The dingo is found throughout Australia except in Tasmania, and it is a wild dog. There are two theories as to how it arrived in Australia, by the Aboriginals at least 15,000 years ago or by sea farers for trade or eating. The dingo is the size of a medium dog with a bushy tail, erect ears, short hair, and strong claws. Although it is a dog, it does not bark. The dingo needs to drink at least once a day so it can usually be found on the edge of forests. Dingos are carnivores and mainly hunt at night when they catch mammals, rodents, reptiles, insects, etc. They prefer to hunt alone but if food is scarce, they can hunt co-operatively in a group to tackle larger prey. A litter of pups can be anywhere between one and eight pups but is usually three or four.
Monotrenes lay soft-shelled eggs like reptiles but their body temperature varies less than reptiles and they have mammary glands.
The platypus is Australia's most unusual animal. It is one of two representatives of monotremes. The other is the Echidna. The platypus is a shy and rarely seen animal even though they are quite common in streams, even close to city outskirts. They are found in eastern Australia, Tasmania, and southern South Australia. They live in burrows on stream and river banks, the entrance hidden by vegetation. They are solitary, partly aquatic animals that feed on live frogs, fish, crustaceans, earthworms, and aquatic insects. Their front legs are used for paddling while the back legs they use for steering. The flat tail acts as both rudder and paddle when in the water and to move soil on land. The small eyes and ears are covered by flaps underwater so they are then blind and deaf. But their beak has highly sensitive nerves. Females have a poisonous spur on their back legs which can cause severe pain and it is not known why they have this spur. The female lays two eggs which hatch about two weeks later and then the babies suckle on milk.
The other monotrene is the echidna. There are two species of echidna but only the short-beaked echidna lives in Australia where it can be found throughout. They are solitary animals and very territorial. They can be found in wooded, sandy or rocky habitats. Echidnas feed on ants, termites, and other small insects. They can go for a month without food and even hibernate for several months, but they do need to wake now and again for food. The female lays one egg which she pushes into a pouch with her beak and it hatches about ten days later.
There are so many native marsupials in Australia that I just can't possibly list them all here. What I have done is split them up into a few separate groups and try to give at least one representative from each family.
One of Australia's most well known and best loved mammals is the koala. There is only one species of koala and while they may look like teddy bears, they are not related to the bear family at all. Koalas are marsupials, their young born very young and then developed in the mothers pouch. They have grey and white fur, small eyes, woolly ears, sharp claws and a hairless nose. Koalas live in trees, eating the leaves from about twelve varieties of eucalypts. They sleep most of the day, becoming active just before sunset. Their distribution is limited to where their favourite trees are found, eastern Australia. The leaves they eat are toxic to other animals but the biology of the koala has adapted to withstand the chemicals.
This is the only marsupial anteater, feeding on termites which they find by smell. Their bodies are striped vertically while their faces are striped horizontally. While having a pouch is a distinguishing feature of the marsupial, the numbat is an exception. Its young are born immature but instead of developing in the pouch, they develop on the teat which swells in the babies mouth so it can't fall off. At night these animals live in hollow logs and they are solitary animals. They are rare animals and only found in south Western Australia.
There are three types of wombats in Australia, the common wombat, the northern hairy-nosed wombat, and the southern hairy-nosed wombat. These marsupials are related to koalas and can weigh up to 40kg when fully grown. Wombats are burrowers and capable of digging large holes. They are mostly nocturnal but can be seen during the day in Winter. Common wombats are solitary animals that live in non-tropical areas of eastern Australia while the hairy-nosed varieties are rare and live only in some restricted areas in communal burrows. Wombats eat vegetation and roots. They breed in Spring and the females pouch opens backwards to keep soil out when digging.
The marsupial mole is similar to normal moles. These are small, burrowing mammals, nearly blind, ears hidden, and large claws. Their fur is white or golden red and range in length from 6-21cm. They live in Australia's deserts, feeding on worms and insects. They never drink and have been known to starve if they don't eat for 12 hours or more. They mate in Spring and only live for 2-4 years.
The endangered greater bilby of the bandicoot family, now survives in only small patches of south west Queensland and on the border of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. It has long ears, long nose, soft and silky bluish-grey fur, and a black and white tail. Their favourite diet is insects and insect larvae from the soil but they also feed on some plants and small animals. Bilby's are solitary animals who live in arid regions of woodlands, grasslands, savannah, and desert. These beautiful little creatures are declining in numbers thanks to grazing by sheep and cattle, predators such as introduced foxes and cats, introduced rabbits taking over their burrows, and fur trapping.
Long Nosed Bandicoot
There are about 21 species of bandicoot including the bilby and I can't list them all here. Another type of bandicoot, though, is the long-nosed bandicoot which is found in moist forests along the entire east coast of Australia. All bandicoots eat insects, roots, and some small animals. The long-nosed bandicoot is greyish brown with a creamy white belly and their fur is bristly and rough. They breed throughout the year and have a backwards facing pouch.