For the sake of my sanity, I need Saturday Surprise this week as much as you guys … anything besides impeachment just for this morning, please! Well, you guys know where I turn when I’m stressed and need a smile, right … CRITTERS!
When we think of Australia and critters, a few come to mind right off … kangaroo, wallaby, koala … but there are many more critters that are native to Australia and I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of them.
More than 70% of Australian wildlife is found nowhere else in the world, but sadly much of it also is vulnerable, threatened, or endangered. The 2019-2020 bushfires didn’t help, destroying over 18 million hectares (approx 46 million acres) of land, and it is estimated that it killed over 1 billion animals. 😢 And a few endangered species are now facing the risk of extinction especially with the loss of habitats. So, let’s learn a little bit about these (mostly) cute critters.
(Header image: Wombats have very interesting butts. Not only do they produce cubed poop, they also protect themselves from predators by diving into their burrows and block the entrance with their butts. Their bottom mostly consists of cartilage that is resistant to bites and scratches.
Quokkas have been labelled one of the friendliest animals on the planet because of their cute smiles. They will even happily live in big groups without being territorial and have no problems with sharing food or shelter with other Quokkas. But even though they are pretty friendly, they are still wild animals and will scratch and bite if they feel threatened. It is prohibited to touch them and can result in a fine, as irresistibly cute these creatures are DO NOT TOUCH.
Galahs can travel in flocks of 1000 birds and are known to fly at 70km/hr. Since these birds main diet is seeds, They are vital in helping with seed dispersal by dropping germinated seeds into other areas.
These beautiful birds are often considered the bullies of the birds as they chase and pick on other bird species. Male and female rainbow lorikeets are pretty much identical so the only way you can really tell is by a DNA test. Their diet mainly consists of nectar and pollen.
These leafy sea dragons can only be found off the coast of South and East of Australia. They are near threatened due to divers taking them home as pets but are now protected. They have no known predators because of their spiny fins and camouflage. Whilst they are closely related to sea horses they cant grip onto things with their tails and they mainly drift in the current than propel themselves with their fins like sea horses do.
The fairy penguin is the smallest in the world. They are the only penguins to breed in Australia but have found themselves to be a great target for predators. Which makes them highly dependent on human intervention and protection and not just humans but one specific colony relies on Maremma sheepdogs to protect them from foxes. They even made a movie about the first dog to look after the penguins, called “Oddball”.
Red bellied black snakes are one of the most encountered snakes and are responsible for a number of bites annually. But they are generally a shy snake and will usually slither away or stay still in the hopes of not being seen. Most victims of bites suffer mild symptoms with very few cases needing hospitalisation. There have been no confirmed deaths from a red bellied black snake bite.
This colourful octopus is the only octopus that is toxic to humans. So much so that they can kill 26 adults within minutes. When they flash their blue rings it is because they are NOT happy so you should stay away, although best to keep away from them in the first place. In saying that there have only been very few deaths from this tiny octopus. The blue ringed octopus is very small, reaching the size of a golf ball and love to hide under rocks and inside shells.
The cassowary is considered one of the deadliest birds but in fact there have only been two recorded human fatalities from a cassowary, one in 1926 and the other in 2019. These birds have talons that look similar to a velociraptor and is one of the reasons the cassowary is often called a “living dinosaur”. They are fast runners, high jumpers and good swimmers so it’s best to steer clear.
Koalas solely live on eucalyptus leaves and spend up to 4-5 hours eating, the rest of the time they are sleeping (approx18-20hours a day). Sadly koala chlamydia is quite prevalent so there are sterilisation programs to stop infected koalas from procreating. The biggest colony of koalas that is not affected by chlamydia is on Kangaroo Island, but after the 2019-2020 bushfires there has been a huge decline in koala numbers and are now considered endangered in many parts of the country.
Kookaburras are part of the kingfisher family but do not need to live near water and don’t really eat fish. They mainly eat small animals like mice, chicks, lizards and insects. They have a very distinguishable sound, which is a bit like a laugh and often call loudly during dusk and dawn.
The pig-nosed turtle is the only surviving member of it’s family, which are the only freshwater turtle with large paddle like flippers. Their shell is not hard but is in fact leathery feeling.
The blue-tongued lizard is the largest member of the skink family, when they feel threatened they will puff up their bodies, sticks out it’s tongue whilst hissing. Whilst they don’t have the best teeth, they do have a powerful bite and tend not to let go.
The bilby is a nocturnal animal about the size of a rabbit. They have poor eyesight so rely on their sense of smell and acute hearing. The bilby is kind of an Easter icon in Aus as you can get chocolate Bilby’s just like the bunnies and a portion of the sales gets donated to Bilby conservation programs/organisations.
Numbats are one of only a few marsupials that don’t have a pouch. They have about 4 babies and the young attach themselves to the teats for the first 5 months. Then the mother will dig a burrow for them to finish their development and will stay in there until around late spring, where they will leave and go off on their own.
Potoroos are mainly solitary animals and are also non-territorial. They are nocturnal animals but have been known to come out during the day in winter months, particularly on cloudy days foraging for food. The potoroo is the oldest species of the kangaroo family and have undergone little changes, essentially becoming a living fossil.
The frill on the neck of the frill-necked lizard can reach 30cm (12in) in diameter and is erected by cartilage spines that are connected to the jaw bones. They unfold their frill during mating to get rid of excess heat and also as a defence with a bit of a hissing sound too. They can also run pretty fast upright on their hind legs.
Tasmanian devils are the largest living carnivorous marsupials with an estimated 544kg (1199lbs) of bite pressure per square inch so they can crush bone. Sadly tens of thousands of Tassie Devils have died since the 90’s from starvation due to a contagious disease that causes tumours to grow around the mouth area, making it hard to eat. Tasmanian Devils can only be found in Tasmania in the wild but many wildlife parks and zoos have them on the mainland.
The flying fox (megabat) is the largest flying mammal in Australia with a wingspan of over a metre. They are vital in the survival of many native plant species as they are major pollinators for over 50 types of trees. They are pretty harmless but if you get bitten or scratched seek medical attention as they can carry the lyssavirus which is closely related to rabies.
Just like the Platypus, the Echidna is also a monotreme (egg laying mammal),. The female deposits a single egg into her pouch and 10 days later a baby echidna hatches, which is called a puggle. Echidnas are solitary animals but will meet to mate and spend about a year looking after their babies.
These are only some of the fascinating wildlife found in Australia … for more, hop over to Bored Panda and check out the rest!