The most remarkable feature of the Australian fauna is this: that most of the indigenous mammals are marsupials. Which, together with some archaic species of other animal classes, and some orders of plants, gave rise to the expression “land of living fossils” often used by naturalists to indicate this region.
According to collegesanduniversitiesinusa, the indigenous Australian mammals are included in the following orders: Monotremes, Marsupials, Cetaceans (whales and dolphins), Sirenids (dugongs), Carnivores, Pinnipeds, Rodents (aquatic and scrub mice) and Chiroptera (bats and “flying foxes”). Ungulates, Toothless and Insectivores are lacking in the Australian natural fauna, and so are the representatives of the Primates, apart from man.
Monotremes. – This order includes three oviparous mammals which, under some points of view, are similar to birds and reptiles: two of them, the platypus or platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) and the echidna or anteater porcupine (Tachyglossus aculeatus) they are indigenous to Australia; the proechidna (Proëchidna nigroaculeata) lives in the western and northwestern region of New Guinea. The platypus is found in Tasmania and in the part of Australia east of 138 ° E., except for the Cape York Peninsula where it has not yet been observed. Although the food is obtained only in water, it cannot remain submerged for more than two or three minutes. The echidna, on the other hand, is a terrestrial animal found throughout Australia (except for some desert regions), in Tasmania and in some parts of New Guinea.
Cetaceans. – Whales and dolphins, in large numbers of species, inhabit the Australian seas. Among the Mystacocetes, the most common whales belong to the genera Megaptera and Balaenoptera: they migrate northwards, from the southern ocean to the eastern and western coasts in June or July, and return south towards the end of the year. More rare and wandering are the precious black whale (Balaena australis) and the small Eubalaena marginata about 6 meters long.
Among the Odontocetes, the great spermaceti or cachalot whale (Physeter macrocephalus) comes to the fore, which sometimes arrives in large schools on the Australian coasts, but in general does not abound there, except in the vicinity of Tasmania. A similar species, smaller, about 3 meters long, is instead found all around the continent. Among the other species is the great killer (orca), with the help of which an intense fishing of whales has been practiced for several years in Eden, in New South Wales, because the orcas push the spermaceti whales into the waters. half-closed of Twofold Bay, where they are caught by fishermen.
There are various species of dolphins, not all well known. The main one is the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis).
Sirenids. – The curious dugong (Halicore dugong) is found in much of the Australian tropical waters, although in various places the hunting of the natives and the Whites has made it very scarce by now. Apart from its interesting systematic position, the animal is associated with the old stories of mermaids brought to Europe by navigators of the century. XVI and XVII and even the XVIII; stories favored by the strange human resemblance that the head presents at a distance, and by the way in which the female suckles the baby.
Carnivores. – This order has only one representative in Australia: the wild dog or dingo (Canis dingo) which is found throughout Australia, even in regions that are very poor in water, except the most deserted ones. There are several varieties or breeds. In the eastern highlands and forests they are large and wolf-like, while those in arid and desert regions are smaller. The color of the dingo also often harmonizes with the terrain: in the great limestone plain of Nullarbor, dingoes are very small and almost white. In the early days of colonization the dingo was a calamity for shepherds, and worse, for the destruction of the flocks, when it crossed with domestic dogs. Their number has decreased a lot recently. In some regions, dingoes hunt in packs, like wolves, but more often they are alone, and therefore more formidable. Fossilized remains of the dingo were found in caves in eastern Australia along with Diprotodon and it is generally believed, although there is no evidence, that its appearance in Australia preceded that of man. Introduced by the Whites, the fox became part of the Australian carnivores, which has spread everywhere, unfortunately damaging not only the flocks but also the birdlife and also destroying a certain number of rabbits; and the domestic cat which, having grown wild, is now found scattered over the whole continent, and which also cooperates in the destruction of a certain number of rabbits, especially young ones.
