Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/433

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417
NATURAL HISTORY OF THE KANGAROO.

which he called Filander, and which were kept in captivity in a garden at Batavia. A very fair representation of the animal is given—one showing the aperture of the pouch. This species was, moreover, described both by Pallas[1] and by Schreber.[2]

It is not improbable, however, that kangaroos were seen by the earlier explorers of the western coast of Australia; and it may be that it is one of these animals which was referred to by Dampier, when he tells us that on August 12, 1699, "two or three of my seamen saw creatures not unlike wolves, but so lean that they looked like mere skeletons."

Having now learned something of the structure, habits, and history of the kangaroo, we may proceed to consider its zoölogical, geographical, and geological relations, in order to arrive at the best answer we may to our initial question, "What is a kangaroo?"

First, as to its zoölogical relations: and here it is necessary to recall to mind certain leading facts of zoölogical classification, in order that we may be better able to see with what creatures the kangaroo is, in various degrees, allied.

The whole animal population of the globe is spoken of under the fanciful term, the "animal kingdom," in contrast with the world of plants, or "vegetable kingdom."

The animal kingdom is divided into certain great groups, each of which is called a sub-kingdom; and one, the highest of these subkingdoms (that to which we ourselves belong), bears the name vertebrata, and it includes all beasts, birds, reptiles, and fishes; and the name refers to the series of bone called vertebræ, of which the backbone or spinal column (and all vertebrata have a spinal column) is generally made up.

Each sub-kingdom is made up of subordinate groups, termed classes; and thus the vertebrate sub-kingdom is made up of the class of beasts or Mammalia (so called because they suckle their young), the class of birds, and other classes.

Each class is made up of subordinate groups, termed orders; each order is further subdivided into families; each family is made up of genera; while every genus comprises one, few, or many species.

In considering the zoölogical relations of the kangaroo, we have then to consider the relations borne by its genera to the other genera of its family, the relations borne by its family to the other families of its order, and finally the relations borne by its order to the other orders of its class (the Mammalia)—that class which includes within it all other beasts whatever, and also man.

In the first place, it may be observed, there are many species of kangaroos, arranged in some four genera; but the true kangaroos form a genus, Macropus, which is very nearly allied to the three other

  1. Pallas, "Act. Acad. So. Petrop.," 1777, part ii., p. 299, tab. 4, Figs. 4 and 5.
  2. Schreber, "Sangth.," iii., p. 551, pl. 153, 1778.