It’s Australia Day, mate! We’re celebrating by highlighting some of the amazing and unique animals who inhabit the Land Down Under.
The country is home to lots of fascinating species and is probably best known for the many who carry their babies in their pouches. In fact, more than 80 percent of Australia’s plants and animals are found only there, according to Australia’s official tourism website.
We’ve pulled together fun facts about 10 of our favorites in the gallery below.
The kangaroo is one of Australia’s
iconic inhabitants. Gray kangaroos, like those pictured here, roam the
country’s forests. With their powerful hind legs, they can bound at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, covering up to 25 feet with just one leap. There are millions of
them in Australia, living in groups called mobs. Their babies are tiny at birth
and spend two months inside their moms' pouches before they emerge — and they
continue to take cover in there until they’re nearly a year old.
The koala is another one of Australia’s
most iconic animals. Contrary to popular belief, he's not a bear. Like the
kangaroo, this cuddly-looking creature is a marsupial. Female koalas carry their
joeys in their pouches for six months. Then the babies ride on their moms' backs or in their bellies until approximately their first birthdays. These sleepyheads nap for up to 18 hours a day and spend their waking hours famously munching on eucalyptus.
The devil is the world’s largest carnivorous
marsupial. These hungry guys can eat up to 10 percent of their own body
weight in food in a day and will consume just about any meat they can find.
But their species is at risk. It was listed as endangered in 2009, its major threat being a contagious cancer called devil facial tumor disease. Wildlife experts are working hard to save the devils.
The platypus is the most well known of an
animal group called monotremes, or egg-laying mammals. The group is found only in
Australia. Typically shy, they live in burrows that they dig along
riverbanks. They each have a bill like a duck but a furry body like a
beaver, and they are so unusual looking that the first scientists to examine a
specimen actually thought
it was a hoax.
The echidna is the only other
egg-laying mammal. Like platypuses, their babies are referred to as puggles. They
can be short beaked or long beaked, and they are found all over Australia. They each have a prickly
coat like a porcupine, as well as a long, sticky tongue. The species has
since prehistoric times.
The dingo is Australia’s largest
carnivorous mammal. Though they’re most often associated with Australia, dingoes are
found in Southeast Asia. These wild dogs live all across the country,
except in Tasmania. The creatures roam the land on their own or in packs of up
to 10, and each one weighs just 22 to 33 pounds. There are so many of them that
they’re often considered pests, and a famed 3,400-mile “dingo fence” was put up in the 1900s to protect sheep flocks.
This large, flightless bird stands more
than six feet tall. It’s the second-largest bird in the world, next to the ostrich. They are able to rattle
their stiff tail feathers to scare off predators, which include dingoes. Their
long, powerful legs allow them to sprint at up to 30 miles per hour. Male emus incubate the eggs laid by the females: The males will sit on the nest
for eight weeks, losing up to one third of their body weight, while the females wander off.
This wide-eyed marsupial is able to glide
nearly 150 feet and lives in a colony with 20 to 40 others. When sugar
gliders are angry, they lean back and make a chattering noise that sounds like
a small dog yapping. They have opposable thumbs and four fingers on their
hands and feet.
The endangered quoll is a marsupial
that was one of the first
native animals to be described by European scientists. Tiger quolls, which
are 50 percent larger than the three other quoll species, have white spots
extending along their tails and hunt mostly at night. They inhabit a large range
of forest habitats.
There are three species of wombats, and the stout animals can weigh up
to 88 pounds each. The San
Diego Zoo says they look like “short, stocky bears,” and we can see why — but
they’re actually marsupials. Despite their appearance, they are known for having short
tempers and being quite aggressive if they feel threatened. They are great
diggers and live in burrows underground where they have tunnels that lead to
their sleeping areas. Their tunnels can reach up to 650 feet in length.