Australia is home to some of the most unusual and unique animals on the planet. Are you familiar with some of the animals that can only be found Down Under? Find out by taking this quiz.
The first scientists who examined a platypus specimen believed it was a hoax. The males are one of the few venomous mammals.
About 400 years ago, Tasmanian devils lived on both mainland Australia and Tasmania. Tasmanian devils stand only about 12 inches high (30 cm) and store fat in their tails.
Bandicoots are marsupials that eat grubs, cockroaches, and spiders. Although female bandicoots can live to be 18 months old, males only live for 12 months because they will actively defend a territory that is almost 18 acres (7 hectares).
In 1932, an estimated 20,000 emus wreaked havoc on farmlands by trampling crops and tearing down fences that kept out invasive rabbits. The military was called in and even with the use of machine guns, took down very few of the creatures (it took about 10 bullets per kill). Only when a bounty system was introduced in 1934 did about 57,000 die. A 1999 act finally protected the creature.
The song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” was written by Marion Sinclair in 1932 and given to the Girl Guides in 1988 when she died. The Guides donated the song to the State Library of South Australia where it was then sold to Larrikin Music Publishing. Since a similar riff occurs in the song, “Down Under,” (1983) by Men at Work, the new owners of “Kookaburra” sued them and won- highlighting the problems with modern copyrights, especially when creative artists pass away and attempt to leave their work to charity and public domain.
A parakeet is technically any small parrot, but Americans generally refer to Budgies (Budgerigar) as parakeets. These birds have been bred as pets for hundreds of years and come in a wide variety of colors, including yellow, white, blue, and green.
Kangaroos stand over 6 feet tall. They travel faster than 30 mph (40 kph) and can jump forward 30 feet at a time.
Baby Azaria Chamberlain’s death in 1980 at the jaws of a dingo was the first one recorded. Her mother served time in prison as a murderer until better testing techniques were developed and a missing matinee jacket was found. Dingoes also killed a 9-year-old in 2007 and attempted to drag off a 13-month-old in 1998.
Unlike other jellyfish, box jellies have eyes and can actively move through the water hunting prey instead of just drifting with currents. The University of Hawaii did extensive research on box jellyfish stings and discovered pouring vinegar over tentacles (not seawater or ice) was the best way to prevent further tissue damage.
In Australia, sugar gliders are illegal as pets in most of the provinces, but they are listed as “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Although they can be trained to be lovable, they make poor pets because they generally live in colonies with a minimum of 12 individuals, they are nocturnal, and they eat insects and eucalyptus tree sap.
"The taipan is the one to watch out for. It is the most poisonous snake on Earth with a lunge so swift and a venom so potent that your last mortal utterance is likely to be, “I say is that a sn—” –Bill Bryson, best-selling travel author
The “First Fleet” that sailed from Great Britain to establish the first Australian British colony brought horses that ended up escaping or being abandoned. It is thought these were the horses that became the modern Brumbies. The Brumby population increases almost 21 percent each year.
The lizard’s frill is up to one foot wide. It can only open its frill if its mouth is also open.
The adult blue-ringed octopus is only 3 inches (8cm), or about the size of a golf ball. It has two types of poison: one for hunting and one for attacking predators. There is no anti-venom, and bites are small and frequently painless, but quickly cause paralysis.
Wallabies are smaller than kangaroos, but they also have different teeth and brighter coloring.
Each koala requires 100 eucalyptus trees to sustain it. Koalas eat so many eucalyptus leaves that they smell like cough drops.
Tawny frogmouths are actually members of the nightjar, whippoorwill, and nighthawk family. They hunt at night, and raise their head to imitate a branch if disturbed from their sleep during the day.
Two species of funnel-web spiders made Outdoor Life’s “10 Most Dangerous Spiders in the World” list: the northern funnel-web and the Sydney funnel web. These spiders frequently bite multiple times and always inject venom. One small child died within 15 minutes of being bitten, but no deaths have been recorded since an anti-venom was developed in 1980.
Lyrebirds get their name from the shape their tails make when spread. They are highly proficient mimics and have been recorded imitating camera shutter clicks, car alarms, and even chainsaws.
Bettongs are extinct, or suffer great population reductions on the mainland of Australia, primarily because of foxes. Attempts have recently been made to re-introduce them in areas where they no longer exist.
Although goannas are not endangered, some monitor lizards in India are being illegally sold for meat, drum skins, sandals and their genitals (which are sold to people in Australia, the UK, and the USA as the “herb root hatha jodi” on legitimate websites). Conservationists are worried these uses will eventually destroy populations worldwide.
When cane toads were introduced to get rid of the beetle problem, quoll numbers declined from poisoning. In addition to amphibians, quolls eat birds, eggs, rabbits, small wallabies, gliders, possums, and even dead animals.
After years of paying bounties for pelts, the Tasmanian government listed the Tasmanian tiger as protected July 10, 1936. The last confirmed Tasmanian tiger died in a zoo a few months later because it was accidentally locked out of its shelter on a cold night. Dingoes are thought to be responsible for the Tasmanian tiger’s decline on the mainland.
Rabbits are an invasive species in Australia and contribute to declining bilby populations by competing with them for food. Conservationists have begun reintroducing the animals to habitats cleansed of feral cats and invasive foxes.
The wombat’s pouch faces backward. The rump of a wombat is made primarily out of cartilage, making it difficult for predators to bite.
The legless lizard is not a snake, although they resemble them because their legs are small or undeveloped. Also called flap-footed lizards or scaly-footed lizards, they can be distinguished from snakes by visible ear holes on the sides of their head and fleshy, non-forked tongues.
Tree kangaroos are extremely clumsy on the ground but move agilely in trees. They can jump to other trees up to 30 feet below them (9 m) and can land on the ground from heights of 60 feet without being hurt (18 m).
Bearded dragons have been sold in U. S. pet stores since the 1980s from American breeders. It has been illegal to transport them out of Australia since the 1960s.
Although they are considered marsupial anteaters, they almost entirely eat termites. In addition, they have more of a tiny skin flap than an actual pouch.
The thorny devil has moisture-attracting microgrooves between thorns on its back. Dew from plants runs down its body as it walks through them and is drawn to its mouth. They only eat ants and can eat 3,000 at each meal.
Although the redback spider bite is not as fatal as the funnel-web spider, it is estimated 2,000 people are bitten by the redback each year, with up to 500 requiring anti-venom treatment. In contrast, the funnel web only bites about 30-40 people each year with only about 100 anti-venom treatments needed since it was first developed in 1980. Although other venomous spiders are found in Australia, redbacks and funnel-webs are the only ones who have been responsible for human deaths.
The cassowary is generally reclusive and shy, but signs in Australia stating “Be Cass-o-wary” should be taken seriously. These birds have a 5-inch claw (13 cm) on each foot that can easily open a human stomach or throat. They have been known to break bones and cause serious cuts.
Most skinks give birth to live, placental-bound babies. The young eat their placenta and shed their skin before permanently leaving the nest a few days later.
"I have often thought that the image of myself, large and flabby, astride a bicycle with a quokka on my left ear and the quokka’s tail in my left hand would have made a splendid photograph. The sort of thing Time magazine would pay a lot for..." –Kenneth Cook, journalist, Wombat Revenge
The echidna’s snout allows it to detect electricity. Research has shown their receptors can detect electrical field strengths down to 1.8 mV/cm.