Kangaroos can communicate with humans despite never being domesticated, according to a new study.
Researchers say their findings challenge the notion that this behaviour is usually restricted to animals like dogs, horses or goats.
The research looked at kangaroos at three locations across Australia and found that the animals gazed at a human when trying to access food placed in a closed box.
The kangaroos used gazes to communicate with the human instead of attempting to open the box themselves, a behaviour that is usually expected for domesticated animals, the scientists say.
Lead author Dr Alan McElligott, who conducted the study at the University of Roehampton (now based at City University of Hong Kong), said: "Through this study, we were able to see that communication between animals can be learnt and that the behaviour of gazing at humans to access food is not related to domestication.
"Indeed, kangaroos showed a very similar pattern of behaviour we have seen in dogs, horses and even goats when put to the same test.
"Our research shows that the potential for referential intentional communication towards humans by animals has been underestimated which signals an exciting development in this area.
"Kangaroos are the first marsupials to be studied in this manner and the positive results should lead to more cognitive research beyond the usual domestic species."
Pictures of the week: December 13 - 19
Pictures of the week: December 13 - 19
Hamleys Elf greets people at the toy store in Ragent Street.
Non-essential shops are still allowed to stay open in Tier 3 areas. Many retailers will still be open for all Christmas shopping needs. (Photo by Pietro Recchia / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Lewis O'Connell, six, and his brother Oscar, three, from Leighton Buzzard at the official opening of the UK's first playground from McDonald's, made from Happy Meal toys at Ronald McDonald House Charities UK (RMHC UK) in Oxford.
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Performers take part in Puss in Boot, the UK's first doorstep 'Hail-A-Panto', hosted by ride hailing app - FREE NOW, London.
The sun rises over the groyne in South Shields, on the North East coast of England, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
An anti-Brexit demonstrator wears a face mask as she holds a placard in Parliament Square, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday she saw clear progress in the trade talks with the UK, turning a post-Brexit deal from a fleeting possibility into an ever more realistic possibility. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A van drives through flood water in Sutton in Cambridgeshire, as the Met Office have warned the next couple of months are likely to be wetter than normal in the UK, raising the prospect of flooding on top of the ongoing battle to contain coronavirus.
General view of Annabel's Mayfair with Christmas decorations. (Photo by Pietro Recchia / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
People pass Christmas lights outside the closed Churchill Arms pub in Kensington, west London, after the capital moved into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions as a result of soaring case rates. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
A woman wears a face mask as she carries shopping bags in Soho, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. London and some of its surrounding areas will be placed under Britain's highest level of coronavirus restrictions beginning at 00:01 local time on today as infections rise rapidly in the capital. Under Tier 3 restrictions, the toughest level in England's three-tier system, people can't socialize indoors, and bars, pubs and restaurants must close except for takeout.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
The statue of Britain's World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill stands in the rain backdropped by a Christmas tree, the scaffolded Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. The consensus across the four nations of the U.K. over the planned easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas appears to be fraying — even though they all agreed Wednesday to keep in place the laws around the relaxation. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A shopper wears a facemask as she walks past an Evening Standard newspaper stand at Victoria Station in central London on December 16, 2020, as new guidance on Christmas during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic was announced by the government. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls to tighten coronavirus restrictions over Christmas, as London faced stricter measures and concern mounted about case numbers. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman walks past a Christmas decorations display outside a wine shop in Mayfair, London, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. London and some of its surrounding areas have been placed under Britain's highest level of coronavirus restrictions beginning at 00:01 local time on Wednesday as infections rise rapidly in the capital. Under Tier 3 restrictions, the toughest level in England's three-tier system, people can't socialize indoors, and bars, pubs and restaurants must close except for takeout. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Manchester City's Ellen White reacts after a missed chance during the Women's UEFA Champions League match at the Academy Stadium, Manchester. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
St Paul's Cathedral Choristers prepare for their first live streamed Christmas concert at St Paul's Cathedral in London, Monday Dec. 14, 2020. The concert 'A Celebration of Christmas' will be held on Thursday December 17. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
