In Australia, we are well-known for our impressively unique range of animal species. From the cute and cuddly to the extremely dangerous, there is no doubt that we are a nation that is rich with diverse and interesting animals. Below is a list of fun facts about the animals in Australia.
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“More than four out of five of our species are found nowhere else on Earth,” Australian Researcher Stephen Kearney.
Koalas are one of the most well-known Australian animals, mainly because they are like cute little teddy bears, and Australia is the only country where you will find them. They are not bears, though; they’re marsupials! Lovers of gum leaves and a lot of sleep, did you know that koalas also have six opposable “thumbs” and downward-facing pouches? Koalas are considered endangered, and local extinction events are already occurring across Australia. Explore more koala facts for kids.
Weirdest fact about koalas: they are so different from any other marsupial that they have their own scientific family, which in Latin is called Phascolarctidae.
Kangaroos are so important they feature on the Australian Emblem and the Australian dollar. Like the koalas, Kangaroos are another very famous Australian marsupial. They are incredible jumpers, have powerful tails, and are highly social creatures. A group of kangaroos is called a mob and might include up to 50 kangaroos.
Weirdest fact about a kangaroo: kangaroos cannot go backwards. They feature on our Emblem because it symbolises our country always moving forward and never going backwards.
The red kangaroo is the largest marsupial on Earth and the largest land mammal in Australia. They can grow over 2 metres in height and up to 90 kilograms in weight. The red kangaroo’s tail is strong enough to support its weight. Both male and female red kangaroos box each other to compete for water, and male roos also fight over females. When fighting, the kangaroo stands on its tail while kicking out with its legs.
Weirdest fact about the red kangaroo: The faster a kangaroo moves, the more efficient its jumping becomes. At top speed, 70% of its energy is recycled.
Sugar Gliders are small, soft-furred marsupials that get their name from their love of sugar and the fact they can glide in the air for up to 45 metres thanks to a specialised flap connecting the front leg to the hind leg. They make a large barking noise, similar to a dog.
Weirdest fact about Sugar Gliders: In Australia, sugar gliders can be kept as pets in Victoria, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, but not in any other state.
Brush Tail Possum
Brush Tail Possums are one of our nocturnal marsupials – meaning they sleep during the day and like to head out and feed at night. In particular, they love to feed on fruit and eucalyptus leaves. They are very tame and friendly and are a protected species. In New Zealand, where they are an introduced species, they are considered a pest.
Weirdest fact about a Brush Tale Possum: Communication is by sound and scent, and they make an awful ruckus as they scamper along rooftops. Their mating and fighting noises are very guttural and can be extremely hard to listen to at night!
Wombats are Australia’s second-largest marsupial and another night-time-loving nocturnal animal. They live in burrows in the ground, with some being as long as 100 metres in length! Although they have been portrayed in books and television for many years as slow-moving and lazy, wombats are fast animals and even get zoomies! They live throughout Australia, from the peaks of Mount Kosciuszko to the grasslands of central Australia. Explore more wombat facts for kids.
Weirdest fact about a wombat: A wombat’s poop is shaped like a cube thanks to opposing tensions in its intestine.
The Tasmanian Tiger is now extinct, but when it was alive, it was a large, carnivorous marsupial, looking like a cross between a large dog, tiger and wolf. It had stripes on its back, a long stiff tail and short erect ears, which is how it got its name – Tasmania Tiger! ‘Benjamin’, the last known Tasmanian Tiger, died in captivity at a Hobart Zoo on the 7th of September, 1936. Discover more Tasmanian Tiger fact for kids.
Weirdest fact about a Tasmanian Tiger: Tasmanian Tigers could open their jaws to a 120-degree angle!
Not to be confused with the Tasmanian Tiger, the Tasmanian Devil still exists and is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. It can only now be found in the wild on the Island of Tasmania. They are nocturnal and usually hide in dens during the day, but at night they can roam up to 16km in search of food. The Tasmanian Devil can eat up to 10% of its body weight in one day. Explore more Tasmanian Devil facts for kids.
Weirdest fact about Tasmanian Devils: Their teeth never stop growing and are extremely powerful. They can bite through bone and even the strongest of metals; even break the cages of livestock and other animals.
