Why are Australian Animals Different?
The reason Australia has such unusual animals (and plants) is that it was isolated from the rest of the world for over 60 million years. Separated by vast oceans, Australian plants and animals evolved independently of those in other parts of the world.
Interestingly many Australian animals fill similar niches in the local environment to those elsewhere in the world. For example the Echidna is an Australian anteater. The Tasmanian Tiger (now extinct) was a marsupial wolf. The marsupial mole is very similar to moles found in other parts of the world. The existence of similar animals in different parts of the world is referred to as "Parallel Evolution".
Featured Animal 'Quokka'
How Unique Are Australian Animals?
They are very unique indeed. Over 83% of the mammals, 7% of the birds, 89% of the reptiles and 94% of the frogs are only live in Australia. Overall, about 8% of the world's plants and animals are found only in Australia.
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 because animals such as the kangaroo have been in Australia for millions of years and are unquestionably native. The the dingo, on the other hand, which considered native by some, was only brought to Australia by humans about 5,000 years ago. Many other animals such as cattle and rabbits were introduced by European settlers less than 200 years ago. These animals are definitely not native to Australia.
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. The Echidna and Platypus are two such animals found in Australia.
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 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 or hitching a ride on floating debris and crossing the oceans that separated Australian from Asia as Australia as it stated drifting slowly closer to Asia. 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.
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 140 species of land snakes and 32 species of sea snakes. Of these about a 100 are poisonous snakes. The bite from about 12 of these can be fatal to humans. The Red-bellied Black Snake is one such poisonous snake.
Frogs – Four families of native frogs numbering 230 species inhabit the continent. 135 of these are unique to Australia.
Crocodiles – Australia has two species of crocodile. The Saltwater Crocodile is the world's largest and can weigh as much as 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 such as the Mallee fowl, trace their ancestry as far back as Gondwanan time. These stocky birds 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.
Introduced Animals in Australia
No Hoofed Animals, Mice Apes & Monkeys in Australia
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. They arrived as stowaways on ships. Australia also did not have any native apes or monkeys.
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 5,000 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, such as the Cane Toad, have been disastrous to the Australian ecology.
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.
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 in the world.
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.