Australia: Animals                                                               

  • There are many different species of wildlife in Australia.

  • Australia has the world’s largest and most diverse range of marsupials. Marsupials are characterized by the presence of a pouch where they rear their young. This group includes: kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, Tasmanian wolves, Tasmanian devils, wombats, and many others.

  • There are also numerous different species of birds such as: cockatoo, kookaburra, lyrebird, the flightless emu, and several types of parrots.

  • The platypus (photo) is considered one of the strangest specimens of the animal kingdom: a venomous, egg-laying, duck-billed mammal. The platypus lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young like other mammals.   

  • The short-beaked echidna (photo) is similarly strange, as it is covered in spikes that are made of hair. It has a tubular snout in the place of a mouth and its tongue can move in and out of the snout 100 times a minute to capture termites!

  • One of Australia's best known marsupials, the Koala is an arboreal species (it lives in trees) that feeds on the leaves of approximately 120 species of eucalyptus. 

  • Wombats live on the ground and feed on grasses, sedges and roots.  Wombats dig extensive burrow systems with rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws. They are mainly active during the evenings and nights.

  • Possums are a diverse group of arboreal marsupials and they vary in size from the tiny pygmy possums — the smallest species, little pygmy possum, weights just 7 grams — to the cat-sized common ringtail and brushtail possums.

  • Macropods are found in most of Australia except in the mountain areas. Macropods have very large hind legs and long narrow hind feet with a distinctive arrangement of four toes, and a powerfully muscled tail which they use to move in an energy-efficient hopping motion. The short front legs have five separate digits. The musky rat-kangaroo is the smallest macropod, while the male red kangaroo is the largest, reaching 2 meters tall and weighing up to 85 kg.

  • Since human settlement many animals have been introduced to Australia and are now feral (wild). The first animal introduced to Australia was the dingo (photo). Fossil evidence suggests that people from the north brought the dingo to Australia about 5,000 years ago. When Europeans settled Australia they intentionally released many species into the wild including the red fox, brown hare, and the european rabbit. Other domestic species have escaped and over time have produced wild populations including the cat, domestic horse, donkey, pig, domestic goat, water buffalo, blackbuck antilope and the dromedary. Hopping Like a Kangaroo

    When kangaroos stand or walk on all fours, they use their long, thick tails for support. When they hop, they lean forward slightly and use their tails for balance by lifting them up behind them and curving their tails slightly upward.

    Try hopping like a human:

    • Keep both legs together

    • Stand straight up

    • Hop forward on both feet

    Is it hard to hop like that?   Do you lean forward?

    Now try hopping like a Kangaroo:

    • Lift one leg behind you

    • Lean forward

    • Hop forward on one foot

    Which way is easier?

    Kangaroos store energy in the tendons in their hind legs and release the energy as they hop. Instead of getting more tired the more they hop, they need less energy to keep going.

    Time yourself to see how long you can hop before getting tired.