Bilbies are small rabbit-like marsupials with a very long tails. They are nocturnal and have poor eyesight, relying on their acute hearing and sense of smell to get around and find food. There may be fewer than 10,000 bilbies left in the wild, and this number is decreasing.
Weirdest Bilby fact: A toy bilby has been to the top of Mt Everest! It may be an Australian animal, but Mountaineer Tashi Tenzing took a toy one on a trek to the top as a promise to his Australian grandson to raise awareness about the Bilby.
Bandicoots are small, furry Australian animals that are nocturnal. They live where there are low-growing plants and shelter in nests with piles of leaf litter. When moving fast, they bound and gallop.
Weirdest fact about the bandicoot: Unlike other marsupials, the pouch opens backwards. This adaptation helps keep dirt from getting into the pouch with the babies.
Wallaby’s look a lot like kangaroos, except a lot smaller. They are active at night and rest during the day. Wallabies often sleep in a sitting position, leaning against a rock or tree, with their tail lying on the ground in front of them. Weirdest fact about wallabies: in Australia, wallabies are responsible for some of the country’s crop circles! They are known to run through poppy fields, eating the plants and hopping in circles before passing out.
Quolls are tree-climbing, den-loving marsupials with black to fawn fur, white spots, long tails and sharp teeth. Most quolls have short life spans, generally living only 2 to 4 years in the wild. The northern quoll and eastern quoll are listed as Endangered, while the other four species: western quoll, spotted-tailed quoll, New Guinean quoll, and bronze quolls, are marked as Near Threatened.
Weirdest fact about quolls: The spotted-tailed quoll boasts one of the world’s strongest bites of any predatory mammal.
Quokkas are one of the smallest wallaby species in the world and one of the most adorable. They are known as the happiest animal in the world because of their smile and playful nature. They weren’t always so adored, with Dutch explorers once describing them as “nothing but bush rats“. Most quokkas can be seen offshore on Rottnest Island near Perth or Bald Island near Albany in Western Australia. When threatened, Quokka mothers may expel their joeys from their pouches, leaving them squealing on the ground as a distraction to get away.
Weirdest facts about Quokkas: tourists come from around the world to get a selfie with the Quokkas on Rottnest Island.
The dingo is the largest mammalian carnivore in Australia. Dingoes are social creatures that live in groups called packs, though some dingoes choose to live alone. Only dominant members of a pack will breed; the others take care of feeding the pups. The oldest dingo fossil was estimated to be about 3,500 years old. They can be found across mainland Australia, but the dingoes on World Heritage-listed K’gari (also referred to as Fraser Island) are the purest dingoes in Australia.
Weirdest facts about dingos: They can swivel their heads about 180 degrees and have rotating wrists!
The platypus is one of the world’s most unusual animals thanks to its flat tail, short legs, webbed feet and duck’s bill. They are solitary animals that live in creeks and rivers and lay eggs! Platypus can only be found in Australia.
Weirdest fact about the platypus: Platypuses are so unusual that it took British Scientists more than eighty years to decide what they are. Scientists first thought the platypus was a hoax!
The echidna is the only other living egg-laying mammal species along with the platypus. Echidna bodies are covered in spines, their main line of defence when predators strike. Echidnas slurp up ants, worms and insect larvae with their tongue, which can be up to 15cm long. The claws on an echidna’s hind limbs are curved backwards to help them dig.
Weirdest fact about echidnas: Their spines are long, tough, hollow hair follicles.
Bats are the only mammals capable of long, sustained flight and have evolved into Earth’s most widely distributed mammals. Contrary to popular belief, not all bats live in caves. Separate colonies of bats can be found in trees, mountains, deserts, rock crevices, barns, and rooftops. Bats cannot stand on their hind legs; they can only hang by their feet and thumbs. Bats are vital pollinators of native plants and disperse seeds over a wide area.
Weirdest fact about bats: Bats can slow their bodies down and go into torpor (a sort of hibernation) to save energy when it is cold or inactive during the day.
The whale is the largest mammal on Earth, and every year more than 20,000 Humpback Whales migrate north to the sub-tropical waters of East Coast Australia. They head to the warm waters of the Coral Sea, through the Pacific Ocean and past the Great Barrier Reef, to mate and give birth. Whales live in water but breathe air, like other mammals. To help them breathe, they have blowholes that expel the water as they come to the surface. Weirdest fact about whales: So that they can always control their blowhole to avoid drowning, whales rest half of their brain at a time while they’re sleeping.
