Macropus rufogriseusred-necked wallaby

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Geographic Range

Red-necked wallabies inhabit the coastal forests of eastern and southeastern Australia and are especially common in Queensland, northeastern New South Wales and Tasmania. Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus is found throughout Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands, whereas M. rufogriseus banksianus inhabits the Australian mainland

Habitat

Red-necked wallabies inhabit the eucalypt forests with moderate shrub cover and open areas nearby, and also populate the tall coastal heath communities.

Physical Description

Head and body length= 925-1,050 mm; tail= 700-750 mm; Hind foot= 220-230 mm; ear length= 76-78 mm. Males are notably larger than females.

Red-necked wallabies are named for the reddish fur on their napes and shoulders. The rest of the body is fawny gray with a white chest and belly. The tail is gray above and white below. Hands and feet are gray, becoming black at the ends of the digits. The muzzle is dark brown, and the ears of red-necked wallabies are longer in proportion to other macropods.

  • Range mass
    13.8 to 18.6 kg
    30.40 to 40.97 lb

Reproduction

Females in captivity breed at approximately 14 months of age while males breed at 19 months. The length of the oestrous cycle is approximately 33 days and the gestation period is 30 days. One offspring at a time is born to each breeding female; pouch life is about 280 days duration although young may be suckled until 12-17 months old. There are considerable differences between the two subspecies in terms of breeding patterns, however. On the mainland, females give birth in all months, with the greatest number of offspring born in the summer. In Tasmania however, births only occur between late January and July with the majority of young born in February and March. There is a post-partum oestrus and embryonic diapause. In the Tasmanian form, females who mate at the end of the breeding season may not give birth until 8 months later during the next breeding season. In the mainland form and in the Tasmanian subspecies during the breeding season, a new young resulting from a post-partum mating can be born 16-29 days after emergence of the previous pouch young.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    29 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    395 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    608 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

As in other macropods, red-necked wallabies use their tails as a prop. They are mainly crepuscular, spending daylight hours resting in cover, although they are often seen foraging until late in the morning and beginning evening foraging late in the afternoon. They cool themselves by licking their hands and forearms during nervous excitement or hot weather. They are essentially solitary, but may forage in groups of up to 30 individuals.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Red-necked wallabies are essentially grazers, consuming largely grasses and herbs. Juicy roots during dry spells supply red-necked wallabies with water.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some skins of the Tasmanian subspecies (which has longer and denser fur) are exported by Queensland and Tasmania, but most wallabies killed are not utilized. In the past, this species was hunted for both fur and meat.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Red-necked wallabies were believed by ranchers to compete with cattle and sheep for grass. However, there was little evidence for this when the situation was examined more closely. Occasionally, red-necked wallabies can become crop pests, and they have been observed to hinder reforestation work in the eastern States by feeding on or trampling young seedlings. Problems are often remedied by fencing, but this is not always economically feasible.

Conservation Status

Red-necked wallabies have been trapped extensively for fur and persecuted by ranchers who claimed that they competed with cattle and sheep for grass. Forest clearing has also reduced their numbers in some places. However, population numbers have recovered in recent years and they are now common to abundant throughout most parts of their range. The species is protected by law in all States in which it occurs, but it may be killed under license as a pest of crops or pastures or during open seasons in Tasmania.

Other Comments

This species has sometimes been referred to as Wallabia rufogrisea. The Tasmanian race is also known as Bennett's Wallaby.

Contributors

Liz Ballenger (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chaparral

Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Frith, H.J. and J.H. Calaby. 1969. Kangaroos. F.W. Cheshire, Melbourne, Australia.

Morcombe, M. 1972. Michael Morcombe's Australian marsupials and other native mammals. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.

Strahan, R. 1983. The Australian Museum complete book of Australian mammals. Angus and Robertson, Sydney, Australia.

Thomas, O. 1888. Catalogue of the marsupalia and monotremata in the collection of the British Museum (Natural History). Taylor and Francis, London, England.

Troughton, E. 1962. Furred animals of Australia, 7th edition. Halstead Press, Sydney, Australia.

Walker, E.P. 1964. Mammals of the world. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.