According to my research Australia is one of the very few places in the world where the three basic type of mammals can be found living side by side.
The largest group is the Marsupial. There are over 120 types of Marsupials so far found to be living in Australia.
I don't profess to be an expert but I would like to introduce you to some of the most popular and most interesting Marsupials that we have here, but first just a brief description on the definition of a marsupial .
Marsupials are commonly regarded as mammals that have pouches. These pouches are where their young are born and raised!
Prime examples are the Kangaroo and Wallaby. Marsupials typically have very short gestation times I believe some as low as 12-14 days.
When the Joey (the babies are called joeys) is born it is naturally very small but through instinct crawls up from mums birth canal and climbs into the pouch and attaches itself to mums nipple.
It stays inside the pouch until it is fully developed from weeks to months depending on the species of marsupial. Mothers nurse their young for quite a while sometimes until the Joey is as big as the mum.
So settle back and allow me to introduce you to just a few of our marsupials, some you will already know but I'm sure there will be some surprises !
The Koala is a thickset arboreal marsupial herbivore native to Australia. The Koala spends virtually all its life in the trees and looks quite clumsy when occasionally spotted on the ground.
The Koala is found in coastal regions of eastern and southern Australia, from near Adelaide to the southern part of Cape York Peninsula. Populations also extend for considerable distances inland in regions with enough moisture to support suitable woodlands. The Koala is very selective in what it eats and will only munch on leaves from certain types of eucalypts.
These Marsupials are not found in Tasmania or Western Australia.
It's young are carried in a backward facing pouch for five to six months and then on the mothers back for a further two or three months.
When first adopted by English speakers, the name Koala Bear became popular, as this roughly evoked the species' similarity in appearance to the Teddy bear, to people unfamiliar with it. Although taxonomically incorrect, the name Koala bear is still in use today outside Australia — its use is discouraged because of the inaccuracy in the name.
Heat Wave conditions.
In the last week of January 2009, Victoria experienced record Heat wave conditions. We had 3 days in a row of over 43 degrees C. (Nearly 110 F).
I received an email from my niece who lives in the bush ? with some very touching photos and some attached text.
I am posting them here just to let you know that our little friends do suffer in the heat and we can help.
I cannot find the owner of the photos, if the owner would like to get in touch with me I will give her an acknowledgment!
"I know we are all aware of how the heat is effecting our schools and a friend sent me this and I thought I would share it with everyone so we can appreciate just how hot it is and how it doesn’t only effect people.. Text from email:- "At home in Victoria the temperature has been above 44 degrees all week and they are forecasting another week of 40+ temperatures. Power is failing; trains have stopped running because tracks are buckling under the heat. It’s just scorching. And it seems that the people are not the only ones suffering. Check out these photos of a little Koala which just walked onto a back porch looking for a bit of heat relief. The woman filled up a bucket for it and this is what happened!"
The Great Kangaroo
Australia has two main types of great Kangaroos.The Eastern Grey and the Red Kangaroo.
The Eastern Red is found mainly in the South and East of the continent and the Red population is mainly in the semi-arid inland and deserts. The Eastern Grey can be quite tall sometimes over 6 feet and way around the 70kg mark. The Red Kangaroo is typically a larger animal than the Grey. The Eastern Grey is easy to recognize: its soft grey coat is distinctive, and it is usually found in moister, more fertile areas than the Red. Like all kangaroos, it is mainly nocturnal and crepuscular, and is mostly seen early in the morning, or as the light starts to fade in the evening.In more remote areas, the Eastern Grey occurs in great numbers, and if left unchecked reaches plague proportions. From time to time shooters are employed to reduce its numbers, almost always to the accompaniment of a public outcry. Given the very limited amount of fodder in dry years, however, the only other choice is starvation.Kangaroos are no slouches and can travel very fast over land. The highest ever recorded speed of any kangaroo was 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph) set by a large female Eastern Grey Kangaroo.The Kangaroo family also contains a smaller version called Wallabies and it is very hard to tell the difference but generally a Wallaby is smaller than a Kangaroo.
The Sugar Glider is probably one of the cutest little marsupials we have.
The Sugar Glider is a small marsupial originally native to eastern and northern mainland Australia.In Australia although not endangered and sometimes considered a bit of a pest ,it is illegal to keep the Sugar Glider as a pet, and to capture them, a licence is required and normally only issued for research purposes.
Introduced into the United States approximately 20 years ago as domesticated housepets. Sugar Gliders are an extremely popular companion pet.I believe there are now over 1 million Gliders as pets in homes in the USA. As of Autumn 2008, they are legal to own as domestic housepets in 46 of the 48 contiguous states, with Pennsylvania and California being the only exceptions.
