Six Weird And Wonderful Australian Animals
Australia is home to some of the most peculiar fauna on the planet, thanks to its unique pre-history. Existing for several million years in complete isolation from the rest of the planet, it’s allowed some very weird and wonderful animals to come to be. Let’s take a look at ten of the weirdest of them.
This bizarre creature is unlike the rest of the world’s mammals in several respects. The first of these is that it has enormous hind legs, which it uses to hop around. The ligaments at the rear of these legs are incredibly springy and powerful, and allow it to move around while barely expending any muscular energy at all. The action of jumping actually compresses and expands the kangaroo’s lungs, forcing air in and out while economising on actual energy spent. Kangaroos rear their young in pouches around the belly of a female – they congregate in groups, known as mobs, and are able to bound at more than forty miles per hour. With millions of them spread all across Australia, they’re a common sight for both tourists and locals.
Another marsupial animal that’s synonymous with Australian wildlife is the koala bear – though this sort of bear isn’t actually a bear at all. Their young are carried in pouches which can be found on the female’s back; the exit of these pouches is protected by a powerful sphincter muscle which prevents the joey from falling out of the pouch (and probably the tree). Koalas are famously lethargic, and spend most of their existence asleep. While they’re awake, they live on a diet of eucalyptus.
The marsupial family isn’t the only weird and unusual group of animals native to Australia. We should also consider the monotremes. This sort of mammal is especially unusual in that it lays eggs. They’re found only by the water, and only in Australia. Platypuses have bills like a duck, a furry body, and they’re so bizarre that the first naturalists to bring a specimen back to the UK were dismissed as hoaxers. After all, the seemingly hodgepodge nature of the creature’s anatomy does make it seem a little implausible. And yet the truth is stranger than fiction!
Another monotreme nature to Australia is the echidna. This is a small, hedgehog-like creature whose back is covered with spines. They come in several different varieties, some of them have long snouts and others have short ones. Each of them, however, comes with a long, sticky tongue which they use to hoover up insects. The creature has remained in this state, largely unchanged, since prehistoric times.
This is another variety of marsupial native to Tasmania. It’s unusual in that it’s a carnivorous marsupial – and it’s not terribly fussy about what it eats. A Tasmanian devil can get through a tenth of its own body weight in food in a single day. The species was listed as endangered recently, with a contagious form of cancer being its greatest threat. The animal is around the size of a small dog, and boasts an astonishingly powerful screech that’s sure to wake the neighbours. Tasmanian devils are able to open their mouths extremely wide – a feature which the animators at Warner Brothers were keen to incorporate into their interpretation of the species.
This small marsupial is now endangered, but it was among the first animals that visiting European scientists encountered. They’re closely related to the Tasmanian devil, and vary in size from just a few hundred grammes to several kilos. They live on a mostly carnivorous diet, eating other mammals, lizards and insects.
This bird is entirely flightless, and is the largest bird in the country, and the second largest in the world behind the ostrich. They share in common many of the same features which mark an ostrich – they have long, powerful legs which they can use to escape from predators. The male of the species incubates the eggs laid by the female, sitting on them for months and losing considerable bodyweight in the process.
How to I see these animals?
If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of the wildlife that Australia and New Zealand have to offer, then what better way could there be than actually upping sticks and moving there? Australian skilled visas are easy to come by, provided that you’re able to bring the appropriate skills to the table. Moving to New Zealand or Australia is a popular move for British expats – and the diversity of weird and wonderful wildlife on display is surely a factor!