Goannas are predatory lizards who can grow up to two and a half meters in length. They are also very fast and can run at high speeds of up to 40 km/hr on their hind legs. Goannas use their sharp teeth, sharp claws and strong tail for protection. When threatened, goannas stand on their hind legs, inflate the flaps on their necks and make a harsh hissing noise. Explore more goanna facts for kids.
Weirdest fact about goannas: goannas can mistake humans for trees, resulting in people being climbed by a goanna!
Copperhead Snakes are cold-blooded reptiles usually found near cold, rainy areas. They are one of the most cold-tolerant snakes in Australia, with an average length between 61 and 90 cm. Even just-hatched copperheads have fully functional fangs capable of injecting venom just as toxic as an adult’s. Weirdest fact about Copperhead Snakes: the venom from a Copperhead Snake has been shown in medical trials to shrink the size of some human cancers.
Eastern Brown Snake
Eastern Brown Snakes are highly venomous snakes that are nervous and aggressive. It is of slender to average build and can grow up to 2m in length. Considered the world’s second-most venomous land snake, it is responsible for about 60% of snake-bite deaths in Australia.
Weirdest fact about Eastern Brown Snakes: They don’t bite enough people to be considered a significant threat. Many of their attacks involve so-called “dry bites,” which are painful but don’t include venom.
The Australian saltwater crocodile is the largest reptile in the world. They are night hunters, spending the daytime hours moving through water or sunbathing. The Australian saltwater crocodile can eat almost any animal in their territory and even attacks terrestrial animals like mammals and birds. Males can grow up to 6 or 7 metres long. Weirdest fact about Salt Water Crocodiles: Their massive jaws contain about 64-68 teeth. Lost teeth quickly grow back, which means an adult crocodile can grow about 8000 teeth during its life!
There are over 320 species of skink in Australia. You can find them on Australia’s highest mountain and in many Australian backyards. The long body part of a skink looks more like a snake than a lizard, but they have tiny legs and a head that is slightly off the ground and pointed upwards. As a survival tactic, skinks drop their tails when handled by you or chased by a predator.
Weirdest fact about a skink: Skinks can have as many as five tails depending on how many injuries they have. When a tail is damaged but not lost, a new tail starts to sprout from the wound.
Turtles have been on Earth for over 200 million years, since before the dinosaurs. Both turtles and tortoises are the only reptiles to have a shell. Their heads have hard scales, and they do not have teeth. Instead, they have a beak with sharp edges for cutting food and strong jaws. Climate change threatens all turtle species, impacting their nesting outcomes and ability to survive as the ocean heats. Weirdest fact about turtles: Only 1% of sea turtles reach adulthood.
The Death Adder is one of the most venomous land snakes in Australia and globally. It has a broad, flattened, triangular head and a thick body with bands of red, brown and black with a grey, cream or pink belly. Weirdest fact about Death Adders: It can deliver the fastest strike among all venomous snakes recorded in Australia, and death can occur in only 6 hours.
There are several species of bearded dragons in Australia. They all have flat bodies, broad heads and stout legs. Their ‘beard’ refers to a flap of skin below their jaws that they push forward and puff up when threatened. Sharp spikes run along the sides of their bodies and their throats. Bearded dragons can run with speed and are also fantastic climbers.
Weirdest fact about the Bearded Dragon: They can change colour when aggressive or threatened and regulate their body temperature by changing their colour.
Blue-Tongue Lizards are the largest members of the skink family. Their teeth are large, and they have strong jaw muscles to crush beetles and snails. The Eastern Blue-tongue is silvery-grey with broad dark brown or blackish bands across the back and tail. Like all lizards, blue tongues do not produce their own body heat and rely on the warmth of their surroundings to raise their body temperature.
Weirdest fact about Blue-Tongue Lizards: when threatened, blue-tongues stick out their thick blue tongue, contrasting with their pink mouth, to ward off predators.
Red-Bellied Black Snake
The Red-Bellied Black Snake is a medium-sized snake recognisable by its crimson red underside, which contrasts sharply with its black body. Although greatly feared, they are relatively shy creatures who prefer to freeze or slide away when confronted with people. They search widely for prey on land and in water and are known to climb to several metres. They are still a venomous snake and should be treated with caution.
