Facts on the Nervous System of the Kangaroo


Kangaroos are the best known marsupials, a group of mammals that carry their young in a pouch. Native to Australia, kangaroos are herbivores, have strong muscles and stretchy tendons and a life-span of about 10 to 15 years in the wild. Kangaroos live in groups called mobs, which is controlled by the eldest male. Members of the mob recognize each other by sniffing, in a similar way to dogs. Kangaroos have nervous systems similar to other mammals, with the exception of a few particular characteristics.

Development in Newborns

  • Kangaroos are born at a very early stage of nervous system development, compared to other mammals. After 33 days in the womb, newborns are only able to breath and suck, and their muscular ability is only enough to allow them to climb from the site of birth to the teat, inside the pouch, where they will stay for about six months.

Microcirculation in the Brain

  • Kangaroos and other marsupials have a very distinct brain microcirculation, which refers to the small vessels that irrigate the organ. While in most mammals numerous capillary vessels connect in the brains forming a mesh-work, in kangaroos this connections occur in pairs, forming loops. This evolutionary feature has been related to the kangaroo's ability to survive in Australia's hot and arid zones.

Corpus Callosum

  • The corpus callosum is a bundle of nervous fibers that connect the right and left brain hemispheres of most mammals. However, kangaroos and other marsupials do not have such brain structure. To connect their brain hemispheres, kangaroos have a similar nervous structure called fasciculus aberrans. Connection between the hemispheres of the brain is related to eye sight in all mammals, including kangaroos.

Vision and Hearing

  • The kangaroo's accurate vision and hearing is related to its early brain development. Some species, such as the red kangaroo, have nocturnal habits and an exceptional night vision. In addition to a well-developed cochlear or auditory nerve, which links kangaroos' internal ears to the brain, the animals can also rotate their ears, helping them to perceive the direction of the sound.

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  • "Marsupial Biology: Recent Research, New Perspectives"; Norman Saunders and Lyn Hinds;1997
  • "The Neurobiology of Australian Marsupials: Brain Evolution in the Other Mammalian Radiation"; Ken Ashwell; 2010
  • Animal Diversity Web: Macropus rufus
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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