Pictures of Wildlife in Australia
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Fauna of Australia -- from Wikipedia
The fauna of Australia is distinct from the fauna of many other countries because many Australian animals are found nowhere else including over 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 90% of fish and 93% of amphibians. Birds, fish, and a huge variety of invertebrates are also prominent and diverse elements of the Australian fauna. The high level of endemic species can be attributed to the Australian continent's long geological isolation, thus much of the fauna that evolved in Australia only occurs in Australia. A unique feature of the fauna of Australia is the relative scarcity of native placental mammals. Consequently, marsupials mostly fill the ecological niches that are occupied by placental mammals in other parts of the world. Australia is also home to the two of the four extant monotreme species in the world. Australia also has one of the most venomous faunas in the world including snakes, sea snakes, spiders, scorpions, octopuses, jellyfish, molluscs, stonefish, stingrays and the monotremes.
Human settlement of Australia by indigenous Australians and from 1778 European settlers, has had a significant impact on the fauna of Australia. Activities including the introduction of non-endemic species, hunting, and land use practices that modify or destroy habitat have led to numerous extinctions and continue to threaten the survival of many species. Recognising the fragility of Australia's ancient ecosystem's, Australia has wide-reaching State and Federal legislation to protect the Australian fauna.
Origins of the Australian fauna
The complex and hight unique fauna and flora of Australia is described as megadiverse,  several reasons are advanced to explain this great diversity. Australia was once part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, which also included South America, Africa, India and Antarctica. Gondwana began to break up 140 million years ago; 50 million years ago, Australia separated from Antarctica, and was relatively isolated over that period. Australia was, at least to some extent, isolated from the effects of global climate change over the last 40 million years or so. As the world climate cooled, Australia drifted slowly northwards and thus maintained more nearly constant temperatures, allowing more species to survive for longer. Australia's perpetual drift northwards has also allowed several species from Asia to enter Australia.
Australia has a rich mammalian fossil history, and a diverse group of extant species dominanted by the marsupials. In the Late Pleistocene following human habitation of Australia and coinciding with a period of global climate change the the Australian megafauna became extinct. Recent analysis suggests that the fire-stick farming methods of the Australian Aborigines reduced plant diversity and contributed to the extinction of large herbivores with a specialised diet, like the flightless birds from the genus Genyornis. Following European settlement of Australia the introduction of exotic predators and competitive herbivores, in addition to habitat destruction and over-harvesting, has been the cause of at least 27 mammalian extinctions.
Monotremes and marsupials
Two of the four living species of monotreme occur in Australia, they are the Platypus and the Short-beaked Echidna. The monotremes differ from other mammals in their methods of reproduction; in particular, they lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young like marsupials and placental mammals. The platypus is considered one of the strangest specimens of the animal kingdom: a venomous, egg-laying, duck-billed mammal. The Short-beaked Echidna is similarly strange, it is covered in hair spikes and has a tubular snout in the place of a mouth, its tongue can move in and out of the snout 100 times a minute to capture termites.
Australia has the worlds largest and most diverse range of marsupials. Marsupials are characterised by the presence of a pouch where they rear their young. The carnivorous marsupials, order Dasyuromorphia, are probably the group most closely related to the ancestral marsupials. The carnivorous mammals are represented by two surviving families, the Dasyuridae with 51 members, and the Numbat as the the sole member of the Myrmecobiidae. The Thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger, was the last living specimen of the family Thylacinidae, however it is most likely now extinct after systematic destruction by the European settlers of Australia. The world's largest living carnivorous marsupial is the Tasmanian Devil, it is the size of a small dog and can hunt, although it mainly eats carrion. It became extinct on the mainland some 600 years ago, and now only occurs in Tasmania. There are 4 species of quoll or native cat, the remainder of the Dasyuridae are referred to as the marsupial mice, most weigh less than 100 g.
There two species of marsupial mole, order Notoryctemorphia. These rare, blind and earless carnivorous creatures spend most of their time underground in the deserts of Western Australia. The first evidence of these marsupials in the fossil recored is in the Miocene between 15 and 20 million years ago. Very little is know about these animals.
