Australia's largest herbivore, the red kangaroo, inhabits the open arid and semiarid plains that cover most of the continent. It shows no seasonal pattern of reproduction but breeds opportunistically in response to good conditions by producing young in rapid succession. Under prolonged drought the kangaroos stop breeding. Drought-breaking rains trigger an immediate hormonal response. The females return rapidly to breeding and may be found with young in the pouch after 60 days. In favorable environmental conditions females become sexually mature when 15 to 20 months old. Drought delays the onset of sexual maturity and after 2 years of drought a population may include females aged 3 years or more that have never produced young. After rain these animals come into breeding condition almost immediately. The life-history strategy of the red kangaroo is clearly adapted to highly variable rainfall.
Was this article helpful?