What is a Native Animal?
Ever wondered what animals are really native to Australia? Generally speaking, it is any animal that has been in Australia before the arrival of humans. The reason this definition is the best is that, while animals such as the kangaroo, koala and platypus have been in Australia for millions of years and are unquestionably native, others such as the bat has been here for a much shorter period of time but is definitely native now. The dingo on the other hand is considered native by some, but it was only brought to Australia by humans about 5000 years ago.
How Many Species of Animals are in Australia?
Australia has the most unusual native animals in the world. Over 83% of the mammals, 7% of the birds, 89% of the reptiles and 94% of the frogs are unique to Australia. Overall about 8% of the world's plants and animals are unique to Australia.
Australia's long isolation from the rest of the world has allowed Australian animals to evolve separately from those in other parts of the world, but to fill similar niches in the environment. For example the Echidna is an Australian Anteater. The Tasmanian Tiger (now extinct) was a marsupial wolf. The existence of similar animals in different parts of the world is referred to as "Parallel Evolution".
There are three types of mammals in Australia. These are monotremes, marsupials and placentals.
Monotremes first appeared between 145–99 million years ago and are the oldest type of Australian mammals. Two out of the five known species of monotremes in the world live in Australia. These are the Echidna and Platypus.
Marsupials appeared about 64-65 million years ago and are the second oldest type of mammal found in Australia. They occupy every niche of the Australian habitat and range from the large Red Kangaroo to marsupials of the smaller than a mouse.
Placental mammals are relatively recent arrivals to Australia. Bats were the first to arrive getting here about 23 million years ago. Rodents arrived about 5-10 million years ago. These animals reached Australia by flying and crossing the seas that separated Australian from Asia when Australia slowly stated drifting closer to Asia making crossings to the continent possible. These placental mammals make up a very small percentage of the total mammalian population. Humans introduced a number of animals. The Dingo was the first of these, coming here about 5,000 years ago.
Did You Know
Australia does not have any native monkeys or apes. This is another result of its isolations from other continents.
Australia has many amphibians and reptiles found nowhere else in the world.
Lizards – There are over 700 species unique to Australia alone.
Snakes – Australia has more poisonous snakes than non-poisonous ones. The Red-bellied Black Snake is one.
Frogs – Four families of native frogs inhabit the continent.
Crocodiles – Australia has two species of crocodile. The Saltwater Crocodile is the world's largest and can grow to 1,000 kilos and is known to attack humans. Fresh water crocodiles are much smaller and do not attack humans.
Turtles – There are 35 species of freshwater turtles. Six species of sea turtle also visit the coastlines.
Australia has 800 species of birds, 350 are found only in Australasia.
Megapods – as the Mallee fowl, trace their ancestry as far back as Gondwanan time. These birds are stocky birds which look somewhat like chickens. They have small heads and large feet (that's why the name "megapod" meaning big-feet).
Other birds such as Kookaburras are the world's largest kingfishers.
No Hoofed Animals and Mice in Australia until Europeans Arrived
Until Europeans came in 1788, there were no hoofed animals (like horses, cattle, goats, deer etc.) in Australia.
Rats and mice were the only animals that the Europeans didn't bring intentionally, arriving as stowaways on sailing ships.
Introduced Animals in Australia Humans deliberately brought Animals to Australia
The first animals to be introduced into Australia by humans was the Dingo a wild Australian dog. It was brought here by Asian sea-farers over 5000 years ago. Other introduced animals were brought here for agricultural purposes (cattle and sheep), for transportation (camel and horse), for sport (rabbit and fox), for pleasure (myna bird and house sparrow) and for pest control ( Cane Toad). Some of these creatures have been disastrous to the Australian ecology.
Here are a few animals that have been ecological disasters:
Number of Endangered Australian Animals
According to the Australian Department of the Environment's Endangered Australian Animals List many Australian native animals are endangered and threatened with extinction. For example; even the cuddly Koala is listed as vulnerable, the Cassowary and Night Parrot are listed as endangered and the Gouldin Finch as critical. Below is a list of endangered native Australian animals.
Since the arrival of European settlers in 1788 Australia has lost numerous native animals and plants. The Tasmanian Tiger is a prominent example of a recently extinct Australian animal. The last died in captivity in 1936.
Our Other Fantastic Pages
Australia has some of the most unusual animals .
Great Barrier Reef
Located in Australia it is the world's largest coral reef.
The Aboriginals were the first people to come to Australia.
The Outback is vast and breathtakingly beautiful.
Waltzing Matilda is Australia's favorite song.