The native wildlife in Australia is known for being a bit more unusual than in most places on Earth. Isolated on an island, the range of creatures evolved on a pretty unique path. There are no native animals in Australia that have hooves; there are no monkeys, no bears and not even any native cat species.
In fact, only one dog species is considered indigenous to the continent. What Australia does have is plenty of marsupials and even a couple of exceptionally weird mammals that lay eggs. There are marine mammals, rodents galore, and more pouches than you can shake a stick at. Once you get through all of that, there are the non-native species that have been introduced and throughout history. Many non-native species now call Australia home and have adapted quite well to life there, even if all the locals don't want them around.
No doubt you’ll recognize those iconic Aussie animals like a kangaroo and a koala right away, but do you think you can get the rest of them? Do you know the difference between an echidna and a dugong? A wallaby and a numbat? A bandicoot and a bilby? Put your skills to the test and see!
Tasmanian Devils generally aren’t dangerous to humans, despite their fearsome name. They will defend themselves with powerful jaws if necessary, though. Because Devils had a habit of eating farm chickens, they were almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s.
It’s believed the dingo was introduced to Australia thousands of years ago, possibly from Indonesia. They may have once been domesticated animals but, left on their own, returned to their wild roots. They’re now considered pests, not unlike coyotes.
Like all marsupials, wallabies are carried in a pouch when they’re young. When they’re first born, a wallaby is completely hairless and a deep shade of pink. They're also not much bigger than a kidney bean!
Koalas get their name from an Aboriginal word that translates as “no drink.” Because koalas get most of their moisture from the leaves they eat, they are very rarely observed drinking anything.
The bottlenose dolphin has been studied for years thanks to its social nature and obvious intelligence. They’re able to communicate with each other through a series of fairly complex sounds, but not every sound they make is strictly for communication. Researchers believe dolphins can using very loud sound attacks to actually stun their prey.
The Red kangaroo can grow to be about 180 pounds. At that size, they can be quite intimidating not just to humans but to each other. When kangaroos get into fights, they will actually use their large tails for support and throw punches, which makes it look like they’re boxing.
Quolls live in underground burrows and trees, and a female will give birth to a little of up to 30 young. Unfortunately, the mother is only capable of feeding six babies in her pouch, so most of those little ones won’t make it.
Adult sperm whales have the biggest brains of any creature on Earth. They can weigh up to 17 pounds, compared to a human brain, which averages around 3 pounds.
Like all marsupials, wombats have pouches to carry their young. The wombat’s pouch is different though because it faces backward. This allows the mother wombat to dig burrows and tunnels, something wombats are very good at doing, without getting dirt in the pouch.
While the black rat is a nuisance pest in Australia and is most often found around people, it became an even bigger issue in New Zealand. Because of a lack of natural predators, black rats are pervasive in New Zealand forests as well as urban areas. Keeping the population under control, so they don’t wipe out many native species is a serious conservation effort.
Fur seals are extremely social animals and live in groups called colonies. Seal colonies can be incredibly large with numbers reaching up to 1,500 members.
Most people don’t think of Australia when they think of camels, but Australia actually has the largest population of wild camels in the world. At one time there was well over one million of them. How did they get there? They were imported during Australia’s early days to help with expeditions, building the railroads and establishing settlements before being released into the wild.
Where to start with the echidna? It has little spines like a porcupine, a pouch like a kangaroo, and it lays eggs like a bird. They’re also remarkably cold, with the lowest body temperature of any species of mammal, coming in at around 89 degrees Fahrenheit, almost 10 degrees less than human body temperature.
Sambar deer are one of the largest deer species in the world behind moose and elk. Their population in Australia is considered a threat to many native plant species because the sambar eats a large amount of vegetation.
Unlike many marsupials, numbats are carnivorous and feed on termites. They have exceptionally long, sticky tongues like anteaters that let them get into termite mounds and they can eat up to 20,000 in a day.
Though it may look like a mouse, the Rufous Bettong is a small marsupial that can hop on its hind legs like a kangaroo. Their tails are prehensile, and they will use them to gather up and carry nesting materials.
The word “bandicoot” certainly sounds strange in English, but it comes from a language called Telugu spoken in parts of India. The Telugu words “pandi kokku” mean “pig-rat” and in time that became bandicoot. The name kind of fits when you know what it means.
A possum is an Australian marsupial that has a furry, prehensile tail it can use to hold onto tree branches. An opossum, on the other hand, is the name of North America’s only resident marsupial which has a hairless tail and gets its name from a Virginia Algonquian word that means “white beast.”
