The Australian fauna consists of a huge diversity of species, the majority (90%) is endemic! The island’s isolation and climate change explain the diversity of this rich and special fauna. The aboriginal colonisation more than 40,000 years ago and the European’s discovery of Australia during the 18th century significantly affected the fauna. Today, even if some species have completely disappeared, others have survived. Here are some examples of strange animals in Australia:
The Thorny Devil is a small lizard whose body is covered with thorns! It feeds mainly on ants (nearly 2000 per meal), catching them with its tongue. The thorny devil is a diurnal reptile (active during the day) that can measure up to 20 cm in length. It lives in the arid and sandy areas of Australia and buries itself in the sand to be protected from the heat.
At night, the dew condenses on their bodies and in the morning they rub themselves against the dew-covered grass. Then, the hygroscopic grooves between their scales channel this water to their mouth! An ingenious process!
You can observe them in the southern half of the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Western Queensland. It is a well-known species, however scientists are still somewhat uncertain about its distribution and population size.
The Tasmanian Devil
The largest living carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian Devil, was named after its impressive jaw and terrifying screams when hunting. It is only found in the island of Tasmania, separated from the rest of the country.
Previously hunted and eaten by settlers, the Devil is now an endangered species despite its protection (since 1941). Since the 1990s the breed is affected by a form of cancerous facial tumor which is 100% fatal.
Nearly 70% of the population would have been decimated. There would be between 15,000 and 50,000 devils left in the wild. It is estimated that if nothing is done, the wild population could disappear completely within 15 years. The government is trying to save the species and has moved some of the healthy population to other islands in Australia.
This bird looks suspiciously like a prehistoric ostrich. It is only found in the rainforests of Northeastern Australia. There are only 1200 specimens in the wild.
It measures about 1,70 m and weights about 70 kg … Its legs are powerful and have a big claw so better avoid confrontation! They are very territorial and have injured some visitors in the past! You can notably come across them at Mission Beach and its surrounding forests.
This special bird of the Kingfisher family, is particularly known for its strange screams, a mocking laugh! In the Aboriginal culture, this bird is mythical. It feeds on anything that crawls, flies and swims!
The ‘Laughing Kookaburra’ is found throughout eastern Australia. They have been introduced to Tasmania, the extreme southwest of WA and New Zealand. In north-central and northwestern Australia, you’ll see more of the slightly different Blue-winged Kookaburra.
This strange little hedgehog (not from the same family though) is an emblematic animal of Australia (it can be found on the coins of 5 cents). Its long snout has sensitive sensors allowing him to locate his food…
Their snout is stiff and strong, allowing them to break logs and termite mounds. Echidnas then suck in ants and other insects with their sticky saliva-covered tongue, which can be 17cm long!
Echidnas have a highly developed sense of smell, useful for locating potential mates, detecting danger, and sniffing for food. They have short limbs with shovel-like claws, perfect for digging the ground.
Frilled Neck Lizard
The collared lizard can be found in the North and the East of the country. When it feels threatened it unfolds its collar to frighten the attackers … Welcome to Jurassic Park!
They are the reptile emblem of Australia and they used to appear on Australian currency.
It is a fairly large lizard, reaching over 90cm (the tail is about two-thirds of that length) and weighing up to 500g.
With its duck beak and beaver tail, the platypus or platypus is a unique species. It is found on the east coast of the country and in Tasmania. The platypus locates food (small invertebrates) using the electro-receptors in its beak…
It is a nocturnal animal and very well adapted to the living conditions of the Australian continent. It looks like a beaver in its coat and its tail stores fat reserves like the Tasmanian devil.
The size of the platypus varies between 40 and 50 centimetres on average. The specimens will be more or less large depending on the regions where they live.
The Wombat is a small, shy marsupial found in eastern Australia and Tasmania. It looks like a small bear but can still weigh up to 40kg and measure 1.30m!
They have short, muscular legs and sharp claws, perfect for digging in the ground. Wombats dig their burrows in wet ground, often near streams. Like their relatives, the Koalas, they sleep a lot, around 16 hours a day. They are happy to share burrows, but they are territorial for the areas where they feed.
Wombats are nocturnal herbivores with fairly poor eyesight. They rely on smell to navigate and find food. They can travel 3 km per night to eat grass, roots and shrubs. Like rabbits, their incisors grow continuously, so they must gnaw on tough materials like bark to wear down their teeth.
This sticky ¨thing¨ lives in the deep waters of the broad Australian and Tasmanian coasts. Its density is lower than that of water, which allows it to “float” and therefore to conserve energy by avoiding swim. It is now a threatened species due to overfishing.
More strange animals in Australia?
Do you know more strange animals in Australia? Then post it in the comments below…