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife (1st paperback ed.). Dorling Kindersley. p. 101. ISBN 0-7566-1634-4. 
  5. ^ "Guide to the kangaroos of Fowlers Gap" (PDF). The University of New South Wales. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  6. ^ "Western gray kangaroo". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2007-02-25.