What you didn’t know about Australia’s best known animals

Learn some of the weird and wacky facts about famous Australian animals.

Did you know that Australia chose animals that couldn't easily move backwards for their National Coat of Arms to symbolise their forward progression? In their first coat of arms, the banner also contained the words, "Advance Australia", developing on this theme.

However, when it comes to Australia's native animals, the fact that emus and kangaroos struggle to move backwards is one of the lesser interesting facts. After all, cube-shaped droppings, Frankenstein's monster, and the world's oldest surviving mammal are hard contenders to beat. Hire a car in Brisbane or the Gold Coast, and go on a scavenger hunt for some of these weird and wonderful animals. 

Kangaroos

The only large animal to use hopping as their means of locomotion, kangaroos' legs don't move independently of one another on land, yet kick separately when swimming. Their top speed is 65km/h, which is faster than a racehorse, and each leap can take them up to 7.6m in distance, and 3m into the air. 

Not only that, a female kangaroo controls when she gestates and can determine the sex of her offspring. Additionally, due to their complicated reproductive system, perpetual pregnancy is a possibility.

Wombats

  • Wombats are the closest relatives koalas have, and a group of them is called a 'wisdom'.
  • As they spend so much of their time digging burrows, the pouch that they use to nurse their young faces backwards, preventing it from filling with dirt.
  • Their teeth, or incisors, grow continuously. They graze almost constantly, and some of the tougher plants they eat wear their teeth down.
  • They produce cubic poo. It's not a myth! The only animal known to do so, diet and a long digestive process come into play in the poo's strange shape. However, with poor eyesight and an excellent sense of smell, excrement also serves a purpose in letting other wombats know who lives where. Considering its shape, it doesn't easily roll away, creating a perfect marker! 

Jervis Bay octopuses

The first instance of thrown weapons seen in octopuses occurred in Jervis Bay, near Sydney. The octopuses seemed to use siphons generally meant for jet propulsion to fling away objects they'd gathered. 

One possible reason for this is the crowdedness of their homes in Jervis Bay. With only approximately one square metre of space to each octopus, they could have developed the projectile tactic as a way to protect their space from competitors close by. Go check them out by hiring a car in Sydney, seeing some of the beautiful coasts and going scuba diving along the way!

The Australian Fitzroy River Turtle

If you've never heard of a bum-breathing animal, now you have. This turtle, cute in its own right and easily fittable into the palm of your hand, is known for its ability to breath through gills located in its bum. This strange skill allows the turtle to remain underwater for up to an impressive 21 days at a time, and you'll only find them in Australia's Fitzroy River Basin. 

Koalas

  • Small brains and a life of feeding on leaves that lack decent nutrients is thought to cause the koala's need for excessive sleep – 18 hours a day in fact!
  • Just like humans, koalas have opposable thumbs useful for climbing. They're also excellent swimmers. 
  • Eating about a kilogram of leaves a day to get the nutrients needed, koalas keep snacks with them, using pouches in their cheeks to carry the leaves. 

Platypus

Scientists believed the platypus was a hoax when first encountering one. Like Frankenstein's monster, they seemed more a hodgepodge of other species sewn together, than a standalone creature. With a bill and webbed feet from a duck, a beaver's tail, and the body and fur of an otter, platypus's are adorably eccentric looking. Don't underestimate them though – males also have sharp, venomous stingers on the heels of their rear feet for fighting foe. 

In millions of years, evolution has barely touched the platypus. Instead, they're happy with their highly sensitive bills which contain 40,000 electroreceptors, allowing them to hunt down their food underwater efficiently. 

Echidna

  • Along with the platypus, echidnas are one of the only two egg-laying mammals that exist. 
  • Young echidnas are called 'puggles'.
  • Fed milk like other mammals, puggles don't have teats to suckle on. Instead, the milk is released through special pores in the mother's pouch and the baby echidna licks it up.
  • They are the world's oldest surviving mammals!

Real-life drop bears

Well, maybe more accurately, real-life extinct drop bears. 

You might have heard the drop bear story, perhaps even for a moment believed it. After all, given the above strange varieties of animals, is it so hard to believe that something similar to an overgrown koala is waiting for you in the Australian outback, preparing to drop on you from the branches above?

During the last ice age, something like it did exist. Known as the 'marsupial lion', its skull more closely resembled a wombat's or a koala's structure than its counterpart's, except for the sharp teeth meant for meat. Paws designed to climb as well as grapple with prey finalises the picture – once upon a time, something just as terrifying and lethal as our own scary story once did bring death hurtling down from above. 

Don't miss out on seeing these animals for yourself. Contact us about hiring a car from Melbourne, or other main locations along the east coast, and set out on your adventure. 

About the Author

Chester is a foodie and loves to explore the great land of Australia. He is currently blogging for East Coast Car Rentals.

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