Some humpback whales have developed an incredibly clever method of catching their prey which involves creating “bubble nets.” The whale will dive then rise in a spiral, blowing air from its blowhole. The bubbles form a kind of cage around the prey, so the whale can swim in and eat them.
In 2013, the Government of Australia made it legal to own Mitchell’s hopping mice as pets. Nowadays, you can find them for sale all over and apparently they make good companions if you like having a bouncy little mouse around.
It can get very hot in Australia, and the bilby has adapted to manage the high temperatures of a scorching Australian summer. The bilby has a lot of control over its large, hairless ears and can rotate them or press them flat to its body which it does to regulate its body temperature.
About 80 water buffalo came to Australia in the 19th century as a meat source. By 1949, the settlements where the buffalo were brought had been abandoned, and the buffalo roamed free. While they were still hunted for their meat and hides, the buffalo thrived and at one point reached a population of over 350,000.
Closely related to manatees, the dugong is a fairly slow-moving animal that spends much of its day eating seaweed. When no seaweed is available, they can eat algae but they need a lot of it considering they can weight 500 to 1000 pounds.
With its duck-like bill, beaver tail and ability to lay eggs, the platypus has been mystifying people for years. In fact, when British scientists first discovered the platypus many of them thought it was a hoax.
The Tasmanian Pademelon is a small relative of the wallaby and is found all over Tasmania. Though the name pademelon may sound a bit strange, it’s actually from the Aboriginal name for the animal.
While many species of bat use echolocation to hunt for food, flying foxes do not. That’s because the flying fox eats fruit, nectar, and pollen. Even though they’re harmless vegetarians, they can be quite intimidating. Some flying foxes can have a wingspan of over 5 feet!
Back in 1696, a Dutch explorer stumbled on an island full of quokkas and, mistaking them for big rats, dubbed the island “Rat’s Nest,” which in Dutch was Rattennest. Rottnest Island still exists today, and it’s still full of quokkas.
Sugar gliders are omnivores and may eat insects, mushrooms, seeds or fruit. In the winter they can switch their diets. When other food is scarce, the sugar glider will live on tree sap and the gum of acacia trees. Very few animals can digest acacia gum, but sugar gliders have a specially adapted stomach for just that job.
The wallaroo can be a very vocal animal. In a threatening situation, the wallaroo will hiss to warn off an enemy. They will also warn other wallaroos of danger by loudly thumping their large back feet.
The water rat is often called the rakali, which is the Aboriginal name for the animal. The species was hunted nearly to the brink of extinction for its soft pelt until they were declared a protected species.
The Brown Antechinus has a stressful little life. Males will only live for 11 months and after their breeding season, they die from the stress and exhaustion.
Like all possums, the cuscus has a prehensile tail that is good for gripping. They spend their lives in trees and usually eat plants but will sometimes hunt birds and lizards. They have very few natural predators, but deforestation and hunting have significantly impacted the cuscus population.
Because of the environmental impact of invasive species like the rusa deer, there are strict guidelines in place for what you can do with them. A rusa cannot legally be moved, fed, sold, given away or released into the wild without a permit.
European settlers brought the red fox to Australia so they could hunt it for sport. It’s unlikely they had any idea that it would take so well to the terrain. Today, foxes have spread over most of the entire continent and are responsible for nearly $30 million in agricultural losses every year.
Tree kangaroos are very similar to their ground-dwelling cousins but have broader feet better adapted to climbing trees. Once in a tree, they’re incredibly agile about maneuvering around and can jump from almost 60 feet up with no injury.
Like other deer species in Australia, the chital was introduced for hunting purposes and then quickly found their way into the wild. Though some are still farmed, if the animal is not clearly housed in a fenced-in area of some kind it’s to be considered feral and is subject to being hunted or controlled according to government regulations.
Most people are used to the idea that mice can show up in their homes from time to time, hence the name house mouse, but they can become huge problems in Australia. More than once mouse populations have gotten so massive they’ve been called an actual plague. In 1993, a mouse plague cost Australia $96 million in damages.
The long-nosed potoroo is a fairly solitary creature and usually quite hard to find in the wild. During the day they bury under leaves and ground cover and generally the only way you’ll know one is around is by seeing the traces of its den or where it was digging for food.
The Tasmanian Bettong acts very much like a tiny kangaroo, though it looks much like a mouse. It hops on its hind legs while keeping its small forelegs up in the air and using its tail for balance.
The male Western Grey Kangaroo can grow to be a formidable size, up to 120 pounds in some cases. The females are generally much smaller than the males and will often only be half the size.