This post is about the common wallaroo (Osphranter robustus) or, in the language of Indigenous Australians, Nurungga. The name “wallaroo” comes from "wadlu waru", meaning wallaby urine. Early settlers to Australia tried to pronounce the indigenous language but ended up saying “walla waroo”, leading to the name “wallaroo”.
Wallaroos are typically distinct species from kangaroos and wallabies. With its stocky build, coarse, shaggy fur, and short thick tail, the common wallaroo resembles Australian kangaroos in body shape. Its genetic makeup however says it is a closer relative to some wallabies.
This common wallaroo is listed as “least concern” in population conservation status. It is well suited to the Australian landscape conditions, and can be found throughout most of Australia, except for Tasmania. They are often spotted around rocky hills, caves, and rock formations with large overhangs to provide shade during the daytime. They can also be found in shrubland areas near food and water sources. They are herbivorous, preferring to eat soft-textured grasses and shrubs. Unlike some of its relatives, common wallaroos are primarily solitary and only form loosely packed gatherings around valued food sources.
Common wallaroos are polygamous, and a male common wallaroo will mate with multiple females. They have no mating season and produce young all year round; because of this, a female common wallaroo is almost constantly breeding. It is not uncommon for a female to have three babies at different stages of development, one waiting to be born in the uterus, one in the pouch and one at her feet. The common wallaroo has a life expectancy of 22-24 years and weighs between 16-35 kilograms.
Today, we share a chromosome-length genome assembly [2n=14] for the common wallaroo (Osphranter robustus). This is a short-read genome assembly from a primary fibroblast cell line. We gratefully acknowledge T.C. Hsu Cryo-Zoo at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for providing the samples for this assembly! We also thank the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and DNA Zoo Australia team at the University of Western Australia for computational support for this genome assembly. Check out the contact map below showing the 7 chromosome-length scaffolds below!