The bandicoots and bilbies, order Peramelemorphia, are marsupial omnivores. There are 7 species present in Australia, most of these are endangered. The small creatures share a characteristic shape, they have a plump, arch-backed body with a long, delicately tapering snout, very large upright ears, relatively long, thin legs, and a thin tail. The evolutionary origin of this group is unclear as they share characteristics from both the carnivorous and herbivorous marsupials.
Herbivorous marsupials are classified in the order Diprotodontia, and further into the suborders Vombatiformes and Phalangerida. The Vombatiformes include the Koala, and the tree species of wombat. One of Australia's best known marsupials, the Koala is arboreal and feeds on the leaves of 36 species of Eucalyptus. Wombats feed on grasses, sedges and roots, and dig extensive burrow systems with rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws, they are mainly crepuscular and nocturnal.
The Phalangerida includes 6 families and 26 species of possums and the 47 species of macropod. The possums are a diverse group of arboreal marsupials and they vary in size; from the tiny Pygmy Possums — the smallest species, Little Pygmy Possum, weights just 7 g — to the cat-sized Common Ringtail and Brushtail Possums. The Sugar and Squirrel Gliders are common species of gliding possum and are found in the eucalypt forests of eastern Australia, the Feathertail Glider is the smallest glider species. The gliding possums have membranes called "patagiums" which extend from the fifth finger of the forelimb back to the first toe of the hind foot, which they use to glide between trees.
The macropods are divided into three families, the Hypsiprymnodontidae with the Musky Rat-kangaroo as its only member; the Potoridae and the Macropodidae. The Potoridae included the bettongs, potaroos and rat-kangaroos, these small species make nests, carrying plant material with their tails. The Macropodiae includes the kangaroos, wallabies and allies; size varies widely within this family. Most macropods have very large hind legs, and long narrow hind feet with a distinctive arrangement of four toes, and powerfully muscled tail which they use to move in a bipedal energy-efficient hopping motion. The short front legs have five separate digits. The Musky Rat-kangaroo is the smallest macopod and the only species that is not bipedal, while the male Red Kangaroo is the largest, reaching 2 m tall and weighing 85 kg. Macropods occur all over Australia except in alpine areas.
Australia has indigenous placental mammals from two orders: the bats, order Chiroptera represented by six families; and the mice and rats, order Rodentia, family Muridae. Bats and rodents are relatively recent arrivals to Australia and bats are only present in the fossil record from 15 million years ago, likely coming to Australia from islands to the north. There are only 2 endemic genera of bats, although 7% of the world's bats occur in Australia. Rodents first arrived in Australia 5 to 10 million years ago and underwent a wide radiation to produce the species collectively known as the 'old endemic' rodents. The old endemics are represented by 14 extant genera. A million years ago Rattus entered Australia from New Guinea and 7 new species of Rattus, collectively called the 'new endemics', evolved.
Since human settlement many placental mammals have been introduced to Australia and are now feral. The first animal introduced to Australia was the Dingo. Fossil evidence suggests that people from the north brought the Dingo to Australia about 5000 years ago.  When Europeans settled Australia they intentionally released many species into the wild including the Red Fox, Brown Hare, and the European Rabbit. Other domestic species have escaped and over time have produced wild populations including the cat, Fallow Deer, Red Deer, Sambar Deer, Rusa Deer, Chital, Hog Deer, Domestic Horse, Donkey, Pig, Domestic Goat, Water Buffalo, Blackbuck antilope and the Dromedary. Only three species of placental mammal were introduced to Australia by accident, the House Mouse, Black Rat and the Brown Rat.
Forty-six marine mammals from the order Cetacea are found in Australian coastal waters. Since the majority of these species have global distribution some authors do not consider them as Australian species. Both the baleen and toothed whales are represented. Nine species of baleen whale are present including the Humpback Whale. There are 37 species of toothed whale which include all six genera of the family Ziphiidae and 21 species of oceanic dolphin, including the Australian Snubfin Dolphin, a species first described in 2005. Some oceanic dolphins, like Orca, occur in all waters. Others are confined to specific regions, such as Irrawaddy Dolphin that inhabit warm northern waters only.
