are native to the southern and western coastal areas of Australia
Western Grey Kangaroos are native to the southern and western coastal areas of Australia © Oliver Kay

Australian Animals

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.

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.

Evolved from regular, ground dwelling kangaroos, there are a dozen different species of tree-kangaroos found mostly in New Guinea.
Lumholtz's Tree kangaroo Evolved from regular, ground dwelling kangaroos, there are a dozen different species of tree-kangaroos found mostly in New Guinea. © Matt Summerville

9. Thorny Devil

They may look ferocious (to scare off predators), but Thorny Devils are actually very placid and slow moving reptiles.

in the desert
Thorny Devil in the desert © Carolyn Larcombe

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!

live in the coral reefs off the coasts of Australia.
Clown fish live in the coral reefs off the coasts of Australia. © Tory Chase

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.

in Australia
Common wombat in Australia © BMJ Shutterstock

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.

is endemic to eastern Australia
Satin Bowerbird is endemic to eastern Australia © Simone Cheung

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.

lounging in a tree
Koala lounging in a tree © Steve Bingham

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.

in Australia
Desert Spadefoot Toad in Australia © Barry Kiepe

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.

found along the southern and western coasts of Australia. They are some of the most ornately camouflaged creatures on the planet
Leafy Seadragon found along the southern and western coasts of Australia. They are some of the most ornately camouflaged creatures on the planet © Michael Warwish, Shutterstock

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.

The Echidna has porcupine-like spines, a bird-like beak, quoll-like pouch and lays eggs like a reptile.
Short-beaked Echidna The Echidna has porcupine-like spines, a bird-like beak, quoll-like pouch and lays eggs like a reptile. © Joanne Ousley

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.

in Australia
Platypus in Australia © Sharon Wormleaton

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