For other uses, see Tradition (disambiguation).
A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes (like lawyers' wigs or military officers' spurs), but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings. Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word "tradition" itself derives from the Latintradere literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping. While it is commonly assumed that traditions have ancient history, many traditions have been invented on purpose, whether that be political or cultural, over short periods of time. Various academic disciplines also use the word in a variety of ways.
One way tradition is used more simply, often in academic work but elsewhere also, is to indicate the quality of a piece of information being discussed. The phrase "according to tradition," or "by tradition," usually means that whatever information follows is known only by oral tradition, but is not supported, (and perhaps may be refuted) by physical documentation, by a physical artifact, or other quality evidence. For example, "According to tradition, Homer was born on Chios, but many other locales have historically claimed him as theirs." This tradition may never be proven or disproven. In another example, "King Arthur, by tradition a true British king, has inspired many well loved stories." Whether they are documented fact or not does not decrease their value as cultural history and literature.
Aside from this use in describing the quality of information, various scholarly fields define the term differently, as is needed. For example, anthropology and biology have each defined tradition it more precisely than in conventional, as described below, in order to facilitate scholarly discourse.
The concept of tradition, as the notion of holding on to a previous time, is also found in political and philosophical discourse. For example, it is the basis of the political concept of traditionalism, and also strands of many world religions including traditional Catholicism. In artistic contexts, tradition is used to decide the correct display of an art form. For example, in the performance of traditional genres (such as traditional dance), adherence to guidelines dictating how an art form should be composed are given greater importance than the performer's own preferences. A number of factors can exacerbate the loss of tradition, including industrialization, globalization, and the assimilation or marginalization of specific cultural groups. In response to this, tradition-preservation attempts have now been started in many countries around the world, focusing on aspects such as traditional languages. Tradition is usually contrasted with the goal of modernity and should be differentiated from customs, conventions, laws, norms, routines, rules and similar concepts.
The English word "tradition" comes from the Latintraditio, the noun from the verb tradere (to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping); it was originally used in Roman law to refer to the concept of legal transfers and inheritance. According to Anthony Giddens and others, the modern meaning of tradition can be seen as having evolved in the European discourse in the last two hundred years, during the Enlightenment period, as philosophers and thinkers counter posed the concept of modernity with the concept of tradition, in the context of progress.
As with many other generic terms, there are many definitions of tradition. The concept includes a number of interrelated ideas; the unifying one is that tradition refers to beliefs, objects or customs performed or believed in the past, originating in it, transmitted through time by being taught by one generation to the next, and are performed or believed in the present.
Tradition can also refer to beliefs or customs that are Prehistoric, with lost or arcane origins, existing from time immemorial. Originally, traditions were passed orally, without the need for a writing system. Tools to aid this process include poetic devices such as rhyme and alliteration. The stories thus preserved are also referred to as tradition, or as part of an oral tradition. Even such traditions, however, are presumed to have originated (been "invented" by humans) at some point. Traditions are often presumed to be ancient, unalterable, and deeply important, though they may sometimes be much less "natural" than is presumed. It is presumed that at least two transmissions over three generations are required for a practice, belief or object to be seen as traditional. Some traditions were deliberately invented for one reason or another, often to highlight or enhance the importance of a certain institution. Traditions may also be adapted to suit the needs of the day, and the changes can become accepted as a part of the ancient tradition. Tradition changes slowly, with changes from one generation to the next being seen as significant. Thus, those carrying out the traditions will not be consciously aware of the change, and even if a tradition undergoes major changes over many generations, it will be seen as unchanged.
There are various origins and fields of tradition; they can refer to:
- the forms of artistic heritage of a particular culture.
- beliefs or customs instituted and maintained by societies and governments, such as national anthems and national holidays, such as Federal holidays in the United States.
- beliefs or customs maintained by religious denominations and church bodies that share history, customs, culture, and, to some extent, body of teachings. For example, one can speak of Islam's tradition or Christianity's tradition.
Many objects, beliefs and customs can be traditional. Rituals of social interaction can be traditional, with phrases and gestures such as saying "thank you", sending birth announcements, greeting cards, etc. Tradition can also refer to larger concepts practiced by groups (family traditions at Christmas), organizations (company's picnic) or societies, such as the practice of national and public holidays. Some of the oldest traditions include monotheism (three millennia) and citizenship (two millennia). It can also include material objects, such as buildings, works of art or tools.
Tradition is often used as an adjective, in contexts such as traditional music, traditional medicine, traditional values and others. In such constructions tradition refers to specific values and materials particular to the discussed context, passed through generations.
Invention of tradition
Main article: Invented tradition
The term "invention of tradition", introduced by E. J. Hobsbawm, refers to situations when a new practice or object is introduced in a manner that implies a connection with the past that is not necessarily present. A tradition may be deliberately created and promulgated for personal, commercial, political, or national self-interest, as was done in colonial Africa; or it may be adopted rapidly based on a single highly publicized event, rather than developing and spreading organically in a population, as in the case of the white wedding dress, which only became popular after Queen Victoria wore a white gown at her wedding to Albert of Saxe-Coburg.