The Sugar Glider is around 6 to 7 inches in length, with a tail almost as long as the body and almost as thick as a human thumb,and weighs between 3 to 5.3 oz. The most distinctive features of its anatomy, however, are the twin skin membranes called patagia which extend from the fifth finger of the forelimb back to the first toe of the hind foot. These are inconspicuous when the Sugar Glider is at rest – it merely looks a little flabby – but immediately obvious when it takes flight. The membranes are used to glide between trees: when fully extended they form an aerodynamic surface the size of a large handkerchief. Membranes are also used to gather food while hunting. The membrane has a thin sheet of fur surrounding it, but it is usually pink in color.Although they can look a bit clumsy in flight, the Sugar Glider can glide for a surprisingly long distance — flights have been measured at over 55 yd — and steer effectively by curving one patagium or the other. It uses its hind legs to thrust powerfully away from a tree, and when about 3 yds from the destination tree trunk, brings its hind legs up close to the body and swoops upwards to make contact with all four limbs together.
In the wilds of its native habitat, the Sugar Glider is a tree dwelling creature. It is active by night when it hunts for insects and small vertebrates and feeds on the sweet sap of certain species of eucalyptus, acacia and gum trees. The Sugar Glider is so named for its preference for sweet foods.
The Spotted Cuscus
The Common Spotted Cuscus is a marsupial animal that lives in the Rain Forests of tropical Queensland.
To be quite honest I have never seen one in the wild.
The Common Spotted Cuscus is about the size of a large house cat, weighing between 3-13lbs, it's body size is approximately 1-2 feet long, with a tail another 1-2 feet long.
It has a round head, small hidden ears, thick fur, and a prehensile tail to aid in climbing and is usually carried tightly rolled.
The curled, prehensile tail is a distinctive characteristic of the Common Spotted Cuscus. The upper part of the tail closest to the body is covered in fur, while the lower half is covered in rough scales on the inside surface to grip branches.
Its eyes range in color from yellows and oranges to reds, and are slit much like a snake. All four of its limbs have five digits and strong, curved claws, except the first digit on each foot.
The second and third digits of the hind foot are partly syndactylous: they are united by skin at the top joint but divide at the claws. These smaller claws can serve as hair combs when cleaning.
The first and second digits of the forefoot are opposable to the other three, helping it grip branches while climbing.
The undersides of its paws are bare and striated, which also help it grasp trees and food.
The first digit on the hind foot is clawless and opposable.
It has thick, woolly fur of varying colors depending on age, sex, and location.
The Common Spotted Cuscus is typically very shy, so it is very hard to find in the wild. It is nocturnal, hunting and feeding at night and sleeping during the day on self-made platforms in tree branches. It also has been found resting in tree hollows, under tree roots, or among rocks.
The Bilby is a desert-dwelling marsupial omnivore.
Bilbies are closely related to Bandicoots. Unfortunately only one species of Bilby survives, but remains endangered. The term Bilby is a word adopted from the Aboriginal language of northern New South Wales, meaning “long-nosed rat”. Bilbies have the characteristic long bandicoot muzzle and very long ears.
They are about 1-2 feet in length. As compared with bandicoots, they have a longer tail, bigger ears, and softer, silky fur. The size of their ears allows them to have better hearing as well.
They are nocturnal omnivores that do not need to drink water, as they get all the moisture they need from their food, which includes insects and their larvae, seeds, spiders, bulbs, fruit, fungi and very small animals. Most food is found by digging or scratching in the soil,and using their very long tongues.
Unlike bandicoots, they are excellent burrowers and build extensive tunnel systems with their strong forelimbs and well-developed claws. A bilby typically makes a number of burrows within its home range, up to about a dozen, and moves between them, using them for shelter both from predators and the heat of the day.
To prevent her pouch from getting filled with dirt while she is digging, the female bilby's pouch faces backwards.
Bilbies have a very short gestation period of about 12 - 14 days,one of the shortest among mammals.
In Australia the Bilby has been adopted to replace the Easter Egg at Easter time and we find many chocolate Bilbies in the shops when we go shopping at Easter. I believe there is a donation made from each sale of a Chocolate Bilby to further the research to save the Bilby from extinction.
Wombats are Australian marsupials.
Wombats are short-legged, muscularquadrupeds,approximately 39 in in length with a very short tail.
They are found in forested, mountainous,and heathland areas ofVictoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.
Wombats were often called badgers by early settlers because oftheir size and habit.
Badger Creek in Victoria and Badger Corner in Tasmania where bothmistakenly named and should have been called “Wombat Creek” and“Wombat Corner” ?
Wombat, a town in New South Wales, is named after the animal.
Wombats can be tamed in a captive situation, and evencoaxed into being patted and held, possibly becoming quite friendly.
Many parks, zoos and other tourist set-ups across Australia havewombats on public display, and they are very popular with visitors.
However, their lack of fear and apparent stubbornness means thatthey may display acts of aggression if provoked, or if they aresimply having a bad day, in a way a lot like me !.
The Wombat being such a heavy and stubborn animal is quite capableof knocking over an average sized man, and their sharp teeth andpowerful jaws can result in severe wounds.
