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Tails Act As The Fifth Leg For Kangaroos, Study Claims

Update Date: Jul 03, 2014 09:05 AM EDT

The Red Kangaroos use their tails as a fifth limb while grazing, a new research has found. 

"We found that when a kangaroo is walking, it uses its tail just like a leg. They use it to support, propel and power their motion. In fact, they perform as much mechanical work with their tails as we do with one of our legs," said associate Professor Maxwell Donelan of Simon Fraser University, corresponding author for the study, according to NVO News.

According to the study the tail provides a kind of jet-propulsion assist that makes hopping more efficient. 

Researchers in their study found that the tail, far from serving as a mere prop, acted like "a motor to lift and help accelerate the kangaroo's body." 

Researchers further noted the muscular tail is strong enough to support a kangaroo's entire body weight when a fighting male lifts his hind legs to kick opponents. 

The study "confirms what I would've expected," said Harvard University's Andrew Biewener, according to National Geographic. "They are five-legged animals when they're using their tail."

"What is surprising is the extent to which the tail is propelling the body forward and the amount of force it's providing," added Kristian Carlson of South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand. "It's amazing what these kangaroos are doing."

The study has been published in the journal Biology Letters. 

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