An example of an invention of tradition is the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster (location of the British Parliament) in the Gothic style. Similarly, most of the traditions associated with monarchy of the United Kingdom, seen as rooted deep in history, actually date to 19th century. Other examples include the invention of tradition in Africa and other colonial holdings by the occupying forces. Requiring legitimacy, the colonial power would often invent a "tradition" which they could use to legitimize their own position. For example, a certain succession to a chiefdom might be recognized by a colonial power as traditional in order to favour their own candidates for the job. Often these inventions were based in some form of tradition, but were exaggerated, distorted, or biased toward a particular interpretation.
Invented traditions are a central component of modern national cultures, providing a commonality of experience and promoting the unified national identity espoused by nationalism. Common examples include public holidays (particularly those unique to a particular nation), the singing of national anthems, and traditional national cuisine (see national dish). Expatriate and immigrant communities may continue to practice the national traditions of their home nation.
In scholarly discourse
In science, tradition is often used in the literature in order to define the relationship of an author's thoughts to that of his or her field. In 1948, philosopher of science Karl Popper suggested that there should be a "rational theory of tradition" applied to science which was fundamentally sociological. For Popper, each scientist who embarks on a certain research trend inherits the tradition of the scientists before them as he or she inherits their studies and any conclusions that superseded it. Unlike myth, which is a means of explaining the natural world through means other than logical criticism, scientific tradition was inherited from Socrates, who proposed critical discussion, according to Popper. For Thomas Kuhn, who presented his thoughts in a paper presented in 1977, a sense of such a critical inheritance of tradition is, historically, what sets apart the best scientists who change their fields is an embrasure of tradition.
Traditions are a subject of study in several academic fields in social sciences—chiefly anthropology, archeology, and biology—with somewhat different meanings in different fields. It is also used in varying contexts in other fields, such as history, psychology and sociology. Social scientists and others have worked to refine the commonsense concept of tradition to make it into a useful concept for scholarly analysis. In the 1970s and 1980s, Edward Shils explored the concept in detail. Since then, a wide variety of social scientists have criticized traditional ideas about tradition; meanwhile, "tradition" has come into usage in biology as applied to nonhuman animals.
Tradition as a concept variously defined in different disciplines should not be confused with various traditions (perspectives, approaches) in those disciplines.
Tradition is one of the key concepts in anthropology; it can be said that anthropology is the study of "tradition in traditional societies". There is however no "theory of tradition", as for most anthropologists the need to discuss what tradition is seems unnecessary, as defining tradition is both unnecessary (everyone can be expected to know what it is) and unimportant (as small differences in definition would be just technical). There are however dissenting views; scholars such as Pascal Boyer argue that defining tradition and developing theories about it are important to the discipline.
In archaeology, the term tradition is a set of cultures or industries which appear to develop on from one another over a period of time. The term is especially common in the study of American archaeology.
Biologists, when examining groups of non-humans, have observed repeated behaviors which are taught within communities from one generation to the next. Tradition is defined in biology as "a behavioral practice that is relatively enduring (i.e., is performed repeatedly over a period of time), that is shared among two or more members of a group, that depends in part on socially aided learning for its generation in new practitioners", and has been called a precursor to "culture" in the anthropological sense.
Behavioral traditions have been observed in groups of fish, birds, and mammals. Groups of orangutans and chimpanzees, in particular, may display large numbers of behavioral traditions, and in chimpanzees, transfer of traditional behavior from one group to another (not just within a group) has been observed. Such behavioral traditions may have evolutionary significance, allowing adaptation at a faster rate than genetic change.
Musicology and ethnomusicology
In the field of musicology and ethnomusicology tradition refers to the belief systems, repertoire, techniques, style and culture that is passed down through subsequent generations. Tradition in music suggests a historical context with which one can perceive distinguishable patterns. Along with a sense of history, traditions have a fluidity that cause them to evolve and adapt over time. While both musicology and ethnomusicology are defined by being 'the scholarly study of music' they differ in their methodology and subject of research. 'Tradition, or traditions, can be presented as a context in which to study the work of a specific composer or as a part of a wide-ranging historical perspective.'
The concept of tradition, in early sociological research (around the turn of the 19th and 20th century), referred to that of the traditional society, as contrasted by the more modern industrial society. This approach was most notably portrayed in Max Weber's concepts of traditional authority and modern rational-legal authority. In more modern works, One hundred years later, sociology sees tradition as a social construct used to contrast past with the present and as a form of rationality used to justify certain course of action.
Traditional society is characterized by lack of distinction between family and business, division of labor influenced primarily by age, gender, and status, high position of custom in the system of values, self-sufficiency, preference to saving and accumulation of capital instead of productive investment, relative autarky. Early theories positing the simple, unilineal evolution of societies from traditional to industrial model are now seen as too simplistic.
In 1981 Edward Shils in his book Tradition put forward a definition of tradition that became universally accepted. According to Shils, tradition is anything which is transmitted or handed down from the past to the present.
