We studied ventilation in kangaroos from mesic and arid environments, the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) and the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus), respectively, within the range of ambient temperatures (T(a)) from -5 degrees to 45 degrees C. At thermoneutral temperatures (Ta=25 degrees C), there were no differences between the species in respiratory frequency, tidal volume, total ventilation, or oxygen extraction. The ventilatory patterns of the kangaroos were markedly different from those predicted from the allometric equation derived for placentals. The kangaroos had low respiratory frequencies and higher tidal volumes, even when adjustment was made for their lower basal metabolism. At Ta>25 degrees C, ventilation was increased in the kangaroos to facilitate respiratory water loss, with percent oxygen extraction being markedly lowered. Ventilation was via the nares; the mouth was closed. Differences in ventilation between the two species occurred at higher temperatures, and at 45 degrees C were associated with differences in respiratory evaporative heat loss, with that of M. giganteus being higher. Panting in kangaroos occurred as a graded increase in respiratory frequency, during which tidal volume was lowered. When panting, the desert red kangaroo had larger tidal volumes and lower respiratory frequencies at equivalent T(a) than the eastern grey kangaroo, which generally inhabits mesic forests. The inference made from this pattern is that the red kangaroo has the potential to increase respiratory evaporative heat loss to a greater level.