Kangaroo Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Kangaroo Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The kangaroo is not limited to a single established breeding season. Instead, it can choose to mate at any time throughout the year as circumstances dictate. This means it is more likely to reproduce when resources are particularly bountiful. Kangaroos engage in a brief courtship period but do not form long-term pair bonds after copulation. Since reproduction is a bit of a free for all, males compete with each other to monopolize access to females. The male plays no other role in the development of the young.

After a month-long gestation period, the young joey is born hairless, helpless, and completely blind, measuring no more than an inch in size. The first thing it does is crawl into the mother’s pouch and attach it to her teat. It remains there for 120 to 400 days. Even after it emerges from the pouch, the young kangaroo will remain with its mother for another year and a half, growing to its adult size.

If resources are particularly plentiful, then the mother has the ability to take care of three offspring at the same time: the undeveloped embryo, the joey inside of the pouch, and a joey outside of the pouch. The embryo can enter a dormant state, known as diapause, for as long as necessary until the other baby has left the pouch. The mother’s anatomy is specifically adapted to deal with this. She has the ability to produce two different types of milk, one for the newborn joey and one for the larger juvenile. This allows her to maximize the number of offspring she can raise at one time. It may help the kangaroo recover quickly from long periods of drought, during which time reproduction is suspended to conserve resources for the mother.

If the joey’s development goes smoothly, then it can expect to reach sexual maturity within the first two years of age. The life expectancy of the typical kangaroo is around 20 years in the wild, though some individuals have been known to live longer.

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