The Dugong is a marine species occurring in the waters off Papua-New Guinea, northern and northeastern Australia. It can grow up to 3 m long and weigh as much as 400 kg. The Dugong is the only herbivorous marine mammal in Australia, it feeds on seagrass in coastal areas. The destruction of seagrass beds is a threat to the species survival. Eleven species of seal, family Pinnipedia, live on the southern coast of Australia.
Australia and its territories are home to over 800 species of bird, and about 350 of these are endemic to the zoogeographic region including Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand. The fossil record of birds in Australia is patchy, however there are records of the ancestors of contemporary species as early as the Late Oligocene.  Very broadly speaking, Australian birds can be classified into four categories; non-passerines, passerines, recent arrivals from Eurasia and introduced species. Non-passerines that only occur in Australia include the flightless Emu and Southern Cassowary and the huge endemic parrot group, the Psittaciformes. The Australian Psittaciformes include a sixth of the worlds parrots including many cockatoos, galah, and other parrots. The Malleefowl and the Australian Brush-turkey are two interesting species that incubate their eggs in large mounds of decaying plant matter. The Kookaburra is the largest member of the Kingfisher family.
Passerines peculiar to Australasia descended from the ancestors of the Crows, the Corvi. Examples include wrens, robins, magpie group, thornbills, pardalotes, the huge honeyeater family, treecreepers, lyrebirds, Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds. The Satin Bowerbird is an interesting species, it has complex courtship ritual, it creates a bower as a part of courtship, it fills the bower with blue shiny items.
Relatively recent colonists from Eurasia, include swallows, larks, thrushes, cisticolas, sunbirds, and some raptors including Australia's raptor, the Wedge-tailed Eagle. A number of species of birds have been introduced by humans; some like the European Goldfinch and Greenfinch coexist happily with Australian species. Others such as Common Starlings, European Blackbirds, House Sparrows and the Indian Mynah are destructive and endanger native bird species. 23 species of bids have become extinct in Australia since European settlement.
There are 200 species of seabird that live on the Australian coast, including many species of migratory seabird. Australia is at the southern end of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway for migratory waterbirds which extends from Far-East Russia and Alaska, through Southeast Asia to Australia and New Zealand. About 2 million birds travel this route to Australia each year. A large and very common seabird is the Australian Pelican which occurs in all waterways in Australia. Only one species of penguin breeds on mainland Australia, the Little Penguins.
Amphibia and reptiles
Australia has four families of native frogs. The Cane Toad was introduced to Australia in 1935 in a failed attempt to control pests in sugarcane crops, but has since become a devastating pest. The Myobatrachidae, or southern frogs, are Australia's largest frog group with 120 species from 21 genera. A notable member of this group is the colourful Corroboree frog. The Tree Frogs, from family Hylidae, are common in high rainfall areas on the north and east coasts; there are 77 species from 3 genera present in Australia. The frogs of the Microhylidae are restricted to Australia's rainforests and there are 18 species from 2 genera. Australia’s smallest frog, Cophixalus exiguss, is from this family. There is a single species from the world's dominant frog group, family Ranidae, Rana daemeli, which occurs in the rainforest of Queensland. There has been a decline in Australia's frog populations partly due to the fatal amphibian disease chytridiomycosis.
Australia has both saltwater and freshwater species of crocodiles. The Saltwater Crocodile is the largest living crocodile species; reaching up to 7 m and 1,000 kg, they can kill humans. They live on the coast and in the freshwater rivers and wetlands of northern Australia, and they are farmed for their meat and leather. Freshwater Crocodiles are found only in the freshwater waterways of Northern Australia, and are not considered dangerous to humans.
The Australian coast is visited by 6 species of sea turtle, the Flatback Turtle, Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead Sea Turtle and the Leatherback Sea Turtle. There are 29 species of Australian fresh-water turtles from 8 genera of family Chelidae. The Australasian Pig-Nose Turtle is another freshwater species and is the only member of its family. Australia is the only continent without any land tortoises.