Another important sociological aspect of tradition is the one that relates to rationality. It is also related to the works of Max Weber (see theories of rationality), and were popularized and redefined in 1992 by Raymond Boudon in his book Action. In this context tradition refers to the mode of thinking and action justified as "it has always been that way". This line of reasoning forms the basis of the logical flaw of the appeal to tradition (or argumentum ad antiquitatem), which takes the form "this is right because we've always done it this way." In most cases such an appeal can be refuted on the grounds that the "tradition" being advocated may no longer be desirable, or, indeed, may never have been despite its previous popularity.
The idea of tradition is important in philosophy. Twentieth century philosophy is often divided between an 'analytic' tradition, dominant in Anglophone and Scandinavian countries, and a 'continental' tradition, dominant in German and Romance speaking Europe. Increasingly central to continental philosophy is the project of deconstructing what its proponents, following Martin Heidegger, call 'the tradition', which began with Plato and Aristotle. In contrast, some continental philosophers - most notably, Hans-Georg Gadamer - have attempted to rehabilitate the tradition of Aristotelianism. This move has been replicated within analytic philosophy by Alasdair MacIntyre. However, MacIntyre has himself deconstructed the idea of 'the tradition', instead posing Aristotelianism as one philosophical tradition in rivalry with others.
In political and religious discourse
Main articles: Traditional values and Traditionalist conservatism
The concepts of tradition and traditional values are frequently used in political and religious discourse to establish the legitimacy of a particular set of values. In the United States in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the concept of tradition has been used to argue for the centrality and legitimacy of conservative religious values. Similarly, strands of orthodox theological thought from a number of world religions openly identify themselves as wanting a return to tradition. For example, the term "traditionalist Catholic" refers to those, such as Archbishop Lefebvre, who want the worship and practices of the church to be as they were before the Second Vatican Council of 1962–65. Likewise, Sunni Muslims are referred to as Ahlus Sunnah wa Al-Jamā‘ah (Arabic: أهل السنة والجماعة), literally "people of the tradition [of Muhammad] and the community", emphasizing their attachment to religious and cultural tradition.
More generally, tradition has been used as a way of determining the political spectrum, with right-wing parties having a stronger affinity to the ways of the past than left-wing ones. Here, the concept of adherence tradition is embodied by the political philosophy of traditionalist conservatism (or simply traditionalism), which emphasizes the need for the principles of natural law and transcendent moral order, hierarchy and organic unity, agrarianism, classicism and high culture, and the intersecting spheres of loyalty. Traditionalists would therefore reject the notions of individualism, liberalism, modernity, and social progress, but promote cultural and educational renewal, and revive interest in the church, the family, the state and local community. This view has been criticised for including in its notion of tradition practices which are no longer considered to be desirable, for example, stereotypical views of the place of women in domestic affairs.
In other societies, especially ones experiencing rapid social change, the idea of what is "traditional" may be widely contested, with different groups striving to establish their own values as the legitimate traditional ones. Defining and enacting traditions in some cases can be a means of building unity between subgroups in a diverse society; in other cases, tradition is a means of othering and keeping groups distinct from one another.
In artistic discourse
In artistic contexts, in the performance of traditional genres (such as traditional dance), adherence to traditional guidelines is of greater importance than performer's preferences. It is often the unchanging form of certain arts that leads to their perception as traditional. For artistic endeavors, tradition has been used as a contrast to creativity, with traditional and folk art associated with unoriginal imitation or repetition, in contrast to fine art, which is valued for being original and unique. More recent philosophy of art, however, considers interaction with tradition as integral to the development of new artistic expression.
Relationship to other concepts
In the social sciences, tradition is often contrasted with modernity, particularly in terms of whole societies. This dichotomy is generally associated with a linear model of social change, in which societies progress from being traditional to being modern. Tradition-oriented societies have been characterized as valuing filial piety, harmony and group welfare, stability, and interdependence, while a society exhibiting modernity would value "individualism (with free will and choice), mobility, and progress." Another author discussing tradition in relationship to modernity, Anthony Giddens, sees tradition as something bound to ritual, where ritual guarantees the continuation of tradition. Gusfield and others, though, criticize this dichotomy as oversimplified, arguing that tradition is dynamic, heterogeneous, and coexists successfully with modernity even within individuals.
Tradition should be differentiated from customs, conventions, laws, norms, routines, rules and similar concepts. Whereas tradition is supposed to be invariable, they are seen as more flexible and subject to innovation and change. Whereas justification for tradition is ideological, the justification for other similar concepts is more practical or technical. Over time, customs, routines, conventions, rules and such can evolve into traditions, but that usually requires that they stop having (primarily) a practical purpose. For example, wigs worn by lawyers were at first common and fashionable; spurs worn by military officials were at first practical but now are both impractical and traditional.
