Why a kangaroo’s tail is so much more than a crutch

Think kangaroos have four legs? Scientists say count again. 

Internet Culture

Published Aug 2, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 8:27 pm CDT


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The signature gait of kangaroos is a marvel. As they hop, they seem to float along almost effortlessly on their large, springy hind feet, tail stretched out behind for balance. 

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A classic study showed that the faster they go, up to a point, the less energy they use.

But they also have a slower, walking motion that they use when they are feeding, moving only a few feet at a time to the next patch of grass. And for that, they depend on the tail not for balance or as a kind of crutch to lean on, but as a muscular, very important fifth leg. 

Read the full story in the New York Times

Photo by patrick wilken/photopin (CC by 2.0)

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*First Published: Aug 2, 2014, 11:00 am CDT