Whether among the depths of the rainforest, surrounded by creeks and towering trees, or the woodlands of the cooler mountainous areas, around a third of Australia’s 315 mammal species call the Wet Tropics home.
These consist of the more commonly known mammals, such as the platypus and wallaby, but also 13 species found nowhere else in the world, including two species of tree kangaroos, a rat-kangaroo, and four ringtail possums.
Read on to learn about some of the most ancient mammals on the planet:
- The musky rat-kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus) is a dark brown marsupial of the kangaroo family that grows to around 23cm long, making it the smallest kangaroo in the world. Found around Lake Eacham, Lake Barrine, and the bases of the famous Curtain Fig and Cathedral Fig trees on the Atherton Tablelands, the musky rat-kangaroo prefers the wetter parts of the forest, feeding on fallen fruits as well as earthworms, grasshoppers, and other small invertebrates. Females give birth to two or three babies which stay in the mother's pouch for about 21 weeks before emerging to spend most of the time in their forest floor nest.
- The long-nosed bandicoot (Perameles nasuta), true to its name, is a marsupial with a long, pointed muzzle, ranging in size from 20 to 45cm, plus a tail length of between 8 – 18cm. It has a greyish-brown coloured back and creamy white underside and can be found digging holes with its forefeet, large enough to fit its snout underground to forage for insects.
- Bennett’s tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus), found between the Daintree River, the Windsor Tableland, and Cooktown, is a descendent of the ground-dwelling kind. Rarely seen on the ground this tree-kangaroo weighs approximately 13kg and measures around 65cm in length, with an additional 90cm in tail length. If one happens to drop to the forest floor it will bound off like a ground-dwelling kangaroo.
- For more than a century the mahogany glider was considered extinct and was only rediscovered in 1989. Today it is still regarded as one of Australia’s most threatened mammals. Its scientific name, Petaurus gracilis, means slender rope dancer and it’s known to glide up to 60m with an average glide distance of 30m. Living in dry coastal eucalypt and paperbark woodlands it has an average body length of 254mm for males and 248mm for females, plus an additional 370mm and 377mm in tail length, respectively. It weighs up to 400g.
- The red-legged pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica) has soft thick fur, grey brown on its back, cream-coloured on the underside, and a short, thick tail. Most active from dusk, throughout the night until the early morning, it then goes to its resting place where it remains for the day. The pademelon feeds mainly on cicadas, fallen and fresh leaves, fruit, berries, and the bark of trees. Its body measures 49cm, with an additional 44cm for its tail.
- The spectacled flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) is often seen flying in large and loud, squabbing colonies, hanging from the rainforest canopy or flying in search of its next meal. Along with other fruit bats, this animal plays an extremely important role in the pollination and seed dispersal in our forests. Its body measures 24cm, with a wing length of 17cm.