Tree kangaroos

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Tree kangaroos
Goodfellow tree kangaroo

Goodfellow tree kangaroo

Subclass : Marsupials (Marsupialia)
Superordinate : Australidelphia
Order : Diprotodontia
Family : Kangaroos (Macropodidae)
Subfamily : Macropodinae
Genre : Tree kangaroos
Scientific name
S. Müller , 1840
Bennett tree kangaroo

Tree kangaroos ( Dendrolagus ) are a genus of the kangaroo family (Macropodidae). In contrast to other kangaroos, the representatives of this genus have adapted to an arboreal (tree-dwelling) way of life and therefore do not correspond to the common kangaroo model. All species live in Oceania and feed on different plant species and parts.


Tree kangaroos are found in New Guinea ( Western New Guinea and Papua New Guinea in the lowland and mountain rainforest and in the subalpine zone) and on the Cape York Peninsula in northeastern Australia ( Queensland ), where they live in forests and rainforests.


Tree kangaroos are usually about 1.3 to 1.8 meters long, the head-trunk length is about 50 to 80 centimeters, the tail length 50 to 90 centimeters. The weight ranges from 5 to 18 kilograms. The fur is black or gray-brown on the upper side, in some species it is also patterned. The underside is often whitish.

Compared to their ground-dwelling relatives, tree kangaroos have shorter, stockier legs with wider soles with sole pads and stronger forelimbs. The long, curved claws, reminiscent of bear claws, are a further adaptation to the arboreal way of life. The ears are rounder and the muzzle shorter than other kangaroos. The tail is hairy and evenly thick. The difference in length of the hind limbs between ground-dwelling kangaroos and tree kangaroos is considerable: in tree kangaroos the hind limbs have 90–110% of the length of the head trunk, while in the agile wallaby ( Macropus agilis ) it is 160%.

Lifestyle and diet

Tree kangaroos inhabit higher rainforests. They are skilled climbers and jump 9 m from one tree to the next. According to reports, they can jump to the ground from a height of 18 meters without injuring themselves. During the day they hide in the trees and at night they look for food, for which they often come to the ground. On the ground they move with small hops and look more awkward than on trees. Their diet consists mainly of leaves and fruits.


Tree kangaroos have many aspects of reproduction in common with other kangaroos: After around 30 days of gestation, usually only one young is born, which remains in the pouch for almost a year. Tree kangaroos can live to be 20 years old.


Tree kangaroos are the largest tree-dwelling marsupials and have few natural enemies other than giant snakes and the dingo . The deforestation of the rainforests is their greatest threat. They are also hunted for their fur and meat. Three species are classified as threatened by the IUCN , and two more are endangered.

The species

Goodfellow tree kangaroo
  • The Bennett's tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus bennettianus ) is common in northeast Queensland.
  • The Doria tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus dorianus ) lives in large parts of New Guinea from 600 to 3600 m altitude. It is the thickest and most robust of the tree kangaroos and very defensive.
  • The Goodfellow tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus goodfellowi ) is native to eastern New Guinea. It is considered threatened and has hardly been researched.
  • The gray tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus inustus ) lives in northern and western New Guinea and on offshore islands. Although discovered as early as 1825, little is known about this species. It seems to be the heaviest of all tree kangaroos. One specimen in Gladys Porter Zoo (USA) weighs 23 kg.
  • The Lumholtz tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus lumholtzi ), named after Carl Sophus Lumholtz , is common in northeastern Queensland.
  • The Matschie tree kangaroo with light spots ( Dendrolagus matschiei , Foster and Rothschild 1907) is native to Papua New Guinea. It is considered threatened but is the most common tree kangaroo in zoos. Each animal has individual color spots.
  • The Dingiso ( Dendrolagus mbaiso ) lives in the central Sudirman Mountains ( Lorentz National Park ) in West Papua. It was found below the Grasberg mine near the mining town of Tembagapura . In the western range it is not hunted by the Moni, who consider the whistling animal that lives on the ground to be one of their ancestors.
  • The golden-mantled tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus pulcherrimus ) was discovered in the Torricelli Mountains , Papua New Guinea. It is the smallest of all tree kangaroos and the most endangered species. In 2006, occurrences were discovered in the Foja Mountains in West Papua.
  • The black tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus scottae ) is found in the Torricelli Mountains in northern Papua New Guinea. It is considered threatened.
  • The lowland tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus spadix ) lives in southern Papua New Guinea.
  • The bear tree kangaroo ( Dendrolagus ursinus ) occurs only on the Vogelkopf Peninsula on the western tip of New Guinea (English name: Vogelkop Tree Kangaroo). Although it was the first tree kangaroo to be given a scientific name, very little is known about it.
  • The Wondiwoi tree kangaroo ( Drendrolagus mayri ) was only known from the holotype from 1928 for 90 years before it was rediscovered in summer 2018.

