Australian Nocturnal (Night) Animals Nocturnal Marsupials, Birds, Monotremes, Reptiles of Australia List

Australia's long isolation from the rest of the world and the extreme aridity of the land has resulted in Australian animals evolving characteristics suitable for their unique environment. The most noticeable of these is that many have evolved a nocturnal lifestyle. That is they are usually active only at night. There are also a number of introduced animals which are nocturnal too...more

What are Nocturnal Animals?

Animals can be categorised into three broad groups based on the time of day that they are most active. These three categories are diurnal, crepuscular and nocturnal.

Diurnal animals are usually active during the day and rest when it gets dark.

Crepuscular animals active during dawn and dusk and resting at other times of the day.

Nocturnal animals are those that are mostly active during the night and sleep during the day.

Animals, however, don't always conveniently fit into these these categories as expected. Some animals, such as bats and owls, are strictly nocturnal. Others, such as the echidna and red bellied black snake, vary their activity cycle according to their environment. For example, if the climate is hot, the echidna will forage for food at night. But in cooler environments it will come out during the day. In the case of the red bellied black snake, it is just the opposite. Being cold-blooded, the snake will hunt at night if the weather is hot. But if the weather is cold it will do so during the day. Kangaroos, on the other hand, while officially categorised as nocturnal are also crepuscular being active during dawn and dusk.

Why Does Australia have so many Nocturnal Animals?

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth. Most of the land is arid and the climate hot. As a result many of the native animals, especially the marsupials, have adopted a nocturnal lifestyle in order the avoid the blistering heat of the day. This behaviour of coming out only at night when the temperature is cooler conserves precious water which would be lost by being active in the hot sun.

Special Adaptations for Nocturnal Life

Nocturnal animals have evolved special adaptations that help them survive in the dark.

Eyes (Sight)

Many nocturnal animals, such as possums, have very good low-light eyesight.

Ears (Sound)

Many nocturnal animals, such as the kangaroo, bilby and rabbit have an acute sense of hearing. This allows them to detect danger at great distances in the dark. Bats, on the other hand, use echolocation which acts like a radar. The bat emit a high-frequency sound which bounces off objects, the animals ears pick up the bounced signals and help it navigate through the dark.

Nose (Smell)

Some of these animals have an acute sense of smell. The koala's large nose for example allows it to sniff out the most appropriate leaves to eat in the dark.

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