Australian Extremes: The Largest and Smallest Animals on the Continent of Australia
Imagine, if you will, that you’re in the middle of a desert, and a kangaroo is bounding toward you. If you had to make a split-second guess, where do you think you’d be?
Australia, of course.
For the purposes of this article, we’re concerned with Australia’s extremes – particularly the extremes of its animals’ size. (In this case, the red kangaroo is Australia’s largest mammal.) We’ll be unpacking the biggest and smallest animals that Australia has to offer, spotlighting the extremes of each major type of animal – mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and fish. And we will begin with the above specimen – the red kangaroo.
Largest – The aforementioned red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is Australia’s largest mammal and the largest living marsupial. It is usually found in areas of central Australia that experience low yearly rainfall. Its body length ranges from 2.13 feet (0.65 meters) to 3.94 feet (1.20 meters), while its maximum recorded weight has been 198 pounds (90 kilograms).
Smallest – The little forest bat (Vespadelus vulturnus), Australia’s smallest mammal, is commonly found in the forests of eastern Australia. It only weighs a fraction of an ounce (5.0 to 6.0 grams). It is Australia’s smallest bat.
Largest – The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is both Australia’s largest bird and the second largest bird in the entire world. It stands between 4.9 and 6.2 feet (1.5 to 1.9 meters), and weighs between 66 and 121 pounds (30 to 55 kilograms). The emu can be found throughout the Australian mainland; it likes to stay out of extreme areas – like highly populated cities, or deserts.
Smallest – The weebill (Smicrornis brevirostris), which can again be found throughout the Australian mainland, is Australia’s smallest bird. Its size ranges from 3.14 to 3.54 inches (8 to 9 centimeters), and its average weight is under an ounce (6.0 grams).
Largest – Australia’s largest reptile is a crocodile – the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) – that dwells in the continent’s coastal and riverside swamps. This beast normally reaches 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters) in length. As far as weight goes, it normally gets to about 300 kilograms, although the heaviest members of the species have gotten over 1,000 kilograms. It is the world’s largest crocodile.
Smallest – Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover Australia’s smallest reptile. If you have any insight on this matter, please, post it in a comment below.
Largest – The white-lipped tree frog or “Giant Tree Frog” (Litoria infrafrenata), a bright green or brown creature which lives in rainforests along Australia’s northeastern coastline, is Australia’s largest amphibian. It ranges from 4.33 to 5.51 inches (110 to 140 millimeters) in size.
Smallest – Two Australian frogs – the Scanty Frog (Cophixalus exiguus) and Hosmer’s Frog (Cophixalus hosmeri), which are both only 0.59 inches (15 millimeters) – lay claim to the title of Australia’s smallest amphibian. Both of these frogs dwell in forests and rainforests in the northern portion of Queensland.
Largest – The appropriately named Titan stick insect (Acrophylla titan) is one of the largest insects in Australia. There is some contention over whether it is actually the largest, but I could not find enough reliable source material to make a case for another insect.
Like other extremely large Australian insects, the Titan stick insect can be found in Australia’s tropical regions. It can measure up to a little under 20 inches (50 centimeters), but usually stays in the 8.66 inches to 10.63 inches (22 to 27 centimeters) range. Interestingly, the males of this insect species are much smaller than the females; the females are typically about twice as large.
Smallest – A parasitic wasp with the designation Dicopomorpha echmepterygis is the smallest insect in Australia, and also the smallest insect in the world. (This wasp can be found on many continents.) Males of this species are only 139 micrometers long – that is many, many times smaller than an inch. Interestingly, these males are both blind and wingless.
Largest – The Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii), a “deep-bodied fish” which can be found throughout many water reservoirs in the eastern part of the continent, is Australia’s largest freshwater fish. As far as size goes, larger Murray cod appear in larger waterways. They usually hit length points of (90 to 100 centimeters) and weight points of (15 to 20 kilograms).
Smallest – Unfortunately, I was not able to discover this information, either. Again, if you have any insight, please post it as a comment. Thanks!
Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
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