Saturday, December 15, 2012

Animals of Australia

Australia: A Land of Unique Animals

I think everyone can name the most symbolic animals of Australia - the Kangaroo and the Koala.  These are what you think of first, and we will talk about them, but we are also going to tell you about a couple of lesser known animals that live in this beautiful land down under. 

Let's start with one that most people don't even realize is a real animal- the Tasmanian Devil.  Those of us who grew up watching Looney Tunes know him right?  He spins in a crazy tornado and eats everything in his path!  Well, probably no surprise, but that's not entirely accurate.  A Tasmanian devil is about the size of a small dog, but very muscular and stocky. 
It does eat pretty much anything that it can and with the jaw strength of a crocodile it doesn't leave anything behind- it eats the bones and all!  They are usually black and sometimes have white spots and they have a feature that they share with another black and white animal.  When Tasmanian devils are scared they produce an awful stink that is even stronger than a skunk!  That never came up with Bugs Bunny :)  Once found all over Australia, they became extinct on the mainland over 400 years ago and now can only be found on the island of Tasmania. 

Our next animal is one I bet you've never seen.  In fact, because it is nocturnal and lives in burrows it digs with its sharp claws, most people only know when one is around because they find it's cubical poop!  That's right - square poop!!  Have you guessed the animal?

It's the wombat.  This short, round, furry marsupial is found all over Australia but most people outside of Australia have no idea what they are, in fact, once at the fair I paid a dollar to see the worlds largest hamster.  It was a wombat and I only knew that because I'd seen one at the zoo in Australia.  Our good friend in Australia send us books every year and the cute and cuddly wombat seems to be featured in many of them.

Our next animal wins the prize for uniqueness- the Platypus!  This is a very strange animal.  
It has a woolly, fur coat, webbed feet and bill like a duck and a tail like a beaver.  Oh, and they (and the echidna) are the only mammals that lay eggs.  You might say that something that lays eggs isn't a mammal, but after the eggs hatch the female platypus feeds them with her milk like other mammals and unlike other egg-laying creatures.  Yes, they are very unique indeed.  They live in freshwater rivers and lakes in Eastern Australia, where they eat insect larvae and worms they find in the mud.  They are mostly nocturnal which, you would think, would make finding such small things in the mud impossible, especially since they swim with their eyes closed, but they have special electroreceptors on their bills.  These receptors pick up the electric signals from the tiny little larvae and tell the platypus where to go!  Nature is awesome.  You might think this awesome little animal would make a fun playmate, but watch out!  The male platypus has a venomous spur on it's hind legs and that venom is so powerful it can kill a small dog or make a human wish it hadn't tried to pet that cute little platypus!! 

There are so many animals that are interesting in Australia that I could go on for days.  In fact, there are so many interesting THINGS in Australia that I could go on for days, but I've got things to do and so do you, so please check out this website to learn more about this amazing land.

Of course, the adorable Koala needs to make an appearance in any posting about Australian animals :)
And we can't leave out the Kangaroo!!!!
G'day Australia!!!!!