Weirdest fact about Red-Bellied Black Snakes: This snake will eat other snakes – including other Red-Bellied Black Snakes!
Eastern Water Dragon
The Eastern Water Dragon is a grey to brownish-grey colour with black stripes along the dorsal ridge and down the tail. They can reach a length of 1 metre and weigh about 1 kg. Two-thirds of the size of a Water Dragon is its tail. Although they usually run on all four legs, if they want to go faster, they lift their front legs off the ground and run on their back legs only.
Weirdest fact about Eastern Water Dragons: they can rest on the bottom of shallow creeks for up to 1.5 hours if they want to avoid detection!
Pythons are non-venomous snakes that are heavily built, muscular and slow moving. The two halves of the lower jaw are not fused in the middle, allowing them to stretch far apart to fit the animal they are swallowing. When they catch their prey, they ultimately kill it by constriction, wrapping their body around it and tightening it until they suffocate. It can take several hours to eat a large animal.
Weirdest fact about a Python: Pythons can swallow animals several times bigger in diameter than their heads and may need to eat only a few meals yearly.
The Redback Spider is a tiny black spider with a noticeable red stripe on its upper abdomen. The males’ red markings are often less distinct. Redback bites frequently occur, particularly over the summer months, but only the female bite is actually dangerous. Redbacks are usually found in warm or hot sunny spots and can be found in all Australian cities.
Weirdest fact about Redback Spiders: Females kill the males and eat them as a snack after mating.
Funnel Web Spider
Funnel Web Spiders are the most dangerous arachnids in Australia, with their venom able to kill a human in just 15 minutes. They are medium-sized, black spiders with long, rearward-facing fangs capable of piercing through fingernails. The male bites are six times more deadly than the female. They get their name from the funnel-shaped web they produce. Perhaps the most famous funnel-web spider is New South Wales’s Sydney Funnel Web Spider. There are at least 40 species of poisonous funnel-web spiders.
Weirdest fact about Funnel Web Spiders: They can live underwater for up to 30 hours!
White Tail Spider
The White Tail Spider has a long, narrow body and gets its name from its white spot at the top of its abdomen. They are often found in houses and are considered dangerous but not deadly, although the pain from their bite can last up to 12 days. Scarily, they often hide in bedding and clothing.
Weirdest fact about White Tail Spiders: They don’t spin webs like other spiders; instead, they envenom their prey for consumption.
Wolf Spiders get their name from the fact that they actively hunt and run down until they catch their prey – like wolves! They have excellent eyesight due to their three rows of eyes. Their bite is not deadly. They are very adaptable and can be found wherever insects are available to eat.
Weirdest fact about Wolf Spiders: Mother Wolf Spiders carry their baby spiders around on their backs.
Mouse Spiders are short and thick, black spiders with high, bulbous heads and jaws. They live in burrows with trapdoors that can reach nearly 30cm in diameter. Their venom is almost as deadly as the Funnel Web Spider; however, there are very few cases of actual bites, probably because the spiders occur in less densely populated areas. Weirdest fact about Mouse Spiders:
Weirdest fact about a Mouse Spider: Mouse spiderlings spin tiny parachutes of silk, which they use to travel on wind gusts, sometimes for many kilometres.
Huntsman Spiders are usually feared due to their appearance. They are usually very hairy and can get as wide as 15cm! Also, as their front legs are larger than the back ones, their shape allows them to move very quickly in all directions. The truth, though, is they are harmless to humans and great at controlling mosquito and cockroach numbers.
Weirdest fact about Huntsman Spiders: The females and males have a long courtship before they mate. Some species even live in groups of up to 300, where they raise their children together and feed each other.
Trapdoor Spiders can be black or brown and quite stubby, giving them a similar appearance to the Funnel Web Spider. They build long, silk-lined burrows with a hinged door (trapdoor) to lurk, awaiting their next victim. Although they are shy and usually run away from a threat, their large fangs can give a painful bite. Unlike the Funnel Web, it is not deadly.
Weirdest fact about a Trapdoor Spider: they leave a few legs out of their burrow to feel the vibrations of nearby victims as they approach and can pounce extremely quickly as they launch out of their burrow.
