The kangaroo is the largest marsupial endemic to the continent of Australia. A member of the taxonomic classification Macropodidae, it is the national symbol of Australia, its likeness appearing on the country's coat of arms. There are several species, including the red, the eastern and western greys, and the antilopine, but they all habituate similar environments.
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Kangaroos are found in both arid areas of open plain and dense forests. This is testament to their adaptability as a species. Scrubland is the preferred habitat as, while hot and dry, they never become deserts and so retain sources of surface water that the kangaroo drinks. However, kangaroos also live on coastal heathland and grassland. They can survive in a range of temperatures, from subtropical to subalpine.
Kangaroos are predominantly nocturnal or crepuscular (moving around at dawn and dusk). Operating at night enables them to graze areas of open land or search the desert for shrub foliage without suffering from the extreme heat of the day. Kangaroos will lay up in shade, either under trees and shrubs, or below rocks, throughout the day. Kangaroos that live in heavily-forested areas are more active during the day, as the trees afford protection from the sunlight.
Kangaroos are rarely territorial. They are nomadic, travelling as required to search for food and water. They will sometimes travel in groups, called “mobs,” and are capable of covering more than 20 kilometres a day in their search for food. Their distinctive hopping mode of locomotion is an adaptation to the wearying effects of the heat, being a very energy-efficient way of moving.
Kangaroos can go for several days without drinking, but prefer to have readily available access to a freshwater source. This is not only for drinking but also as a viable escape route from predators. Kangaroos are excellent swimmers and if pursued by a predator (such as dingos and foxes) they will sometimes jump into the water to evade capture. If the predator follows them into the water, the kangaroo will try to drown it with its forepaws.
Aside from their natural ability to adapt to different natural landscapes, kangaroos have also managed to thrive despite man-made changes to their habitat. In order to survive, humans (both aboriginal and settlers) have altered the topography of Australia, clearing tracts of land and constructing water sources. Kangaroos populations boomed with this easily accessible water, and kangaroos can now be found in cities in environments such as golf courses which have ponds and lakes.
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