Animals in Australia
Understanding Australia’s Incredible Animal Diversity
The Unique Wildlife of Australia
Australia’s unique ecosystem is rooted in its geographic isolation and climatic conditions. As a result, the variety of species is huge and most terrestrial animals are endemic to the continent. Australia has the widest range of marsupials (pouched mammals) in the world, and if that’s not impressive enough, two of the few existing monotremes (egg laying mammals) can be found only in this special country – the short-beaked echidna and the duck-billed platypus. Here’s a short overview of what Australian wildlife has to offer.
Marsupials in Every Corner
There are 140 marsupial species in Australia, including kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and koalas. This is a good opportunity to point out that koalas are in fact not bears, despite the common misconception, and while they look very soft and cuddly, their fur is actually extremely thick and dense as it protects them from heat, cold and water.
The most famous Australian marsupial is of course the kangaroo. The red kangaroo has become a widely displayed symbol, appearing on Australian coins and Coat of Arms. However, there are actually four Kangaroo species in Australia, not including their close cousins, the wallaby and wallaroo. While they all have a distinct spring in their step, they differ greatly in size, weight and build.
Dingos, Numbats and Tasmanian Devils
Australia has few large mammal predators, but several that cannot be found in other countries around the world. The largest among them are dingos, the wild dogs of the Australian Outback. They’re easy to spot and can be found in the Northern Territory deserts, the Kimberly and Fraser Island. Creatures like the Tasmanian devil and the numbat are much smaller in size, about the size of a cat, and more of challenge to encounter. Numbats are unique to Western Australia, and if you wish to see a Tasmanian devil you’ll have to visit a wildlife park.
Did you know that there are only five types of egg laying mammals in the world? The one you’ve most probably heard of is the platypus, a small river dwelling animal with a duck’s bill and furry body. The remaining four monotremes are all different types of echidnas. Among them, the short-beaked echidna, which looks like a mixture between a porcupine and an anteater, is found only in Australia. If you want to see this intriguing creature visit Kangaroo Island.
Look Up and Look Out
The skies of Australia host over 400 unique species of birds that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The largest is the emu, which reaches almost 2 meters in height. Others include the kookaburra, the honey eater, Philip Island penguins and over 55 species of parrots.
But let’s not have our heads in the clouds, the country does have a deserved reputation for being home to the deadliest creatures in the world. Over 80% of the world’s deadliest snake species are found in Australia. Australia is also famous for its crocodiles, the larger saltwater croc and smaller freshwater crocodile. There are also jellyfish, spiders and of course – sharks.
Despite the danger, or maybe because of it, these animals have always been a source of deep fascination for many. To set the record straight I should point out that while their reputation is dubious, they are responsible for surprisingly few deaths. The great white shark is responsible for an average of one death per year, and the world’s deadliest snake, the inland taipan, has no recorded human deaths.
Australia is blessed with many animal species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Many of them are considered dangerous, others slightly weird, but every single one is profoundly fascinating.