Australian Fur Seal
These mammals are mainly found in Bass Strait (between Victoria and Tasmania) as well as small areas of the New South Wales and South Australian coastlines. The Australian Fur Seals are extremely good swimmers and divers with exceptional sight who dive to catch small squids or octupuses, rock lobsters, fish, and crustaceans. The males of the species weigh up to 360kg and measure up to 2m long while the females are smaller and lighter, only weighing up to 100kg. The colour of the males is dark grey to brown (paler underneath) and the colour of the females ranges from pale fawn to grey or brown. The females have a pale or yellow throat and are brown underneath. These mammals are protected in Australia and their breeding grounds are wildlife reserves.
The fairy penguin (scientifically called the little penguin) is the smallest of all the world's penguins and lives along the southern coastline of Australia. There is also a subspecies in New Zealand. Its diet consists of small school fish, krill, and small squid which it swallows hole. They are shallow divers when diving for food, usually between 10-30m but can dive as deep as 60m. Fairy penguins return to the same nest site each year and they only have the one mate for life.
Dugong (Sea Cow)
The dugong is a large grey mammal that gives birth to live babies and although it never leaves the sea, it breathes air through lungs. It can reach up to 3m in length and weigh up to 500kg. In Australia, the dugong is found in the coastal waters of Northern Australia, surfacing only to breath. They live in large herds or smaller family herds. The males of the species have large ivory tusks for fighting other males or uprooting the seagrass which is their sole diet. The natural threats to the dugong, besides the disappearance of the seagrass beds, is saltwater crocodiles, killer whales, and large sharks. In Australia they are a protected species, although still traditionally hunted by Aborigines.
For information on the Humpback Whale, please see the Hervey Bay page under Queensland.
Southern Right Whale
This whale is found around southern Australia. It was almost hunted to extinction despite there being over 40 species of whales sighted off Australia. Now it is protected. This whale lives in Antarctica during the summer and migrates to Australia, South America, and Africa, during winter. These whales are a type of baleen whale which means their food is filtered through baleen plates. Their food consists of krill and plankton. They are mostly black in colour with a white patch underneath.
This dolphin is found in Australia as well as throughout the world and its name comes from its short rounded snout. In Australia they are found in cold temperate to tropical waters off the coast or in bays, waterways, and lagoons. Its average size is 2.5-3m and the average weight is 200kg, however large males have been known to weigh up to 650kg. The colour of the bottlenose dolphin is medium to dark grey on their backs and pale grey to white underneath. The average adult will eat about 15kg a day of fish, shrimp, octopus, squid, krill, etc. They sometimes work in groups to round up schools of fish which they dive into one at a time.
Great White Shark ***
These sharks are quite common in Australian waters and while they are usually solitary, they can be seen in pairs or larger groups. It is also found in other parts of the world such as Japan, Africa, North and South America, China, Russia, and New Zealand. In Australia it is found in temperate waters close to the shoreline. Its name comes from its white belly but on top it is grey. The average size is 3.5-5m long and it weighs up to 1200kg. The females are larger than males in this species. They have up to 3000 triangular teeth located in rows. Their diet includes fish, other sharks, sea lions, seals, turtles, small whales, and other marine mammals. They will also scavange and eat carrion. They swallow whole pieces of their prey which is ripped from the victim and they don't chew their food. The great white will attack its prey from below, taking one bite and letting its prey then bleed to death. They have poor eyesight and locate their prey using smell and an ability to sense electrical charges from muscular movement.
Blue Bottle (Portuguese Man Of War) ***
The blue bottle is actually a group of four kinds of polyps, each responsible for a biological function. For example, the tentacles hunt and catch the prey which they then pass on to the digestive polyps. The gonozooid polyps are responsible for reproduction and the float supports the rest of the polyps. The tentacles of blue bottles give a painful sting when touched. Rubbing with sand will only aggravate the sting and vinegar is also not recommended. If stung severely, scars and blisters can occur and it can also cause respiratory distress. If stung, leave the water immediately.
Box Jellyfish ***
The box jellyfish is considered to be the most venomous marine creature in the world. It apparently is responsible for more deaths than stonefish, crocodiles, and sharks combined. It is found in shallow waters close to the beach in Northern Australia and the Indo-Pacific region. The box jellyfish spawns around river mouths in summer. They feed on shrimps, which they catch by simply waiting for their prey to swim into their tentacles. They can weigh up to 2kg and their tentacles can contain up to 5000 stinging cells which are activated by certain chemicals on the surface of fish, crustaceans, and humans. They are eaten by turtles but are highly venomous to humans and they like to hang around beaches which are frequented by humans.
Blue Ringed Octopus ***
The blue-ringed octopus is the only lethal octopus in the world and it is found in waters around Australia. It is small, only measuring around 20cm, and its colour is dark brown to dark yellow with bright blue rings that glow when the animal is angry. These are another one of the world's deadliest sea creatures, and in Australia, they are found in shallow coastal waters (usually in rock pools) including favourite swimming spots. The bites are usually painless and the victim may have no idea they have been bitten. Within 5-10 minutes, the victim will feel parasthesias and numbness, muscular weakness, and will have difficulty breathing and swallowing. There may also be vomiting, nausea, visual problems, and speech problems. In severe cases, paralysis, respiratory failure, unconscousness, and death can occur. However, not all bites are severe or fatal, it depends on the dosage of venom. Children are especially prone to bites as they are attracted to the glowing blue rings.
Giant Australian Cuttlefish
This species of cuttlefish is found in waters off southern and eastern Australia. It can be found in waters anywhere from less than 1m deep to as deep as 100m. It is the biggest type of cuttlefish and grows up to 1m in length, weighing up to 3kg. They forage for shrimps, prawns, fish, crabs, and other crustaceans in seaweed and seagrass beds. They are able to change colour to match their surroundings and eject ink to confuse their enemies.
Lion Fish ***
This is a species of the scorpion fish family and it is found in shallow coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific region. They have venomous spines that can cause severe pain and discomfort but deaths are rare. If stung, there is strong pain, swelling of the area, and it can also include nausea, paralysis, breathing difficulties, convulsions, and collapse. Even when the spines are removed, the venom can remain active for days and it can take months to recover. If left untreated, gangrene can set in. If stung, immerse the area in hot water and x-rays are recommended to determine if there is any broken spine remaining in the wound.
Stone Fish ***
The stonefish is the most venomous fish known. It is up to 35cm long and is found in the Indo-Pacific region and northern Australia. In Australia it is found around the northern coast from Brisbane to 600km north of Perth. Found camouflaged in sand and mud of tidal inlets up to 40m deep, it lies on the floor and looks like a rock. Its diet consists of small fish and shrimps. Along its back is a row of 13 venomous spines which eject venom when pressure is placed on them (such as a human standing on them). Stings cause excruciating pain and rapid swelling as tissue dies. Severity depends on the amount of pressure that was placed on the spines and the number of spines involved. Other symptoms include paralysis, shock, muscle weakness, and even death. Death from stonefish is not known in Australia, however, and antivenom is available.