In many countries, concerted attempts are being made to preserve traditions that are at risk of being lost. A number of factors can exacerbate the loss of tradition, including industrialization, globalization, and the assimilation or marginalization of specific cultural groups. Customary celebrations and lifestyles are among the traditions that are sought to be preserved. Likewise, the concept of tradition has been used to defend the preservation and reintroduction of minority languages such as Cornish under the auspices of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Specifically, the charter holds that these languages "contribute to the maintenance and development of Europe's cultural wealth and traditions". The Charter goes on to call for "the use or adoption... of traditional and correct forms of place-names in regional or minority languages". Similarly, UNESCO includes both "oral tradition" and "traditional manifestations" in its definition of a country's cultural properties and heritage. It therefore works to preserve tradition in countries such as Brazil.
In Japan, certain artworks, structures, craft techniques and performing arts are considered by the Japanese government to be a precious legacy of the Japanese people, and are protected under the Japanese Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. This law also identifies people skilled at traditional arts as "National Living Treasures", and encourages the preservation of their craft.
For native peoples like the Māori in New Zealand, there is conflict between the fluid identity assumed as part of modern society and the traditional identity with the obligations that accompany it; the loss of language heightens the feeling of isolation and damages the ability to perpetuate tradition.
Traditional cultural expressions
The phrase "traditional cultural expressions" is used by the World Intellectual Property Organization to refer to "any form of artistic and literary expression in which traditional culture and knowledge are embodied. They are transmitted from one generation to the next, and include handmade textiles, paintings, stories, legends, ceremonies, music, songs, rhythms and dance."
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This article is about the living animal. For the kangaroo as a food, see Kangaroo meat. For other meanings, see Kangaroo (disambiguation).
The kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae (macropods, meaning "large foot"). In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, especially those of the genus Macropus: the red kangaroo, antilopine kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, and western grey kangaroo. Kangaroos are indigenous to Australia. The Australian government estimates that 34.3 million kangaroos lived within the commercial harvest areas of Australia in 2011, up from 25.1 million one year earlier.
As with the terms "wallaroo" and "wallaby", "kangaroo" refers to a polyphyletic grouping of species. All three refer to members of the same taxonomic family, Macropodidae, and are distinguished according to size. The largest species in the family are called "kangaroos" and the smallest are generally called "wallabies". The term "wallaroos" refers to species of an intermediate size. There is also the tree-kangaroo, another genus of macropod, which inhabits the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, far northeastern Queensland and some of the islands in the region. A general idea of the relative size of these informal terms could be:
- wallabies: head and body length of 45–105 cm and tail length of 33–75 cm; The dwarf wallaby (the smallest member) length is 46 cm and weigh of 1.6 kg;
- tree-kangaroos: from Lumholtz's tree-kangaroo body and head length of 48–65 cm, tail of 60–74 cm, weigh of 7.2 kg (16 lb) for males and 5.9 kg (13 lb) for females; to the grizzled tree-kangaroo length of 75–90 cm (30 to 35 in) and weight of 8–15 kg (18–33 lb);
- wallaroos: the black wallaroo, the smallest by far, with a tail length of 60–70 cm and weight of 19–22 kg for males and 13 kg for females;
- kangaroos: a large male can be 2 m (6 ft 7 in) tall and weigh 90 kg (200 lb).
Kangaroos have large, powerful hind legs, large feet adapted for leaping, a long muscular tail for balance, and a small head. Like most marsupials, female kangaroos have a pouch called a marsupium in which joeys complete postnatal development.
The large kangaroos have adapted much better than the smaller macropods to land clearing for pastoral agriculture and habitat changes brought to the Australian landscape by humans. Many of the smaller species are rare and endangered, while kangaroos are relatively plentiful.
The kangaroo is a symbol of Australia and appears on the Australian coat of arms and on some of its currency and is used by some of Australia's well known organisations, including Qantas and the Royal Australian Air Force. The kangaroo is important to both Australian culture and the national image, and consequently there are numerous popular culture references.
Wild kangaroos are shot for meat, leather hides, and to protect grazing land. Although controversial, kangaroo meat has perceived health benefits for human consumption compared with traditional meats due to the low level of fat on kangaroos.
The word "kangaroo" derives from the Guugu Yimithirr word gangurru, referring to grey kangaroos. The name was first recorded as "kanguru" on 12 July 1770 in an entry in the diary of Sir Joseph Banks; this occurred at the site of modern Cooktown, on the banks of the Endeavour River, where HMS Endeavour under the command of Lieutenant James Cook was beached for almost seven weeks to repair damage sustained on the Great Barrier Reef. Cook first referred to kangaroos in his diary entry of 4 August. Guugu Yimithirr is the language of the people of the area.
A common myth about the kangaroo's English name is that "kangaroo" was a Guugu Yimithirr phrase for "I don't understand you." According to this legend, Cook and Banks were exploring the area when they happened upon the animal. They asked a nearby local what the creatures were called. The local responded "Kangaroo", meaning "I don't understand you", which Cook took to be the name of the creature. This myth was debunked in the 1970s by linguist John B. Haviland in his research with the Guugu Yimithirr people.
