A Giant of a Kangaroo
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Petrified Lightning

A Giant of a Kangaroo

The immediate mental image that will cross most minds when thinking of Australia is the kangaroo. Although the kangaroo is restricted to the Australian continent, it ranks among the most popular and recognizable animals in the world.

Kangaroos are quite varied in size, the smallest species being no larger than a jackrabbit. The largest, the red kangaroo, stands about seven feet, weighs 200 pounds, and has a head the size of a sheep's. With support from its powerful tail, it can jump 25 feet from a dead stop; when racing full speed, it can cover 40 feet in one leap.

Although impressive, the record of the red kangaroo pales next to its ancestor of the Pleistocene, which also lived on Australia, probably during one of the ice ages, when many animals reached their peak in size. The giant kangaroo of about 100,000 years ago stood 10 feet high and possessed a head as large as a Shetland pony's. With its enormous hind legs, feet, and tail, its running jump could have been almost 100 feet. This giant among kangaroos became extinct before the arrival of humans in Australia.