The Australian Wombat unlike a lot of other animals has arelatively large brain. This, means that a Wombat that has been handraised for one reason or another can be quite successfully releasedinto the wild, unlike most other wild animals which either must beraised in specially simulated environments or kept as exhibits for the rest of their lives.
The Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat is one of three species ofwombats. It is found in scattered areas of semi-arid scrub and malleefrom the eastern Nullarbor Plain to the New South Wales border area.It is the smallest wombat at around 2 and a half - 3 feet, and theyoung often do not survive dry seasons.
The Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat is classified as vulnerable toextinction, although a healthy population still remains but doesappear to be ageing; it is feared that the consistently sparserainfall of recent years has prevented successful breeding. (It takesthree consecutive good seasons for a Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat toreach near-adulthood.)
Wombat specialists are concerned that a continuation of thecurrent trend to dryer climate in arid southern Australia could be aserious threat to the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat.
The Numbat is a small, colourful creature between 20 and a little under 30 cm long,
with a finely pointed muzzle and a prominent, bushy tail about the same length as its body.
Colour varies considerably, from soft grey to reddish-brown, often with an area of brick red on the upper back, and always with a conspicuous black stripe running from the tip of the muzzle through the eyes to the bases of the small, round-tipped ears. The underside is cream or light grey;
The Numbat is endemic to Western Australia.
Another common name for the Numbat was Banded Anteater, though not so used now , because as it will eat ants it's main diet is actually termites.
Unlike most other marsupials, the Numbat roams during the day,and spends most of its time searching for termites. It uses it's long ribbon like extensile tongue to gain access to the termites in their narrow tunnels.
Numbats have a very short gestation period of about 14 days and have typically between 4 and 6 young.
Within 12 months the young are off to establish their own territories.
The Quokka, is a small macropod about the size of a large domesticcat.
Like other marsupials in the macropod family (such as the kangaroo and wallaby), the Quokka is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal.
It is found mainly in the South-West of Western Australia.
The Quokka has become rare, but remains a protected species on islands off the coast of that area, Bald Island, Rottnest Island, Garden Island . The islands are free of foxes and cats.
On Rottnest Island, the Quokka is common and occupies a variety of habitats ranging from semi-arid scrub to cultivated gardens.
The Quokka weighs 2.5 to 5 kg and is 16 to 24 inches long with atail about 1 foot long — which is rather short for a macropod.
It has a stocky build, rounded ears, and a short, broad head.Although looking rather like a very small, dumpy Wallaby orKangaroo,and mover in a similar fashion, it can climb small trees andshrubs.
Its coarse fur is a brown colour, fading to buff underneath.
The Quokka is gregarious and gathers in large groups where food is available: primary items are grasses, sedges, succulents and foliage.
The Quokka is very tame and it is common for it to approach people, particularly on Rottnest Island. It is, however, illegal for anyone on Rottnest Island to handle the animals in any way.
The health of some animals has suffered significantly by eating inappropriate foods, such as bread, given by well meaning visitors to Rottnest Island.
Visitors are now asked to refrain from feeding them. .
The Quokka breeds at any time on the mainland, but in late summer on Rottnest. The Quokka only produces a single joey in a year.
The Quokka is regarded as vulnerable to extinction and is threatened on the mainland by the introduced species such as foxes, cats and dogs, as well as the Austrailian Dingo.
The Quokka was one of the first Australian mammals seen by Europeans.
The Dutch mariner Samuel Volckertzoon wrote of sighting "awild cat" on Rottnest Island in 1658.
Rottnest Island was mistakenly named by Willem de Vlamingh in 1696 because he mistook the Quokkas he saw for rats. "Rottnest",is Dutch for "rat nest".
The Tasmanian Devil is colloquially referred to simply as "the devil".
The Devil is a carnivorous marsupial now found in the wild only in the Australian island state of Tasmania.
The Tasmanian Devil is the size of a small dog, but stocky and muscular.
After the extinction of the Thylacine in 1936, it is now the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world,
It is characterized by its black fur, offensive odor when stressed, extremely loud and disturbing screech, and ferocity when feeding. All in all it is not a very pleasant animal and you would not want to meet one on a dark night.
It is known to both hunt prey and scavenge carrion and although it is usually solitary, it sometimes eats with other devils.
The Tasmanian Devil is no longer seen on the Australian mainland.
In Tasmania they were seen as a threat to livestock,and were hunted until 1941, when they became officially protected.
Since the late 1990s facial tumor disease has reduced the devil population significantly and now threatens the survival of the species, which in May 2008 was declared to be endangered.
Programs are currently being undertaken by the Tasmanian government to reduce the impact of the disease.
More by this Author
I must confess that before I started on my Hub on Australian Marsupials, I not only did not know of, but had never actually heard of the word "monotreme". Ok I hear you ask what is a "monotreme",...
The Kangaroo is a marsupial unique to Australia. Read some interesting facts about the Kangaroo...
The Australian Magpie is a black and white bird native to Australia... It should not be confused with the smaller Magpie-lark (Mudlark/Murray Magpie/Peewee in other States of Australia...