Kangaroos are often colloquially referred to as "roos". Male kangaroos are called bucks, boomers, jacks, or old men; females are does, flyers, or jills, and the young ones are joeys. The collective noun for kangaroos is a mob, troop, or court.
Taxonomy and description
There are four species that are commonly referred to as kangaroos:
- The red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is the largest surviving marsupial anywhere in the world. It occupies the arid and semi-arid centre of the country. The highest population densities of the red kangaroo occur in the rangelands of western New South Wales. Red kangaroos are commonly mistaken as the most abundant species of kangaroo, but eastern greys actually have a larger population. A large male can be 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) tall and weigh 90 kg (200 lb).
- The eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) is less well-known than the red (outside Australia), but the most often seen, as its range covers the fertile eastern part of the country. The range of the eastern grey kangaroo extends from the top of the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland down to Victoria, as well as areas of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania. Population densities of eastern grey kangaroos usually peak near 100 per km2 in suitable habitats of open woodlands. Populations are more limited in areas of land clearance, such as farmland, where forest and woodland habitats are limited in size or abundance.
- The western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) is slightly smaller again at about 54 kg (119 lb) for a large male. It is found in the southern part of Western Australia, South Australia near the coast, and the Darling River basin. The highest population densities occur in the western Riverina district of New South Wales and in western areas of the Nullarbor Plain in Western Australia. Populations may have declined, particularly in agricultural areas. The species has a high tolerance to the plant toxin sodium fluoroacetate, which indicates a possible origin from the south-west region of Australia.
- The antilopine kangaroo (Macropus antilopinus) is, essentially, the far-northern equivalent of the eastern and western grey kangaroos. It is sometimes referred to as the antilopine wallaroo, but in behaviour and habitat it is more similar to red and grey kangaroos. Like them, it is a creature of the grassy plains and woodlands, and gregarious. Its name comes from its fur, which is similar in colour and texture to that of antelopes. Characteristically, the noses of males swell behind the nostrils. This enlarges nasal passages and allows them to release more heat in hot and humid climates.
In addition, there are about 50 smaller macropods closely related to the kangaroo in the family Macropodidae. Kangaroos and other macropods share a common ancestor with Phalangeridae from the mid-Miocene. This ancestor was likely arboreal and lived in the canopies of the extensive forests that covered most of Australia at that time, when the climate was much wetter, and fed on leaves and stems. From the late Miocene though the Pliocene and into the Pleistocene the climate got drier which led to a decline of forests and expansion of grasslands. At this time there was a radiation of macropodids characterised by enlarged body size and adaptation to the low quality grass diet with the development of foregut fermentation. The most numerous early macropods, the Balbaridae and Bulungmayinae, became extinct in the late Miocene around 5–10 mya. There is dispute over the relationships of the two groups to modern kangaroos and rat kangaroos. Some argue that the balbarines were the ancestors of rat kangaroos and the bulungmayines were the ancestors of kangaroos. while others hold the contrary view.
The middle to late bulungmayines, Gungaroo and Wanburoo lacked digit 1 of the hind foot and digits 2 and 3 were reduced and partly under the large digit 4, much like the modern kangaroo foot. This would indicate that they were bipedal. In addition their ankle bones had an articulation that would have prohibited much lateral movements, an adaptation for bipedal hopping. Species related to the modern grey kangaroos and wallaroos begin to appear in the Pliocene. The red kangaroo appears to be the most recently evolved kangaroo with its fossil record not going back beyond the Pleistocene period, 1–2 mya.
Europeans have long regarded kangaroos as strange animals. Early explorers described them as creatures that had heads like deer (without antlers), stood upright like men, and hopped like frogs. Combined with the two-headed appearance of a mother kangaroo, this led many back home to dismiss them as travellers' tales for quite some time. The first kangaroo to be exhibited in the western world was an example shot by John Gore, an officer on Captain Cook's Endeavour in 1770. The animal was shot and its skin and skull transported back to England whereupon it was stuffed (by taxidermists who had never seen the animal before) and displayed to the general public as a curiosity. The first glimpse of a kangaroo for many 18th-century Britons was a painting by George Stubbs.
Comparison with wallabies
Kangaroos and wallabies belong to the same taxonomic family (Macropodidae) and often the same genera, but kangaroos are specifically categorised into the six largest species of the family. The term wallaby is an informal designation generally used for any macropod that is smaller than a kangaroo or wallaroo that has not been designated otherwise.
Biology and behaviour
See also: Red kangaroo § Behaviour, and Eastern grey kangaroo § Behaviour
Kangaroos are the only large animals to use hopping as a means of locomotion. The comfortable hopping speed for a red kangaroo is about 20–25 km/h (12–16 mph), but speeds of up to 70 km/h (43 mph) can be attained over short distances, while it can sustain a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) for nearly 2 km (1.2 mi). This fast and energy-efficient method of travel has evolved because of the need to regularly cover large distances in search of food and water, rather than the need to escape predators. At slow speeds, it employs pentapedal locomotion, using its tail to form a tripod with its two forelimbs while bringing its hind feet forward. Kangaroos are adept swimmers, and often flee into waterways if threatened by a predator. If pursued into the water, a kangaroo may use its forepaws to hold the predator underwater so as to drown it.
