Publication Details

Munn, A. J. & Dawson, T. J. (2001). Thermoregulation in juvenile red kangaroos (Macropus rufus) after pouch exit: higher metabolism and evaporative water requirements. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 74 (6), 917-927.


The population dynamics of red kangaroos (Macropus rufus) in the Australian arid zone is tightly linked with environmental factors, which partly operate via the survival of juvenile animals. A crucial stage is the young-at-foot (YAF) stage when kangaroos permanently exit the pouch. We have examined the thermal biology of YAF red kangaroos during ages from permanent pouch exit until weaning. Over a wide range of environmental temperatures (ambient temperature [T-a] -5 degrees to 45 degreesC), YAF red kangaroos had a mass-specific metabolism that was generally twice that of adults, considerably higher than would be expected for an adult marsupial of their body size. The total energy requirements of YAF red kangaroos were 60%-70% of those of adult females, which were three times their size. Over the same range in T-a, YAF red kangaroos also had total evaporative water losses equal to those of adult females. At the highest Ta (45 degreesC), differences were noted in patterns of dry heat loss (dry conductance) between YAF red kangaroos and adult females, which may partially explain the relatively high levels of evaporative cooling by YAF. By weaning age, young kangaroos showed little change in their basal energy and water requirements (at T-a 25 degreesC) but did show reduced mass-specific costs in terms of energy and water use at extremes of T-a (-5 degrees and 45 degreesC, respectively). In their arid environment, typified by unpredictable rainfall and extremes of T-a, young red kangaroos may need to remain close to water points, which, in turn, may restrict their ability to find the high-quality forage needed to meet their high energy demands.



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