There are many different types of native and introduced animals in Australia. The most successful group of have been the Marsupials which include both herbivores and carnivores such as the kangaroo, wombat, Tasmanian tiger and koalas. The platypus and the echidna are egg-laying mammals which are unique to Australia. There are many wild bird species too.
Why Does Australia Have Unusual Animals?
Up until about 250 millions of years ago the world
had just one huge super-continent called Pangaea. Animals and plants were able to move and intermix with
About 200 million years ago this super-continent
broke up into two continents (Laurasia and Gondwana).
About 60 million years ago Gondwana broke up into
what was to later become South America, Africa, Antarctica, India and Australia.
Australia has been isolated from the rest of the world by vast oceans.
The animals and plants which were originally here no longer had contact
with animals from other parts of the world. They evolved totally separately from animals from other parts of the world. That
is why they are so different.
What is a Marsupial?
Marsupials are mammals. They got their name from the Latin word “marsupium” which means pouch. All marsupials have an external pouch located on their mother’s abdomen (tummy).
Marsupials differ for other mammals in that they give birth to very small underdeveloped babies who must make a dangerous journey from their mother’s birth canal to the pouch located on her abdomen. Once safely in their mother’s pouch the baby, called a Joey, attaches itself to a milk teat where it feeds and grows into viable baby animal. A baby kangaroo may live in its mothers pouch for as long as 6 months.
Marsupials, found in Australia today, may have originated in modern day China (East Laurasia). They probably arrived in Australia around 50 million years ago via North America, South America and through the Antarctica. Not having any competition from other mammals they diverged into the over 140 different species of marsupial found in Australia today. Some descendants of those original marsupials even almost hopped their way back towards China reaching as far as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. (Unfortunately the original marsupials in other parts of the world couldn’t compete with placental mammals and became extinct.)
DID YOU KNOW
Marsupials became dominant in Australia displacing placental mammals that became extinct here. It is believed that marsupials were more suited for Australia’s harsh arid environment because of their lower metabolic rate and less demanding reproductive system.
Introduced Animals in Australia
Humans brought various animals into Australia.
Some of them have been disastrous to the Australian ecology.
Here are a few:
Extinct Animals of Australia
Many native animals became extinct after the arrival of humans to Australia about 60,000 years ago. Since the arrival of European settlers in 1776:
- 7 of the 700 known species of birds
- 19 of the known species of mammals
- Tasmanian Tiger
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