Hopping does not help Australian marsupials save energy. Instead the physical feat requires the aerobic capacity of a super-athlete! A new view may help explain how large animals such as kangaroos developed hopping, according to Professor Terry Dawson from the University of New South Wales, who has studied the physiology of kangaroos for more than 50 years.
Large hoppers are so specialised we can’t really see how they’ve got to where they are,” says Dawson. Hopping is the primary mode of locomotion for large marsupials such as kangaroos, wallabies, and rat-kangaroos. They are the only large animals known to hop. It was thought that marsupials had low aerobic power and hopping conserved energy while travelling at high speeds. However, Dawson showed that hopping is very energy intensive. Instead of having a spring to make them more effi cient hopping is actually an extended gallop to allow them to go faster. The fact that the kangoroo puts on more muscle mass than just about any other mammal; muscles which show high mitochondrial and capillary density, makes the kangaroo a super athlete beyond being just a great jumper.