Pinnipeds. – They are represented in Australian waters by different genera and species of seals, being especially widespread, on the southern and eastern coasts, the common sea bear (Arctocephalus) and the sea leopard (Ogmorhinus), which has a long fusiform body with hind limbs reduced to fins and, unlike the sea bear, hardly leaves the water. On the southern coasts there is also the sea lion (Arctocephalus cinereus), which reaches large dimensions, while the sea elephant (Macrorhinus), which was once found on the islands of the Bass Strait, has now disappeared from Australia.
Rodents. – The indigenous fomme include about fifty species of mice (Muridae). Particularly noteworthy are the large aquatic rats (Hydromys) which are found everywhere is permanent fresh water, and also on the shores of several bays and estuaries. There are also several species of Rattus and Pseudomys similar to European country mice. Some of the endemic genera have more developed hind limbs, as in kangaroos, and some types also walk, in some way, such as kangaroos or jerboas. The discussion of Australian rodents would not be complete without a mention of the rabbit that was introduced to Australia. The European rabbit has added a great burden to the effort of the settler, farmer or breeder, and is also directly and indirectly responsible for the destruction of many plants and animals. Despite the great annual massacre (about 200 million head per year in New South Wales alone) this scourge persists, causing large losses to landowners, not only in the prevention and destruction measures, but especially in the decrease in productivity. It abounds, in some places,
Reptiles and Amphibians. – There are many reptiles living in Australia: snakes, lizards, crocodiles, sea turtles and freshwater turtles abound. Many species of sea snakes are found on tropical coasts, and some even further south. The greatest among the great snakes is the Queensland Python (Python amethystinus) which reaches the length of m. 6.50; similar to this, but smaller and more numerous, it is the carpet snake (P. spilotes) and the East; both feed on marsupials and birds. There are many poisonous species, but some are so small as not to be dangerous for man; one of the most poisonous species is the snake-tiger (Notechis), another dangerous species is the short and large “snake of death” (Acanthophis).
In tropical waters there are two species of crocodiles and the well-known sea turtles. In the streams, especially in the Murray and its tributaries, live different types of freshwater turtles, of the family Chelydidae. Large lizards (Varanus) are found throughout Australia and are generally known as goanna, iguana corruption ; one species exceeds 2 meters. The smaller species vary greatly in shape, including legless forms, the extraordinary “thorny devil” (Moloch) of the desert regions, the hooded lizard (Chlamydosaurus) and various species of Geckonidae. In all, 200 species are known.
Amphibians are represented by 60 species of frogs and toads, with the urodeles missing altogether. None reaches the size of some Asian or American species. Many frogs show extraordinary vitality in difficult climatic conditions, overcoming the most terrible droughts, which sometimes last for years, and resuming active life at the first reappearance of the rain.
Pisces. – More than 2,000 species of fish are already known in Australian waters, and the number is likely to increase with further exploration. There is of course a great variety of forms, the northern coasts being close to the equator and the southern ones bathed by the cold waters of the Southern Ocean. Like the terrestrial fauna, so too the aquatic one is somewhat archaic, as indicated by the sharks of Port Jackson (Heterodontus and Gyropleurodus), the eel- shaped Chlamydoselachus, the Dipnoi, represented in Queensland by the Epiceratodus, the freshwater herring (Potamalosa) of the eastern rivers, and some bericids. Overall, this fauna shows a great affinity with the Malay and South Asian ones, with the addition of many southern types and some abyssal forms.
Among the Elasmobranchs there are a large number of large and small sharks and many races including the largest known species (among others the Manta ray up to 6 meters wide), and a large number of small stinging rays. Of the order of the Holocephali is the strange Chimaera. A considerable number of freshwater fish are found in the eastern part of the continent, from the large Murray cod (Oligorus) to the very small Riverina, which is 30 mm long. Many species of the interior endure extremely long periods of drought, burying themselves in the dry mud, until the rains return. The fishing industry, which is very active right now, could have a great development in the future.