Kangaroos have single-chambered stomachs quite unlike those of cattle and sheep. They sometimes regurgitate the vegetation they have eaten, chew it as cud, and then swallow it again for final digestion, but this is a different, and more strenuous, activity than it is in ruminants, and does not take place as frequently. Different species of kangaroos have different diets, although all are strict herbivores. The eastern grey kangaroo is predominantly a grazer, eating a wide variety of grasses, whereas some other species (e.g. the red kangaroo) include significant amounts of shrubs in their diets. The smaller species of kangaroos also consume hypogeal fungi. Many species are nocturnal, and crepuscular, usually spending the days resting in shade, and the cool evenings, nights and mornings moving about and feeding.
Because of its grazing, the kangaroo has developed specialised teeth. Its incisors are able to crop grass close to the ground, and its molars chop and grind the grass. Since the two sides of the lower jaw are not joined together, the lower incisors are farther apart, giving the kangaroo a wider bite. The silica in grass is abrasive, so kangaroo molars move forward as they are ground down, and eventually fall out, replaced by new teeth that grow in the back. This process is known as polyphyodonty and amongst other mammals, only occurs in elephants and manatees.
Absence of digestive methane release
Despite having herbivorous diets similar to ruminants such as cattle, which release large quantities of methane through exhaling and eructation (burping), kangaroos release virtually none. The hydrogen byproduct of fermentation is instead converted into acetate, which is then used to provide further energy. Scientists are interested in the possibility of transferring the bacteria responsible from kangaroos to cattle, since the greenhouse gas effect of methane is 23 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, per molecule.
Social and sexual behaviour
Groups of kangaroos are called mobs, which usually have 10 or more kangaroos in them. Living in mobs can provide protection for some of the weaker members of the group. The size and stability of the mobs vary between geographic regions, with eastern Australia having larger and more stable aggregations than in arid areas farther west. Larger aggregations display high amounts of interactions and complex social structures, comparable to that of ungulates. One common behaviour is nose touching and sniffing, which mostly occurs when an individual joins a group. The kangaroo performing the sniffing gains much information from smell cues. This behaviour enforces social cohesion without consequent aggression. During mutual sniffing, if one kangaroo is smaller, it will hold its body closer to the ground and its head will quiver, which serves as a possible form of submission. Greetings between males and females are common, with larger males being the most involved in meeting females. Most other non-antagonistic behaviour occurs between mothers and their young. Mother and young reinforce their bond though grooming. A mother will groom her young during or after it is suckling. A joey will nuzzle its mother’s pouch if it wants access to it.
Sexual activity of kangaroos consists of consort pairs.Oestrous females roam widely and attract the attention of males with conspicuous signals. A male will monitor a female and follow her every movement. He sniffs her urine to see if she is in oestrus, a process exhibiting the flehmen response. The male will then proceed to approach her slowly to avoid alarming her. If the female does not run away, the male will continue by licking, pawing, and scratching her, and copulation will follow. After copulation is over, the male will move on to another female. Consort pairing may take several days and the copulation is also long. Thus, a consort pair is likely to attract the attention of a rival male. As larger males are tending bonds with females near oestrus, smaller males will tend to females that are farther from oestrus. Dominant males can avoid having to sort through females to determine their reproductive status by searching for tending bonds held by the largest male they can displace without a fight.
Fighting has been described in all species of kangaroos. Fights between kangaroos can be brief or long and ritualised. In highly competitive situations, such as males fighting for access to oestrous females or at limited drinking spots, the fights are brief. Both sexes will fight for drinking spots, but long, ritualised fighting or "boxing" is largely done by males. Smaller males fight more often near females in oestrus, while the large males in consorts do not seem to get involved. Ritualised fights can arise suddenly when males are grazing together. However, most fights are preceded by two males scratching and grooming each other. One or both of them will adopt a high standing posture, with one male issuing a challenge by grasping the other male’s neck with its forepaw. Sometimes, the challenge will be declined. Large males often reject challenges by smaller males. During fighting, the combatants adopt a high standing posture and paw at each other's heads, shoulders and chests. They will also lock forearms and wrestle and push each other as well as balance on their tails to kick each other in the abdomens.
Brief fights are similar except there is no forearm locking. The losing combatant seems to use kicking more often, perhaps to parry the thrusts of the eventual winner. A winner is decided when a kangaroo breaks off the fight and retreats. Winners are able to push their opponents backwards or down to the ground. They also seem to grasp their opponents when they break contact and push them away. The initiators of the fights are usually the winners. These fights may serve to establish dominance hierarchies among males, as winners of fights have been seen to displace their opponent from resting sites later in the day. Dominant males may also pull grass to intimidate subordinates.