A man watches a meteor during the Geminid meteor shower over Brimham Rocks, a collection of balancing rock formations in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Yorkshire. Picture date: Tuesday December 15, 2020. The Geminid meteor shower is active between 4th and 17th of December and is regarded as one of the most reliable of the year with as many as 70 meteors an hour. Brimham Rocks rocks began forming roughly 320 million years ago, when water, grit, and sand washed down from Scotland and Norway. However, standing nearly 30 feet tall the bizarre formations that can be seen today were created as the millstone grit was eroded during the last glacial period. See PA story SCIENCE Geminid. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Activists protesting against coronavirus lockdown restrictions and any mandated covid-19 vaccinations demonstrate in Parliament Square in London, England, on December 14, 2020. London is to be moved to 'Tier 3' restrictions, indicating a 'very high' coronavirus alert level, from this Wednesday, requiring pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants to close other than to offer takeaway and delivery service. The city was returned to Tier 2, or 'high' alert, restrictions at the end of the four-week England-wide lockdown on December 2, albeit with some strengthening provisions having been added in the interim. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Larry the cat in Downing Street, London. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Anti-Brexit activist Steve Bray watches as an activist protesting against coronavirus lockdown restrictions and any mandated covid-19 vaccinations is arrested by police officers in Parliament Square in London, England, on December 14, 2020. London is to be moved to 'Tier 3' restrictions, indicating a 'very high' coronavirus alert level, from this Wednesday, requiring pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants to close other than to offer takeaway and delivery service. The city was returned to Tier 2, or 'high' alert, restrictions at the end of the four-week England-wide lockdown on December 2, albeit with some strengthening provisions having been added in the interim. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A selection of free fish for sale at fishmonger in London. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A woman takes part in an anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown protest near Parliament Square, London, Monday Dec. 14, 2020. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
A person looks at a painting during the opening of Tate Liverpool's exhibition of Liverpool NHS worker portraits, Monday Dec. 14, 2020. The new commission by New York based artist Aliza Nisenbaum features portraits and two large scale group portraits painted of key workers from NHS Merseyside who worked for their communities during the coronavirus pandemic. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
Police officers wear face masks as they patrol an anti-lockdown demonstration in Parliament Square, in London, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Britain launched its vaccination program this month after becoming the first country to give emergency approval to the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, and authorities plan to dispense 800,000 doses in the first phase. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A couple wearing face masks as precaution against the spread of covid19 seen at Burlington Arcade, Mayfair.
London is set to move to �high alert level� on Wednesday 16th December. (Photo by Pietro Recchia / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A view of a Covid-19 vaccination card after a patient received the first dose of the Pfizer BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the Hurley Clinic, in London, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. The National Health Service said hundreds of general medical clinics across England are taking delivery of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on Monday, and some will start offering the shots by the afternoon. (Aaron Chown/Pool Photo via AP)
A member of staff holds a vial of the the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as they pose for a photograph at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton, western Scotland, on December 14, 2020, where staff and residents are receiving their first doses of the vaccination. - Britain has received some 800,000 doses of the vaccine in the first batch of an order of 40 million. Up to four million doses are expected by the end of December. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21 days apart. The over-80s and health and social care staff are first in line to get the jab in the national rollout. (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The door of 10 Downing Street, in London, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
LONDON, Dec. 13, 2020 -- A woman wearing a face mask walks along Westminster Bridge in central London, Britain, on Dec. 13, 2020. Britons who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus will have to self-isolate for 10 days instead of 14, Britain's chief medical officers announced Friday.
The new measure, coming into effect from Monday, also applies to those required to quarantine after returning from countries which are not on Britain's travel corridor list. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
Arsenal's manager Mikel Arteta watches the play during an English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Burnley at the Emirates stadium in London, England, Sunday Dec. 13, 2020. (Laurence Griffiths/Pool via AP)
Resident Annie Innes, 90, talks with a healthcare worker after receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton, western Scotland, on December 14, 2020. - Britain has received some 800,000 doses of the vaccine in the first batch of an order of 40 million. Up to four million doses are expected by the end of December. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21 days apart. The over-80s and health and social care staff are first in line to get the jab in the national rollout. (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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According to the study published in Biology Letters, 10 out of the 11 kangaroos that were tested – actively looked at the person who had put the food in a box to get it.
Nine of the 11 kangaroos additionally showed a heightened form of communication where they looked between the box and human.
The research builds on previous work in the field which has looked at the communication of domesticated animals, such as dogs and goats, and whether intentional communication in animals is a result of domestication.
Dr McElligott previously led a study that found goats can understand human cues, including pointing, to gather information about their environment.
Like dogs and goats, kangaroos are social animals and the new research suggests that they may be able to adapt their usual social behaviours for interacting with humans.
Dr Alexandra Green at the University of Sydney said: "Kangaroos are iconic Australian endemic fauna, adored by many worldwide but also considered as a pest.
"We hope that this research draws attention to the cognitive abilities of kangaroos and helps foster more positive attitudes towards them."
The study involved kangaroos at the Australian Reptile Park, Wildlife Sydney Zoo and Kangaroo Protection Co-Operative.