By comparing three genes of mitochondrial DNA , six evolutionary lines of the tree kangaroos could be identified, one in Australia with two species ( D. lumholtzi, D. bennettianus ) and five in New Guinea ( D. inustus, D. ursinus , Goodfellow group ( D. goodfellowi, D. spadix and D. matschiei ), D. mbaiso and the Doria group ( D. dorianus and D. scottae )). The Australian species are in a sister group relationship to those in New Guinea. This results in the following cladogram :


  Doria group  

 Doria tree kangaroo ( D. dorianus )


 D. cf. stellarum


 Ifola tree kangaroo ( D. notatus )


 Seri tree kangaroo ( D. stellarum )


 Black tree kangaroo ( D. scottae )


 Dingiso ( D. mbaiso )

  Goodfellow group  

 Golden-mantled tree kangaroo ( D. pulcherrimus )


 Matschie tree kangaroo ( D. matschiei )


 Lowland tree kangaroo ( D. spadix )


 D. goodfellowi buergersi


 Gray tree kangaroo ( D. inustus )


 Bennett's tree kangaroo ( D. bennettianus )


 Lumholtz tree kangaroo ( D. lumholtzi )

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The position of the bear tree kangaroo ( D. ursinus ), which is morphologically very different from the other tree kangaroo species and is the only tree kangaroo endemic to the Vogelkopf Peninsula, could not be determined. Within the tree kangaroos, 13 of the previously described species and subspecies are recognized as valid species, two in Australia ( D. lumholtzi, D. bennettianus ) and 11 species in New Guinea ( D. inustus, D. ursinus, D. mbaiso, D. dorianus , D. notatus, D. stellarum, D. scottae, D. spadix, D. matschiei, D. pulcherrimus and D. goodfellowi ).


This genus was given the scientific name Dendrolagus , which is still valid today, from its discoverer, Salomon Müller . This means 'tree hare' and probably came from the jumping agility of these animals and the tree-dwelling way of life ( dendron 'tree', lagos 'hare').

Ice Age relatives of the tree kangaroos

Bohra paulae , a giant tree
kangaroo from the Ice Age

In the Ice Age much larger tree-kangaroo existed in Australia. These belonged to the genus Bohra and were about twice as large as today's species. Interestingly, their remains were also found in the now completely treeless Nullarbor Plain . Even at the time of these tree kangaroos, the relatively dry region was not home to any extensive forests. It is therefore believed that the animals climbed the individual smaller trees to reach the foliage.


Web links

Commons : Tree kangaroos  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Mark DB Eldridge, Sally Potter, Kristofer M. Helgen , Martua H. Sinaga, Ken P. Aplin, Tim F. Flannery, Rebecca N. Johnson: Phylogenetic analysis of the tree-kangaroos ( Dendrolagus ) reveals multiple divergent lineages within New Guinea . Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 25 May 2018, doi: 10.1016 / j.ympev.2018.05.030
  2. ^ Graeme Coulson, Mark Eldridge (Eds.): Macropods: The Biology of Kangaroos, Wallabies and Rat-Kangaroos . Csiro Publishing, 2010, ISBN 0-643-09662-0 , pp. 137-151 .