References to color are embedded in the common names of several species of kangaroo. The term "kangaroo" is applied to the six largest species in the Macropodidae family of marsupials, which are mammals in which females nourish their offspring in an external pouch. Found only in Australia and surrounding islands, kangaroos tend to be sexually dimorphic, with males and females of the same species exhibiting marked differences in size and coloration.
Red, White and Blue
The name of the red kangaroo -- Australia's largest existing marsupial -- stems from the maroon-colored coat sported by males of the species, which have white faces and bellies. The crimson undertones in a male red kangaroo's coat become more vivid during the breeding season; the rest of the time, they appear more brown than red. Locals often refer to female red kangaroos as "blue fliers" because they are faster than their male counterparts and have a bluish-gray pelage.
Shades of Gray
After the red kangaroo, the largest living marsupials are the eastern gray kangaroo and the western gray kangaroo, which are distinct species. Found in the eastern third of the country, the former are generally a lighter silver color than the latter, which are distributed throughout southern Australia. Even within the eastern gray species, however, individuals that live closer to the coast tend to have lighter gray fur than their counterparts that dwell further inland.
A Kangaroo by Any Other Name
In the family Macropodidae, kangaroos proper are followed in size by wallaroos, the largest of which is the common wallaroo. Also referred to as hill wallaroos, individuals of this widely distributed species are dark gray to black, with the exception of their bellies, which are nearly white. In antilopine wallaroos, also called antilopine kangaroos, males are sorrel in color; females have more brown than red in their coats and their heads and shoulders are gray.
All Dressed in Black
Like its relative the red kangaroo, the black wallaroo -- the smallest of the six kangaroo species -- gets its name from the coloring of males. Females of this species, which is also known as the Bernard's wallaroo, have a dark brown or gray pelage. The black wallaroo is found only in a small region in Australia's Northern Territory.
- San Diego Zoo Animal Bytes: Kangaroo and Wallaby
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Eastern Gray Kangaroo
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Red Kangaroo
- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: Kangaroo, Red
- National Geographic: Red Kangaroo
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Macropus Fuliginosus
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Antilopine Wallaroo
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Hill Wallaroo
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Black Wallaroo
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Macropus Bernardus
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Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.