Media release: Surviving Australia - Did you know...

Uncover some surprising animal secrets with these little known facts.


  • Australia is an island continent and a continent of more than 8222 islands.
  • In the deep waters off the Australian coastline there are gardens that are older than the pyramids. These are Australia's sponge gardens - undersea colonies of animals, some of which are 9000 years old.
  • There are one hundred million people in the world today living within about one metre of the current sea level, how will we cope with rising sea levels?
  • There are more species of fly in Australia than fish, reptile, amphibian, bird and mammal species put together. Of all the species of fly in Australia, 8000 are known to science and scientists think that there could be as many as 12,000.
  • Just two species of spider have ever been responsible for human deaths in Australia - the Redback and the Funnelweb. Both are happy to live right on our doorsteps, and bites are relatively common and extremely unpleasant.
  • With anti-venom available in all Australian hospitals, nobody in Australia has died from a spider bite since 1979.
  • From about 15 million years ago, many animals around the world began evolving into larger and larger forms and became known as the 'megafauna.' These animals - including mammals, birds and reptiles - evolved to be giants, some weighing over 2000 kilograms and some standing three metres tall.
  • The rhinoceros-sized Diprotodon was the largest marsupial that ever lived and the heaviest of Australia's meagafauna. It looked like a giant wombat and became extinct about 30,000 years ago.
  • Some megafauna adapted to change, the rest died out between 130,000 and 10,000 years ago - Red and grey kangaroos are some of Australia's only surviving megafauna.
  • Monotremes are extremely ancient and have been around longer than any other group of living mammals. The earliest known monotreme lived alongside the dinosaurs some 115 million years ago.
  • Australia is home to 190 species of snake. Twenty five are toxic to humans, and 20 of those feature in the Australian Venom Research Unit's list of the most venomous snakes in the world.
  • Crocodiles can swim underwater at 30 kilometres per hour - without causing a ripple.
  • Mosquitoes have a keen sense of smell and can sense exhaled carbon dioxide, sweat, air movement and heat. They can also see infra-red. With so many means of detection, they can hone in on you from 36 metres away.
  • Australia and its territories have a long list of more than 330 threatened species. Since European settlement, over 50 vertebrate species have disappeared from Australia - presumed extinct.
  • The Tasmanian Tiger is Australia's most famous extinction. Indigenous only to Tasmania, when Europeans arrived in the 18th century, Tasmanian Tigers were quickly classified as a sheep-killing pest and were killed in their thousands. The last known Tasmanian Tiger, known as Benjamin (despite being a girl), died in Hobart's Beaumaris Zoo on Monday 7 September 1936, and the species was declared extinct.

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