XI: M.O.U.S.

In the spirit of college move-in season, it’s time for the one thing that is on every college student’s mind right now: marsupials of unusual size.

These are not to be confused with the Rodents of Unusual Size of The Princess Bride fame.

First of all, what in the world is a marsupial? It’s a mammal, mostly native to the Southern Hemisphere, which is distinguished by the pouch in which it carries its young. And unlike pretty much everything else in Australia, it’s probably not going to poison you. But it can still murder you and go back to bouncing around like nothing ever happened.

There are about a jillion different kinds of marsupials. I want to focus on the ones in a category I like to call, “Things Which Are Basically Kangaroos.” That would be kangaroos (obviously), wallabies, pademelons, and quokkas. Most scientists call these critters “macropods,” meaning “large feet,” but I prefer “Things Which Are Basically Kangaroos.”

First of all, kangaroos. The kings of the macropods, naturally. The biggest kangaroos are up to 6′ 7″ in height with feet as big as 18 inches. That’s a men’s size 32 shoe. When travelling slowly, they hop on four feet, but switch to their hind legs when they need serious speed. They’re also super dangerous. They have incredibly muscular legs and tails, each capable of delivering an extremely damaging blow. Each foot is tipped with massive blunt claws, which will definitely punch a hole in your abdomen. They are known to box viciously with each other, and as excellent swimmers, they have been known to drown predators by holding them underwater.

It’s basically a giant hopping death machine.

Slightly smaller than the kangaroo is the wallaby, standing two to six feet tall. They are also really good swimmers, having mastered a funky little doggy-paddle. Being significantly smaller than kangaroos, they have significantly more predators. Wallabies have the same strong tails, legs, and clawed feet which they use to easily fend off any attack. They are, however, hit by cars with alarming regularity, since they really like to feed in the flat lands alongside highways. They’re not as bad-ass as kangaroos, but they’re still pretty cool.

Downsize a wallaby and you end up with a pademelon (pronounced paddy-melon). Averaging about three feet tall, they’re a lot less intimidating, but they’re fluffy as heck. They are preyed on by feral cats, foxes, eagles, and dogs, among other things, and they have to compete with wallabies and kangaroos for grazing land. I just want to pick one up and hold it and make it my best friend. It would probably bite me.

The least bad-ass of all macropods is the quokka (kwoh-kah), which is simultaneously super cheerful and super pathetic. Latin name marsupialis squeeeeeee (ok, I may have just made that up), the quokka does’t get larger than two feet tall and ten pounds in weight. I want one. No, I want two. Wikipedia describes the quokka as “rather like a very small, dumpy kangaroo.” Flattering. They have no fear of humans because their natural island habitat is free of predators. However, they are now a threatened species because of the introduction of foxes and dingoes to Australia. The quokka presumably walked straight up to the first fox to arrive in Australia and tried to give it a hug and be its best friend, at which point the fox ripped its face off. As foxes will do.

In conclusion, where Australian mammals are concerned, size varies directly with bad-ass-ness, while size to blind cheerfulness is an inverse correlation.

If you are a small kangaroo-ish thing, you are probably super happy and super about to die.

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One thought on “XI: M.O.U.S.

  1. Pingback: Kangaroo evolution and climate change in Australia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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