Daddy Long Legs Spider
Daddy Long Legs Spiders are relatively frail, with tiny bodies and legs about six times longer than their body. They have three body sections, not two like spiders, and their legs have seven sections which they can break off to surprise or distract a predator. They are found in every continent of the world except Antarctica.
Weirdest fact about Daddy Long Legs Spiders: They are not spiders. They are part of the Arachnid family but in a different class. They are called Harvestmen.
Also known as the laughing kookaburra, this large omnivorous bird’s chorus often comes with the sun’s rising and setting. The kookaburra can be found throughout Australia and while it is not officially endangered, its urban presence is decreasing.
Weirdest fact about Kookaburras: Kookaburras have been known to steal sausages from the plates of unwary Australian campers.
The emu is Australia’s largest flightless bird that, at maturity, can reach almost 2 metres in height and is omnivorous. They can reach speeds of 30kms an hour and are distributed across mainland Australia. Female emu lay eggs, and the male emu will take care of both sitting on the eggs and protecting the young when they finally hatch. Discover more emu facts for kids.
Weirdest fact about Emu: Emu will eat small stones to assist with the digestion of their food.
Australia features 14 of the known cockatoo species of birds worldwide and are known to be noisy birds with varying behaviours depending on the species. Some commonly found cockatoo species in Australia are the sulphur-crested cockatoo and galah. Rarer cockatoos include the six species of black cockatoo that are migratory birds and are reducing in numbers due to habitat loss.
Weirdest fact about Cockatoos: Cockatoos will favour one of their feet like a human would favour a hand. Cockatoos are mainly left-footed.
Colourful and with a cheeky song, the rainbow lorikeet is a native Australian bird found throughout the coastal areas of Australia. They forage on nectar, nuts and even insects and rely on hollowed eucalypt trees for where to lay their eggs. They roost in large flocks and are extremely noisy thanks to their social nature.
Weirdest fact about Lorikeets: Lorikeets have strange tongues shaped like a brush to help them gather nectar from flowering natives.
Owls are nocturnal birds, with 11 species of native owls living throughout Australia. Entirely carnivorous, they will mainly hunt small rodents, birds and marsupials at night.
Weirdest fact about owls: Owls have feathers designed to allow them to fly silently!
Australia’s most dangerous bird, the cassowary, is a flightless bird that lives in Northern Australia. Heavier than an emu but not quite as tall, they are flightless with massive feet known to kill humans when threatened. Like the emu, the cassowary male incubates the nest and looks after the young. They are shy, eat seeds, and have no natural predators except humans. The cassowary is an endangered Australian animal.
Weirdest fact about Cassowary: Their dagger-like claw can grow up to 5 inches long!
Pelicans are sizeable Australian water birds with species found throughout Australia. While fish is central to a pelican’s diet, they have also been known to eat crustaceans, ducklings and turtles. They have long beaks with a throat pouch to help gather fish.
Weirdest fact about Pelican: There is an urban legend of a pelican eating a chihuahua!
King Parrots are friendly native Australian parrots found along the East Coast of Australia. They are known to frequent both forested areas but are also commonly found in urban areas and eat seeds and fruit. The male King Parrot is the only Australian bird with a red head, while the female is entirely green.
Weirdest fact about King Parrot: People often think King Parrots are tame because they are so friendly to humans.
The black swan is a large majestic bird found throughout Australia. Living in wetlands and eating grasses and algae, the black swan is considered rare. They mate for life and will produce one clutch of young each season.
Weirdest fact about Black Swan. A Black Swan has been known to mourn the loss of its mate and its young.
Australian Fish and Australian Marine Animals
Great White Shark
Shark nets shelter swimming beaches across Australia to protect swimmers from predators like the Great White Shark. They can grow up to 6 metres in length and prefer the cold waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean but are sometimes found in the Indian Ocean. While this shark has teeth, they instead eat its prey by tearing the flesh.
Weirdest fact about the Great White Shark: The Great White Shark can sense one droplet of blood in 100 litres of water.
The Box Jellyfish is considered the most venomous animal alive, named for its box shape. They live mainly in warm coastal areas, including the Northern Australian coastline and live on small fish and shrimp. Their sting is neurotoxic and can result in cardiac arrest, although anti-venom is available.