There are more lizards in Australia than anywhere else in the world, including representatives of five families. There are 114 species in 18 genera of Gecko, although geckos do not occur in Tasmania. The Pygopodidae is a family of limbless snake- or worm-like lizards endemic to the Australian region; of the 34 species and 8 genera only one species does not occur in Australia. The Agamidae or Dragon lizards make up 66 species in 13 genera, including the Thorny Devil, Bearded Dragon and Frill-necked Lizard. Family Varanidae has 26 species occuring in Australia, they are primarily active diurnal predators, this family includes the Goannas. There are 389 species of skink from 38 genera making up about 50% of the total lizard fauna, this group including the Blue-tongue lizards.
Australian snakes come from seven families. Australia is the only place where the venomous snakes outnumber the non-venomous species. The most venomous species of snake including the Fierce Snake, Eastern brown snake, Taipan and Eastern Tiger snake are from the family Elapidae with 86 of this family’s 200 members found in Australia. Thirty-three Sea Snakes from family Hydrophiidae inhabit Australia's northern waters and many are extremely venomous. Two species of sea snake form the Acrochordidae also occur in Australian waters. Australia has only 11 species from the world's most significant snake family Colubridae, none are endemic and they are considered to be a relatively recent arrival from Asia. There are 15 species of Boa, and 31 species of insectivorous Blind Snake.
In Australian waters there are at least 4,442 species of fish; of these 90% are endemic. Australia has a relatively small freshwater fish fauna of only 170 species — this may be related to Australia's relative scarcity of freshwater waterways. There are two families of freshwater fish with ancient origins: the Queensland Lungfish and the Bony Tongues. The Queensland Lungfish is most primitive of the lungfishes and evolved before Australia separated from Gondwana. The Salamanderfish is peculiar to southwest Western Australia, and is one of the smallest freshwater fish and can survive dessication by burrowing into mud. Other species of interest include freshwater lampreys, herrings catfish, smelts and graylings, and rainbowfishes, and 50 species of gudgeons including the Sleepy cod. Native freshwater game fish include the Barramundi, Murray cod, and Golden Perch. Two species of freshwater shark are found in the Northern Territory. Game fish including Brown, Brook and Rainbow Trout, Chinook and Atlantic Salmon have been introduced to Australian waterways. The introduced carp has been blamed for reducing the population of many native species.
Most of Australia's fish species are marine species. Groups of interest include the carnivorous Moray eels, squirrelfish, pipefish and seahorses whose males incubate the eggs in a special pouch. There are 80 species of grouper, including the world's biggest bony fish, Epinephelus lanceolatus which can grow as large as 2.7 m and weigh 400 kg. The trevally, a group of 50 species of silver schooling fish and the snappers are species popular with commercial fishermen. The Great Barrier Reef supports a huge variety of small and medium sized reef fish including the damselfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, gobies, cardinalfish, wrasse, triggerfish and surgeonfish. There are a number of venomous fish including the Stonefish and Red Lionfish and Pufferfish, which all have toxins that can cause human fatality. There are 11 venomous species of stingray, the largest is the Smooth Stingray. The barracudas are one of the reef’s largest species. Large reef fish should not be eaten due to the possibility of ciguatera poisoning.
Sharks occur in all the coastal waters and estuarine habitats of Australia’s coast. There are 166 species of shark, including 30 species of requiem sharks, 32 species of catsharks, 6 wobbegong sharks, and 40 species of dogfish shark. There are 3 species from the family Heterodontidae, the Port Jackson Shark, the Zebra Horn Shark and the Crested Horn Shark. In 2004 there were 12 unprovoked shark attacks in Australia, 2 were fatal. Sharks known to pose a significant threat include the Bull Shark, Grey Nurse Shark and the Great White Shark. Popular beaches in Queensland and New South Wales are protected by shark netting — a mesh netting that has reduced the population of both dangerous and harmless shark species. Overfishing of sharks has also significantly reduced shark numbers in Australian waters. A Megamouth Shark was found on a Perth beach in 1988.
