Australia is home to about 380 mammal species, 300 lizard species, 140 types of snakes (including more venomous snakes than any other continent), 4,000 kinds of fish, about 50 species of marine mammals and an impressive 830 or so bird species, about half of which don't occur naturally anywhere else in the world. In fact, more than 80 percent of Australia's indigenous life is found nowhere else -- and some seems odd to the rest of the world.
Kangaroos and Wallabies
Kangaroos, along with wallabies, their smaller cousins, are some of the more familiar strange, funny animals from Australia. Take a look at their big feet, watch one recline back on its tail or catch a boxing match between two sparring 'roos and you'll marvel at their uniqueness. These grazing herbivores live only in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and some surrounding islands. They're marsupials, meaning they carry their offspring around in pouches before they become independent.
Despite commonly begin called "koala bears," these cute, tree-dwelling marsupials aren't bears. They live in eastern Australia, munching on eucalyptus leaves and sleeping as much as 18 hours each day. They drink little, getting most of their fluids from the 2 1/2 pounds of leaves they eat daily. The koala's digestive system is adapted to handle the toxins in eucalyptus, and these animals even smell a bit like cough drops because of all the eucalyptus oil in their diet.
This odd creature has the body of an otter, the tail of a beaver and the bill of a duck. Males also have venomous stingers on their heels. Platypuses live on the eastern coast of Australia. These adept swimmers have folds of skin that cover their ears and eyes while underwater and their noses plug up tightly; they walk on land awkwardly, though. Platypuses are monotremes, a very exclusive order of mammals that lay eggs.
Much like the cartoon character of the same name, Tasmanian devils are known for flying into seething, savage rages when provoked or doing battle for a mate. They live only on the Australian island of Tasmania and have the distinction of being the world's largest carnivorous marsupial. Their front legs are longer than their hind legs, which gives them a lumbering, somewhat amusing walk.
Echidnas are also monotremes, or egg-laying mammals. They live in the deserts, scrublands and montane forests of Australia and Tasmania, but are also found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They're short and wide-quilled animals that look a bit like porcupines and hedgehogs, with long anteater-style snouts. Echidnas have no teeth, but catch ants, termites and worms on their long, adhesive tongues.
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Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.