Australian animal oddities

Whenever you might travel to or from Australia, you get a sense that we’re a long way from almost everywhere else on Earth. And it’s been that way for a very long time.  This geographical isolation has meant that most of our animals have evolved separately from animals in many other parts of the world.

The result is a number of unique animal groups with some very curious ways of surviving in in the Australian environment.  Here’s 10 Aussie animal oddities we hope you’ll enjoy …

10. Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroo

Kangaroos in trees!? Yes indeed. Evolved from regular, ground dwelling kangaroos, there are a dozen different species of tree-kangaroos found mostly in New Guinea. Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroo is one of the two Australian species wonderfully adapted for life high up in the trees.

9. Thorny Devil

They may look ferocious (to scare off predators), but Thorny Devils are actually very placid and slow moving reptiles.  Check out other desert dwelling animals here.

8. Ocellaris Clownfish

Living in a symbiotic relationship with anemones, these famous little reef fish clean their hosts of parasites and get protection from predators in return thanks the stinging tentacles of the anemone that the Ocellaris Clownfish are immune to. Oh and males can turn into females if necessary! Learn more about our work in the ocean here.

7. Common Wombat

Wombats expel up to a hundred cubic poo pellets each night to mark their territory. How they produce this squarish scat remains a mystery. Check out the Common Wombats on our Director of Conservation’s bush block.

6. Satin Bowerbird

Getting their name from the intricate courtship bowers they build, each species of bowerbird has its own sense of design and taste. Satin Bowerbirds prefer to decorate theirs with blue objects they find in the rainforest.

5. Koala

Koalas are notoriously sleepy.  In fact they can sleep up to 18 hours a day due to the low energy value of their diet exclusively of eucalypt leaves. Despite this rather languid behaviour, they consistently enchant all who encounter them.

4. Desert Spadefoot Toad

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? – toads in the desert – but these adaptable native amphibians survive well in the toughest parts of Australia like Martu Country in the Great Sandy Desert.

3. Leafy Seadragon

As brilliantly described by our Marine Manager, Dr Chris Gillies, the Leafy Seadragon is a fish that looks like a horse camouflaged to look like a plant! Doesn’t come much odder (or more beautiful) than that.

2. Short-beaked Echidna

Young echidnas or puggles, feed on their mother’s milk exuded through a patch of her skin in a pouch made for carrying the puggle – before it gets its spines that is.  One of four species of echidnas and one of only five species of monotremes (egg-laying mammals) on Earth, the Short-beaked Echidna is found throughout Australia in places like the Great Western Woodlands.

1. Platypus

With its duck-like bill and webbed-feet on a beaver-like body and tail, 18th century Platypus specimens sent to the British Museum of Natural History were suspected of being a hoax. Also a monotreme and one of the few venomous mammals on Earth (males have venomous ankle spurs), Platypuses are truly exceptional and get our nod as the oddest of Australian animals.

You can find out more about our program to protect Australian freshwater habitats here.


Like to see more Australian wildlife?  Check out our wildlife pages here and why not become a conservation champion and help us protect and conserve their habitats?

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