Australia has a wide variety of arachnids, including 135 species of spider that are common enough to have common names; see list of common Australian spiders. There are a number of highly venomous species including the Sydney funnel-web spider and the Red-back spider, whose bite can be deadly to humans. There are thousands of species of mites and ticks from order Acarina. Australia also has 8 species of pseudoscorpion and 9 scorpion species. There are also many species of worms—the world's largest earthworm, the Giant Earthworm, is found only in Gippsland, Victoria and can reach up to 3.7 m in length.
Freshwater crustaceans include the large family Parastacidae which includes 124 species of fresh water crayfish. Australian species include the world's smallest crayfish, Tenuibranchiurus glypticus which does not exceed 30 mm in length as well as the world's largest Astacopsis gouldi from Tasmania, measuring up to 76 cm long and weighing 4.5 kg. The genus Cherax includes the Common Yabby which is the most widely distributed species, in addition to the farmed species Marron and Queensland Red Claw. Species from the genus Engaeus, commonly known as the Land Crayfish, are not truly aquatic as they spend their lives living in burrows. Australia has 7 species of freshwater crab from the genus Austrothelphusa. The crabs live burrowed into the banks of waterways and can plug their burrows, survivng several years through drought. The freshwater Mountain Shrimp only occur in Tasmania; they are a unique group as they are extremely primitive, resembling species found in the fossil record from 200 million years.
A huge variety of marine invertebrate taxa are found in Australian waters, with the Great Barrier Reef being an obvious source of this diversity. Families include the sponges, the Cnidaria (which includes the jellyfish), corals and sea anemones, comb jellies, the Echinodermata (which includes the sea urchins), starfish, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, the lamp shells and the Mollusca, which includes snails, slugs, limpets, squid, octopuses, cockles, oysters, clams, and chitons. Venomous invertebrates include the Box Jellyfish, the Blue-ringed Octopus and ten species of Cone Snail which can cause respiratory failure and death in humans.
There are many unique marine crustaceans in Australian waters among the country's seven represented classes. The best known class, to which all the edible species of crustacean belong, is Malacostraca. The warm waters of northern Australia have many species of Decapod crustaceans including crabs, false crabs, hermit crabs, lobsters, shrimps, and prawns. The Peracarids including the amphipods and isopods are more diverse in the colder waters of southern Australia. Less well known marine groups include the classes Remipedia, Cephalocarida, Branchiopoda, Maxillopoda which included the barnacles, copepods and fish lice, and the Ostracoda. Notable species include the Tasmanian Giant Crab, which is the second largest crab species in the world, is found in deep water, and can reach 13 kg. Australian lobsters do not have claws.
Much of the fauna of Australia is protected by Commonwealth and State legislation; notable exceptions include kangaroos, which are prolific and culled annually. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) is used at the National level for the protection of fauna and the identification and protection of threatened species. Many species are threatened by human activities and introduced plant and animal species: currently there are 380 threatened animal species that are protected under the EPBC Act. At the state level there are additional Acts that allow for the listing of species that are threatened in that State. Australia is a member of the International Whaling Commission and is in strong opposition to the commercial use of whales—all species of Cetacea are protected in Australian waters. Quotas are set for the sustainable harvest of many marine species.
There are numerous protected areas in all States and Territories that have been created to protect and preserve Australia's unique ecosystems. Protected areas include national parks and other reserves, as well as 64 wetlands which are registered under the Ramsar Convention and 16 World Heritage Sites. As of 2002, 10.8% (774,619.51 km²) of the total land area of Australia is within a protected area.  Protected marine zones have been created in many areas to preserve marine biodiversity; as of 2002 they cover about 7% (646,000 km²) of Australia's marine jurisdiction. The Great Barrier Reef is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority under specific legislation.
A key undertaking in the conservation of Australian fauna is the complete cataloging of all the species within Australia. In 1973 the Commonwealth Government established the Australian Biological Resources Study (ARBS). The ARBS is the primary organisation for the coordination of research in taxonomy, identification and classification and recording the distribution of flora and fauna.
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