Hello everyone and welcome to Endangered Thursdays. The animal I’m about to talk about isn’t endangered but its survival just trying to be born is quite interesting. This was shared to me a few weeks ago and by special request, I’m going to talk a bit about this crazy cool phenomenon today.
To the women out in the world, imagine if you could control exactly when you want to get pregnant. Well, for humans, we can’t. It’s usually hit or miss even if you plan it out. Kangaroos females, or does, however, have this ability. Mating season for kangaroos usually occurs in the rainy season when food is plentiful and temperatures are just right. When a doe is impregnated, she is able to control, to an extent, when the embryo attaches to the fetus. For example, if she still has a baby kangaroo, or joey, in her pouch, she’ll delay attachment until the joey is ready to be completely out of the pouch. Because does have so much control, they are pretty much able to breed offspring all year long.
Now, in case you don’t know what a marsupial is, I’m going to tell you. Marsupials are mammals that carry and develop offspring in their pouches. When the offspring comes out of the pouch, it’s fully developed with fur and everything. Inside the pouch is where the teats or nipples are that offspring suckle from while they grow strong. Majority of marsupial species are found in Australia such as kangaroos, koalas, wombats and wallabies. However, there is one species of marsupial you can find in America and that’s the opossum.
So now the doe has decided she wants to be pregnant and the embryo attaches to the fetus. From an external viewpoint, you can’t tell when a doe is pregnant. The only indication an embryo is on it’s way is when the doe starts licking the inside of her pouch and takes on a birthing position. The fetus comes out surrounded in it’s amniotic sac, not more than about an inch in size. Fetuses are born blind and they only have front legs with tiny claws which help them to break the amniotic sac and ready itself for it’s journey North.
Yes. I said journey North. You read that right. What happens next is truly extraordinary.
The fetus, blind, death and with only front legs begins to use those tiny legs to pull itself up to mama’s pouch. It’s born instinctively knowing to do this because if it doesn’t migrate to the pouch, it will die. Even though the fetus can’t see or hear anything, it is able to smell. The travelling process takes about 3 minutes though the video I will show you at the end makes it seem like it takes forever. Once it reaches the pouch, it climbs inside, finds one of the four nipples and attaches itself. Mama doe then cleans herself of all evidence of birth.
While the growing joey is in the pouch, mama will clean her pouch daily by licking herself. It’s almost a robotic process because does seem to be pretty oblivious to the fact that they’re growing a joey. Joeys first emerge from the pouch after cooking in there for 198 days. It’s still wobbly and not ready for the world so will usually crawl back inside the pouch. Does don’t seem to mind it all. They just change their stance to accommodate little joey climbing back inside. Joeys usually climb in head first and then do a little flip to get their feet pointed down and their head out of the pouch.
After about 235 days inside the pouch, it becomes pretty cramped in there and the joey climbs out for good. This is when does take interest in their offspring by helping them get used to their legs and preventing them from going back inside because it’s highly likely she’s producing again and if the joey climbs back in, it’ll kill the next in line offspring.
You have to see this! Check out the video below to see this incredible process in action:
Thank you Mischenko for bringing this to my attention and recommending I share it on the blog. 🙂