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The Kangaroo family and the distribution of species

Life on land

“When you live in the Australian bush you get to know the Australian animals that live with you, each and every one. The Kangaroos, perhaps the closest of all”.

Peter Hylands, Andrea Hylands

May 21, 2023

The trick in Australia is to try to rewrite history, that is rewrite the distribution maps of species as populations have dwindled, at the same time pretending that populations of animals such as the Macropod species have benefited from colonisation and the destruction of their habitat, their populations exploding. This is of course complete nonsense.

Are populations really exploding?

Regional extinctions are also commonplace as the range (distribution) of a species contracts and fragments. This self-deception means that conservation status listing of Australian species is not keeping up with the rapid decline of the species that live on the Australian Continent. The politics involved in listing species includes influencing outcomes, this is particularly evident when it comes to Kangaroo, Possum and Parrot species. The list below tells the Kangaroo story as it stands.

Precious cargo: Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo inspects a tiny joey

When you live in the Australian bush you get to know the Australian animals that live with you, each and every one. The Kangaroos, perhaps the closest of all. So when the shooters turn up unannounced and in the middle of the night, armed with high powered rifles and permits from government, often supported by police, it is like someone coming to your home and shooting your dog. It is the most terrible, terrifying and disempowering experience you can imagine. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Eastern Grey Kangaroos in Dunkeld, Victoria

Macropodoidea from Australia and New Guinea by conservation status

On the distribution of species

Alfred Russel Wallace was many things, Wallace was a naturalist, biologist and anthropologist, an explorer at a time when in Britain, many parts of the earth seemed remote and unknown. It was a time when the ecology of the world still held its mysteries and much of its nature remained intact. Wallace, however, began to register the changes to the environment, even in remote places.

Wallace, like Darwin, travelled extensively, but spending extended periods of time in South America and Asia. It was on the ground in distant places that he developed his theories on evolution by natural selection and the geographical distribution of species. In terms of thinking about the issues of natural selection in species Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin were contemporaries, Wallace triggering Darwin’s response, and that was the publication of On the origin of species in November 1859.

Wallace identified a distinct boundary, where to the west of the boundary life forms are typically of Asian origin and to the east of the boundary species are predominately Australasian. The Wallace Line, as it is known, tracks in between Borneo and the Celebes on through the Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok. There are a number of interesting differences of distribution between species, plants typically have managed to disperse across the Wallace Line more successfully than say mammals where species, with few exceptions, remain markedly different. Even birds tend not to make the journey across the water and therefore across the Wallace Line.

The Celebes remains an enigma.

Red-legged Pademelon: Thylogale stigmatica


Broad-faced Potoroo Potorous platyops

Central Hare-wallaby Lagorchestes asomatus

Crescent Nailtail Wallaby Onychogalea lunata

Desert Rat-kangaroo Caloprymnus campestris

Eastern Hare-wallaby Lagorchestes leporides

Nullarbor Dwarf Bettong Bettongia pusilla

Toolache Wallaby Macropus greyi

Critically endangered

Black Dorcopsis Dorcopsis atrata

Dingiso Dendrolagus mbaiso

Gilbert’s Potoroo Potorous gilberti

Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus pulcherrimus

Tenkile Dendrolagus scottae

Wondiwoi Tree-kangaroo Dendrolagus mayri

Woylie Bettongia penicillata

Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo: Dendrolagus goodfellowi


Banded Hare-wallaby Lagostrophus fasciatus

Bridled Nailtail Wallaby Onychogalea fraenata

Calaby’s Pademelon Thylogale calabyi

Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus goodfellowi

Huon Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus matschiei

Long-footed Potoroo Potorous longipes

Mountain Pademelon Thylogale lanatus

Narbalek Petrogale concinna

Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica

Proserpine Rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone

Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby Petrogale xanthopus
Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby Petrogale xanthopus. Photo courtesy Robert McClean

Threatened and vulnerable

Barrow Island Wallaroo Macropus robustusisabellinus

​Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus bennettianus

Black-footed Rock-wallaby Petrogale lateralis

Pearson Island Rock-wallaby Petrogalelateris pearsoni

Recherche Rock-wallaby Petrogalelateris hacketti

Black Wallaroo Macropus bernardus

Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby Petrogale penicillata

Burrowing Bettong Bettongia lesueur

Cape York Rock-wallaby Petrogale coenensis

Doria’s Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus dorianus

Dusky Pademelon Thylogale brunii

Forester Kangaroo Macropus giganteus tasmaniensis 

Grey Dorcopsis Dorcopsis luctuosa

Grizzled Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus inustus

Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus lumholtzi

Monjon Petrogale burbidgei

New Guinea Pademelon Thylogale browni

Parma Wallaby Macropus parma (believed to be extinct until rediscovered Kawau Island NZ in 1965, populations also discovered NSW 1967)

Quokka Setonix brachyurus

Rufous Hare-wallaby Lagorchestes hirsutus

Sharman’s Rock-wallaby Petrogale sharmani

Seri’s Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus stellarum

Small Dorcopsis Dorcopsulus vanheurni

Tasmanian Bettong Bettongia gaimardi

Tammar Wallaby (South Australia mainland) Macropuseugenii eugenii

Vogelkop Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus ursinus

Kangaroo Island Western Grey Kangaroo Macropusfuliginosus fuliginosus

Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby Petrogale xanthopus

Swamp Wallaby :Wallabia bicolour

The rest

Agile Wallaby Macropus agilis

Allied Rock-wallaby Petrogale assimilis

Antilopine Wallaroo Macropus antilopinus

Black-striped Wallaby Macropus dorsalis

Brown Dorcopsis Dorcopsis muelleri

Eastern Grey Kangaroo Macropus giganteus

Euro or Western Wallaroo Macropus robustus erubescens

Godman’s Rock-wallaby Petrogale godmani

Herbert’s Rock-wallaby Petrogale herberti

Kimberley Wallaroo Macropus robustus woodwardia

Long-nosed Potoroo Potorous tridactylus

Lowland’s Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus spadix

Macleay’s Dorcopsis Dorcopsulus macleayi

Mareeba Rock-wallaby Petrogale mareeba

Musky Rat-kangaroo Hypsiprymnodon moschatus

Northern Nailtail Wallaby Onychogalea unguifera

Purple-necked Rock-wallaby Petrogale purpureicollis

Red Kangaroo Macropus rufus

Red-legged Pademelon Thylogale stigmatica

Red-necked Pademelon Thylogale thetis

Red-necked Wallaby Macropus rufogriseus

Rothchild’s Rock-wallaby Petrogale rothschildi

Rufous Bettong Aepyprymnus rufescens

Short-eared Rock-wallaby Petrogale brachyotis

Spectacled Hare-wallaby Lagorchestes conspicillatus

Swamp Wallaby Wallabia bicolour

Tammar Wallaby (Western Australia) Macropuseugenii derbianus

Kangaroo Island Tammar Wallaby Macropuseugenii decres

Tasmanian Pademelon Thylogale billardierii

Eastern Wallaroo Macropus robustus

Western Brush-wallaby Macropus irma

Western Grey Kangaroo Macropus fuliginosus

Whiptail Wallaby Macropus parryi

White-striped Dorcopsis Dorcopsis hageni

Unadorned Rock-wallaby Petrogale inornata

Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Macropus giganteus