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The Marsupial mole Marsupialia, Australidelphia, Notoryctidae
Not least among the cast of oddities is the desert-dwelling marsupial mole. It is so little known that people who’ve lived in the western and central deserts their entire lives may have never seen one. There are two largely similar species. Itjaritjari (the southern marsupial mole) is found in the sandy deserts of the NT, central WA and northern SA. Kakarratul (the northern marsupial mole) is known from the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson deserts of WA. Small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, and with glossy, creamy yellow fur, these animals are ingeniously adapted to desert living.
The Yoda bat Nyctimene wrightae, sp. nov.
The Yoda bat is an unclassified species from the Nyctimene genus of large, tube-nosed bats spread throughout the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the northeastern tip of Queensland. Named for its resemblance to a certain Jedi master with equally smiley eyes, the Yoda bat came into the public consciousness when it was discovered as part of an extensive conservation expedition into the country’s remote bushland between 1990 and 2009.
Processionary caterpillars Ochrogaster lunifer
These so-called processionary caterpillars are the caterpillars that horse breeders dread. Each is armed with two million finely barbed hairs. Should a pregnant mare ingest some of these hairs when they fall on grass, they can penetrate the intestinal wall, allowing bacteria into the bloodstream and infection of the placenta.
The giant panda snail Hedleyella falconeri
The giant panda snail is a member of the ancient family of Caryodidae, a family which dates back to the Gondwana age— a time when Australia was still attached to Antarctica and India. With its large, wet brown foot the giant panda snails slime network can be easily detected along the dewy scapes of south Gympie in Queensland, through to the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Nourished by Australia’s sub-tropical rainforests and its delicious forest fungi the shell of the snail can grow to match the size of a tennis ball.
Turtle frogs Myobatrachus gouldii
The 5cm turtle frog is found in Perth, WA between Geraldton and the Fitzgerald River in sandy soils wherever there are termites to eat and burrowing to be done. Turtle frogs aren’t like most burrowing frogs from arid regions; rather than using its hind legs to ease itself backwards into an underground hideout, the turtle frog uses its clawed and muscular front legs to dig headfirst into the sand. And it won’t stop until it’s about at least a metre down.
Snubfin Dolphin Orcaella heinsohni
This is the incredibly charming snubfin dolphin, a rare and little-studied species found all along Australia’s tropical north coast. With those beady eyes and squiggly line of a mouth framed by its beakless, melon-shaped head, the snubfin dolphin – or ‘snubby’, as it’s been nicknamed – is basically a cartoon. But this is not a cartoon you want to invite to dinner: these guys like to spit.
Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo Dendrolagus lumholtzi
Unlike most other kangaroos it lives in treetops, using its long black tail and muscular arms to scales the rainforests of Tropical North Queensland where it hides within the canopy. Presently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as near threatened, much of the specie’s remaining habitat is now protected within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This, however, has become fragmented as large segments of rainforest have been reduced to a patchwork, forcing the Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo population to traverse open pastures, developed areas and major roads.
The Australian greater glider Petauroides volans
The Australian greater glider is a pretty marsupial species whose awkward gait has earned it the rather dubious honour of being named one of the clumsiest gliding possums in the world. This nocturnal, solitary creature is found throughout the eucalypt forests of eastern Australia, from up in Mossman, Queensland right down to the town of Daylesford in Victoria. Just like a koala, it has a highly specialised diet, and feeds exclusively on eucalypt leaves, buds, flowers and mistletoe. With large gliding membranes that run along its sides and a luxurious, fluffy coat, this slight, cat-sized animal looks a whole lot bigger than it actually is.
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