Roughly some 33 days after a virgin female kangaroo has come together to copulate with a male partner, a fetal looking entity is seen wriggling out of her underside and journeying its way towards her upper parts.
If you had your eyes momentarily at something other than the climbing fetus and then back again at the wriggling fetus, you’ll undeniably think that the desperate mother had mistaken her own baby for an insect snack. (Except if you already know that kangaroos don’t eat insects!)
In reality however, that’s far from being the case, and what has actually happened was that the fetal looking young made its way through the inconspicuous opening of a pouch located somewhere around her abdominal area.
This pouch is the second nursing home after the womb. There, the young would be protected and nurtured with warm milk containing highly beneficial nutrients until its final vacation which often occurs at 8 months.
In this article we’ll take a closer look at the kangaroos pouch to discover how the interior looks like, what it feels like, and what functionalities it serves.
The Kangaroo Pouch
What is a kangaroo pouch?
A kangaroo pouch is a secondary nursing home after the brief and temporary confinement of the womb, where underdeveloped neonates or joeys as they are colloquially called, are nurtured and protected until they are able to stand the harshness of the wilderness.
Female kangaroos give birth to their young ones in a helpless state, or more correctly in an altricial state. The joeys are birthed in the early stages of their fetal development which corresponds to around 33 days after fertilization and implantation has occurred. In relative comparison of young, thats the equivalent of a human giving birth at only two months of pregnancy.
The pea sized fetal-likes so born, have no hairs for protection against heat or cold and also lacks both eyesight and auditory perception for navigating their environments.
They are virtually helpless and fully dependent on their mothers, and must be carried along in the pouch for close to a year or so, in order to fully develop into a precocial young or one capable of navigating its surrounding and feeding by itself.
Where is the kangaroo pouch located?
Only female kangaroos have pouches and those pouches, somewhat conspicuous, are located around their abdominal region.
The opening looks circle or round when stretched, but its actually a tiny horizontal opening that occurs towards the head region of the kangaroo and extending into the cavity under the skin towards the tail region.
In other marsupials like the quolls and Tasmanian devil, the pouch opening occurs towards the tail and extends towards the front legs.
Kangaroos differ from quolls and other animals in the location of the opening of their pouches simply because the configuration better supports their upright posture; i.e kangaroos have front opening pouches while quolls have a backward opening pouches.
Their little joeys would easily fall out from the pouch if the openings were situated under them (near their vagina), and those of the quoll and T.devil would be suffocated by burrowing dirt and debris if situated at the front of their bellies.
What are the features of the kangaroo pouch? What does the kangaroo pouch look like?
The inside of a kangaroo pouch is similar to a hammock. Relaxed at first but loosens and sags up when subjected to weight. Unlike a hammock however, the kangaroo pouch is much more complex with additional features that provides benefits other than relaxation.
Here are the features of a kangaroo pouch
The kangaroo pouch houses four milk squirting teats from which the arriving joeys fastens up to any and derive sustenance for weeks on end.
Whichever of the four teats the joey choses to suckle from swells immediately when inserted into the mouth. This prevents the teat from falling off the neonates mouth, and this is especially useful since the joey has barely got the muscles and strength to suckle milk on its own.
The milk supplied from the teat is watery, high-protein, simple-carb and contains germ fighting antibodies to prevent the joey from getting sick.
As months pass by, the contents and composition of the milk changes to match the specific requirements of the joey. For example, in the third month, a major building block of hair known as sulphur is found at its peak level in the composition of the milk fed to the joey. This also corresponds to the period when the joey has started sprouting body hair all over its body.
A mother kangaroo can suckle two age groups of young at the same time using her teats. She uses lactation hormones to provides different milks for the two distinct joeys requirements.
So while her youngest joey is suckling the milk befitting for a new born, the much older joey, who is, say, 8 months old is suckling from a teat squirting out a much higher fat and protein milk.
As an additional protection against harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites, the inner walls of the kangaroo pouches are lined with sweat glands that secrets antimicrobial substances. The hairless and soft to the touch interior of the pouch also initiates a skin to skin contact with the joey which helps keep them warm and cosy at all times.
If there is anything next to a womb, its the kangaroo pouch.
The kangaroo pouch has the capacity to stretch and expand with a growing joey. So a pouch that started off tight at early stages of postnatal care, can grow and expand to accommodate a cat sized joey at around 8 months.
This feat is made possible with the aid of powerful yet flexible muscles and ligaments lined within the skin of the kangaroo pouch.
Moms can tighten joey around the neck too when they poke their heads out to take a peek at the glaring wilderness. She can also shut off the opening and press joeys closely against her chest while fleeing for safety.
In the case where mom unfortunately perish in the wild as a result of natural occurrences or factors, fetal joeys can remain alive, shut tightly within the perimeters of their mothers pouch for as long as five days or so, until milk dwindles and death by starvation sets in.
How do kangaroos clean their pouches?
Joey first emerge out of their pouches at the age of 6 months. They explore the wilderness for brief minutes before dashing or summersaulting back into the confinement of the pouch at the wake any startle or noise.
With time, joeys get used to staying out for longer duration and this is no good news for mummy roo. Her pouch constantly accumulates with sand and debris which she has to clean occasionally for the health safety of the current and future joey.
Mother kangaroos clean their pouches by simply licking them. She dips her long snout into the pouch and uses her wet tongue like a sponge to suck up all the debris.
More interesting articles
- Baby Kangaroo: Everything you should know
- Kangaroo Habitat: Where do kangaroos live? (with map)
- Are kangaroos rodents?
Cite this Article ” (APA Format)
Bunu. M. (2020, July 23). Inside of a kangaroo pouch: What does a kangaroo pouch look like?. Retrieved from http://emborawild.com/kangaroo-pouch/