Kangaroos have few natural predators. The thylacine, considered by palaeontologists to have once been a major natural predator of the kangaroo, is now extinct. Other extinct predators included the marsupial lion, Megalania and the Wonambi. However, with the arrival of humans in Australia at least 50,000 years ago and the introduction of the dingo about 5,000 years ago, kangaroos have had to adapt. Wedge-tailed eagles and other raptors usually eat kangaroo carrion. Goannas and other carnivorous reptiles also pose a danger to smaller kangaroo species when other food sources are lacking.
Along with dingos, introduced species such as foxes, feral cats, and both domestic and feral dogs, pose a threat to kangaroo populations. Kangaroos and wallabies are adept swimmers, and often flee into waterways if presented with the option. If pursued into the water, a large kangaroo may use its forepaws to hold the predator underwater so as to drown it. Another defensive tactic described by witnesses is catching the attacking dog with the forepaws and disembowelling it with the hind legs.
Kangaroos have developed a number of adaptations to a dry, infertile country and highly variable climate. As with all marsupials, the young are born at a very early stage of development—after a gestation of 31–36 days. At this stage, only the forelimbs are somewhat developed, to allow the newborn to climb to the pouch and attach to a teat. In comparison, a human embryo at a similar stage of development would be about seven weeks old, and premature babies born at less than 23 weeks are usually not mature enough to survive. When the joey is born, it is about the size of a lima bean. The joey will usually stay in the pouch for about nine months (180–320 days for the Western Grey) before starting to leave the pouch for small periods of time. It is usually fed by its mother until reaching 18 months.
The female kangaroo is usually pregnant in permanence, except on the day she gives birth; however, she has the ability to freeze the development of an embryo until the previous joey is able to leave the pouch. This is known as diapause, and will occur in times of drought and in areas with poor food sources. The composition of the milk produced by the mother varies according to the needs of the joey. In addition, the mother is able to produce two different kinds of milk simultaneously for the newborn and the older joey still in the pouch.
Unusually, during a dry period, males will not produce sperm, and females will only conceive if enough rain has fallen to produce a large quantity of green vegetation.
Kangaroos and wallabies have large, elastic tendons in their hind legs. They store elastic strain energy in the tendons of their large hind legs, providing most of the energy required for each hop by the spring action of the tendons rather than by any muscular effort. This is true in all animal species which have muscles connected to their skeletons through elastic elements such as tendons, but the effect is more pronounced in kangaroos.
There is also a link between the hopping action and breathing: as the feet leave the ground, air is expelled from the lungs; bringing the feet forward ready for landing refills the lungs, providing further energy efficiency. Studies of kangaroos and wallabies have demonstrated, beyond the minimum energy expenditure required to hop at all, increased speed requires very little extra effort (much less than the same speed increase in, say, a horse, dog or human), and the extra energy is required to carry extra weight. For kangaroos, the key benefit of hopping is not speed to escape predators—the top speed of a kangaroo is no higher than that of a similarly sized quadruped, and the Australian native predators are in any case less fearsome than those of other countries—but economy: in an infertile country with highly variable weather patterns, the ability of a kangaroo to travel long distances at moderately high speed in search of food sources is crucial to survival.
New research has revealed that a kangaroos tail acts as a third leg rather than just a balancing strut. Kangaroos have a unique three-stage walk where they plant their front legs and tail first, then push off their tail, followed lastly by the back legs. The propulsive force of the tail is equal to that of both the front and hind legs combined and performs as much work as what a human leg walking can at the same speed. 
A DNA sequencing project of the genome of a member of the kangaroo family, the tammar wallaby, was started in 2004. It was a collaboration between Australia (mainly funded by the state of Victoria) and the National Institutes of Health in the US. The tammar's genome was fully sequenced in 2011. The genome of a marsupial such as the kangaroo is of great interest to scientists studying comparative genomics, because marsupials are at an ideal degree of evolutionary divergence from humans: mice are too close and have not developed many different functions, while birds are genetically too remote. The dairy industry could also benefit from this project.
Eye disease is rare but not new among kangaroos. The first official report of kangaroo blindness took place in 1994, in central New South Wales. The following year, reports of blind kangaroos appeared in Victoria and South Australia. By 1996, the disease had spread "across the desert to Western Australia". Australian authorities were concerned the disease could spread to other livestock and possibly humans. Researchers at the Australian Animal Health Laboratories in Geelong detected a virus called the Wallal virus in two species of midges, believed to have been the carriers.Veterinarians also discovered fewer than 3% of kangaroos exposed to the virus developed blindness.
