Australian Kangaroo at Sunset

Australian Animals
The Fascinating Fauna of Australia

The most successful group of native Australian animals are the marsupials. These include herbivores such as the Kangaroo, Wombat and Koalas and carnivores such as the Tasmanian Devil and Tasmanian Tiger. Another group of unique Australian animals are the egg-laying mammals known as monotremes. These include the Platypus and the Echidna.

There are a large number of introduced animals in Australia too such as the camel and buffalo. These were brought here by settlers who arrived in the last 250 years or so. Many of these have become pests.

 

Godwana

Why Does Australia Have Unique & 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 one another.

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.

Since then 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 creatures from other parts of the world. They evolved totally separately. That is why animals in Australia are so different.  

Koala

Grey Kangaroo

What is a Marsupial?

Dangaroo with joey in pouch drawingMarsupial (mar-sue-pee-al)
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) in which they carry their young.

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 at the bottom to the pouch located on her abdomen. They do this by crawling up the mother's tummy to the pouch. This is the most dangerous time of a young marsupial's life a they could be fall off and die.

Once safely in their mother’s pouch the baby, called a Joey, attaches itself to a milk teat where it feeds and grows into a 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.

Once Australia separated from the other continents and started to drift southward the marsupials stranded on it didn't have any competition from more advanced placental mammals. Without competition 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.

Koala

What is a Monotreme?

Monotreme (mo-no-try-m)
A monotreme is a primitive mammal that lays eggs like a bird or reptile but feeds its babies milk like a mammal. They are warm blooded but have a slightly lower metabolic and heart rate than other mammals. This means they need less energy than equivalent sized mammals. They have fur and no teeth.

There are only two types of monotremes in the world. They are both found in Australia. These are the Echidna and the duck-billed platypus. Monotremes lays tiny leathery eggs. The babies lick milk from the fur on their mother's tummy.

DID YOU KNOW
Monotreme means "one hole". This is because these animals have only opening for their anus, urinary and reproductive tracts. This is similar to birds and reptiles.

Emu

Native Australian Animals

Australia has lots very unusual native animals. About 95 percent of the mammals, 70 percent of the birds, 88 percent of the reptiles and 94 percent of the frogs are found nowhere else in the world.

Find out about them here:

 DID YOU KNOW?

Until Europeans came there were no hoofed animals (like horses, cattle, goats, deer etc.) in Australia.

Feral Camels in Australia

Introduced Animals in Australia

Humans deliberately brought various animals into Australia. They were brought here for agricultural purposes (cattle and sheep), for transportation (camel and horse) and for pest control ( Cane Toad).

Some of these creatures have been disastrous to the Australian ecology.

Here are a few which have been ecological disasters:

House MouseOnly rats and mice were not brought here deliberately. They probably got here as stowaways on ships.

Tasmanian Tiger

Extinct Animals of Australia

Many native animals became extinct after the arrival of humans about 60,000 years ago.

Since the arrival of European settlers in 1776 we have lost:

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