Weirdest fact about Box Jelly Fish: Box Jellyfish have 24 eyes.
Blue Ringed Octopus
Highly venomous, the Blue Ringed Octopus is named for it for its blue rings that only appear in all their glory when the octopus is threatened. They are solitary creatures and quite reclusive by nature, with new species still being discovered today. In Australia, they frequent the Eastern Australia coast, including Southern Queensland and New South Wales.
Weirdest fact about Blue Ringed Octopus: When humans are bitten by a blue-ringed octopus (assuming they survive), they often appear unconscious but report being aware of everything happening around them upon recovery.
Honey bees and native Australian bees are the excellent pollinators of our world and arguably one of the most important creatures to exist on Earth. They live mainly in hives though some are solitary creatures, and all produce some form of honey. Discover more bee facts for kids.
Weirdest fact about bees: Only female bees can sting.
With an appetite for wood, Termites are tiny creatures with the potential to fly that live in termite mounds and termite nests. Known as a timber pest, termites are responsible for damage to homes, although not all species will eat wood.
Weirdest fact about termites: Termites never sleep.
Frogs are amphibians that can be found across the globe, with 200 species in Australia. Frogs mainly eat invertebrates (small creatures) and evolve from eggs into tadpoles, then frogs, within one life span. In Australia, there are many endangered frogs mainly due to habitat loss and human insecticide use. A well-known Australian frog is the Green Tree Frog, famous for its almost phosphorescence green colour.
Weirdest fact about frogs: A group of frogs is called an army.
Native to Central America, the Cane Toad was brought to Australia in the hope of dealing with a scourge of cane beetles that threatened Australia’s sugar cane industry. They are a poisonous amphibian whose presence threatens not only native frogs but a range of other native animals, including freshwater crocodiles, snakes and birds. Unfortunately, their hardy and adaptable nature have seen their population reach pest levels in Australia, with an estimated 2 billion toads now living in Australia.
Weirdest fact about Cane Toads: Cane Toads can get arthritis.
Threats to Australian Wildlife
- Habitat loss; contributing factors include land clearing for agricultural purposes, urban development, and the timber industry’s continued logging of native forests. (We acknowledge the timber and forestry industry mainly harvests from sustainable plantations but we cannot ignore that there are still native state forests that are still logged. While rules and regulations and pressures are different in every state, it is clear that any native forest that is logged, is a threat to Australian wildlife, at any scale, regardless of how small.
- Bushfire. In 2021, one-third of Kangaroo Island was destroyed in one bushfire event, with an estimated 25,000 animals killed and 1550 square kilometres of the island destroyed.
- Invasive Species are a threat to many Australian Animals.
- Climate Change means more prolonged droughts, significant floods, higher temperatures, and rising sea levels. For example, one heat wave in Australia in 2018 killed an estimated 23,000 bats.
- Pollution generally occurs in marine environments like the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef.
- Environmental consequences of mining for natural resources.
- Poor Environment Laws. In Australia, it seems like the environment sits at the back of the room without a voice. While there are laws to protect wildlife and habitats, they do little to stop the threat. For example, in one of Australia’s Cities, Brisbane, koala habitat is routinely removed to make way for housing developments. Koalas are then forced into new areas, often on main roads, with dozens losing their lives yearly.
- Urban Sprawl. As the population of Australia continues to climb (like the rest of the world), major cities continue to branch out into new areas. Planning laws permit this and often allow the government to sanction large parcels of land for this purpose.
As you have read, Australia’s variety of unique animals is extraordinary, and the Australian landscape wouldn’t be the same without them. There are so many species of animals not found anywhere else in the world, thanks partly to the nature of being an island continent. You would think this would mean that Australia would do everything it can to protect this biodiversity for future generations and the present value to the economy. In short, no, we dont.
The 2021 State of the Environment Report showed that Australian animals are at massive risk of extinction. We have lost more mammal species than any other continent in the world. While we know the situation is dire, the report suggests that Australia’s surveys are so poor that the reality of known extinctions is likely higher than reported. It isn’t too late, however, and I hope that by reading this, especially if you are a child, you grow up to be a defender of our wildlife and a protector of our wild places.
We hope you have enjoyed a summary of the unique Animals that live on the Australian continent and interesting facts about them.