Reproduction and life cycle
See also: Red kangaroo § Reproduction, and Eastern grey kangaroo § Reproduction
Kangaroo reproduction is similar to that of opossums. The egg (still contained in the shell membrane, a few micrometres thick, and with only a small quantity of yolk within it) descends from the ovary into the uterus. There it is fertilised and quickly develops into a neonate. Even in the largest kangaroo (the red kangaroo) the neonate emerges after only 33 days. Usually, only one young is born at a time. It is blind, hairless, and only a few centimetres long; its hindlegs are mere stumps; it instead uses its more developed forelegs to climb its way through the thick fur on its mother's abdomen into the pouch, which takes about three to five minutes. Once in the pouch, it fastens onto one of the four teats and starts to feed. Almost immediately, the mother's sexual cycle starts again. Another egg descends into the uterus and she becomes sexually receptive. Then, if she mates and a second egg is fertilised, its development is temporarily halted. Meanwhile, the neonate in the pouch grows rapidly. After about 190 days, the baby (joey) is sufficiently large and developed to make its full emergence out of the pouch, after sticking its head out for a few weeks until it eventually feels safe enough to fully emerge. From then on, it spends increasing time in the outside world and eventually, after about 235 days, it leaves the pouch for the last time. The lifespan of kangaroos averages at six years in the wild to in excess of 20 years in captivity, varying by species. Most individuals, however, do not reach maturity in the wild.
Interaction with humans
The kangaroo has always been a very important animal for Australian Aborigines, for its meat, hide, bone, and tendon. Kangaroo hides were also sometimes used for recreation; in particular there are accounts of some tribes (Kurnai) using stuffed kangaroo scrotum as a ball for the traditional football game of marngrook. In addition, there were important Dreaming stories and ceremonies involving the kangaroo. Aherrenge is a current kangaroo dreaming site in the Northern Territory.
Unlike many of the smaller macropods, kangaroos have fared well since European settlement. European settlers cut down forests to create vast grasslands for sheep and cattle grazing, added stock watering points in arid areas, and have substantially reduced the number of dingoes.
Kangaroos are shy and retiring by nature, and in normal circumstances present no threat to humans. In 2003, Lulu, an eastern grey which had been hand-reared, saved a farmer's life by alerting family members to his location when he was injured by a falling tree branch. She received the RSPCA Australia National Animal Valour Award on 19 May 2004.
There are very few records of kangaroos attacking humans without provocation; however, several such unprovoked attacks in 2004 spurred fears of a rabies-like disease possibly affecting the marsupials. The only reliably documented case of a fatality from a kangaroo attack occurred in New South Wales, in 1936. A hunter was killed when he tried to rescue his two dogs from a heated fray. Other suggested causes for erratic and dangerous kangaroo behaviour include extreme thirst and hunger. In July 2011, a male red kangaroo attacked a 94-year-old woman in her own backyard as well as her son and two police officers responding to the situation. The kangaroo was capsicum sprayed (pepper sprayed) and later put down after the attack.
Conflict with vehicles
A collision with a vehicle is capable of killing a kangaroo. Kangaroos dazzled by headlights or startled by engine noise often leap in front of cars. Since kangaroos in mid-bound can reach speeds of around 50 km/h (31 mph) and are relatively heavy, the force of impact can be severe. Small vehicles may be destroyed, while larger vehicles may suffer engine damage. The risk of harm or death to vehicle occupants is greatly increased if the windscreen is the point of impact. As a result, "kangaroo crossing" signs are commonplace in Australia.
Vehicles that frequent isolated roads, where roadside assistance may be scarce, are often fitted with "roo bars" to minimise damage caused by collision. Bonnet-mounted devices, designed to scare wildlife off the road with ultrasound and other methods, have been devised and marketed.
If a female is the victim of a collision, animal welfare groups ask that her pouch be checked for any surviving joey, in which case it may be removed to a wildlife sanctuary or veterinary surgeon for rehabilitation. Likewise, when an adult kangaroo is injured in a collision, a vet, the RSPCA Australia or the National Parks and Wildlife Service can be consulted for instructions on proper care. In New South Wales, rehabilitation of kangaroos is carried out by volunteers from WIRES. Council road signs often list phone numbers for callers to report injured animals.
Emblems and popular culture
Main article: Kangaroo emblems and popular culture
The kangaroo is a recognisable symbol of Australia. The kangaroo and emu feature on the Australian Coat of Arms. Kangaroos have also been featured on coins, most notably the five kangaroos on the Australian one dollar coin. The Australian Made logo consists of a golden kangaroo in a green triangle to show that a product is grown or made in Australia.
The kangaroo and wallaby feature predominantly in Australian sports teams names and mascots. Examples include the Australian national rugby league team (the Kangaroos) and the Australian national rugby union team (the Wallabies). Australia’s national airline, Qantas, uses a bounding kangaroo for its logo.
Kangaroos are well represented in films, television, books, toys and souvenirs around the world. Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was the star of the popular 1960s Australian children’s television series of the same name. Kangaroos are featured in the Rolf Harris song Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport and several Christmas carols.
Main article: Kangaroo meat
Historically, the kangaroo has been a source of food for indigenous Australians. Kangaroo meat is high in protein and low in fat (about 2%). Kangaroo meat has a high concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared with other foods, and is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Low fat diets rich in CLA have been studied for their potential in reducing obesity and atherosclerosis.
Most kangaroo meat is currently sourced from wild animals as a byproduct of population control programs. Kangaroos are hunted by licensed shooters in accordance with a strict code of practice and are protected by state and federal legislation.
Kangaroo meat is exported to many countries around the world.
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