Blue Mountains Mammals
Mammals are warm warm blooded and all produce milkfor feeding their young. Nearly all mammals have a hairy or furry coat which distinguishes them from the other class of warm blooded animals, the birds. Mammals are divided into three groups, all of which are represented in the Blue Mountains. They are the marsupials, monotremes, and the placentals.
Marsupials are the dominant order of mammal in the Blue Mountains.They range in size from the two mtere tall Eatern grey kangaroo to the mouse sized Brown antechinus(no photo).
Kangaroos, like wombats and Koalas are marsupials. They belong to a special branch of marsupials called the macropods. This literally means big foot. Like a lot of Australian wildlife they are extremely active at night.
There are nearly fifty species of marsupial in the Kangaroo family. This includes the wallabies. There are several species of Kangaroo in the Blue Mountains. The most commonly seen species are the Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the swamp wallaby.The ubiquitous Eastern Grey kangaroo likes to live in groups. The collective term for a group of Kangaroos is “mob” although “troop” is also widely accepted.
Not all developments since the arrival of Europeans have been bad for kangaroos. Numbers of some of the large species have increased greatly in parts of the inland since European settlement. Kangaroos prefer to eat young green shoots. Even though Kangaroos are native to Australia and sheep are not, Kangaroos are not as good at eating extremely dry grass. Generally kangaroos and sheep eat different plant species, so they are not often in direct competition if there is plenty of food. In dry periods, however, kangaroos can sometimes reduce the amount of feed available to sheep and cattle
A male Eastern Grey Kangaroo may weigh up to 70 kilograms and stand nearly two metres. This species is considered to be one of the fastest with speeds of up 65 kilometres an hour being recorded.
A new born Eastern Grey Kangaroo weighs less than one gram. The female gives birth in a little over one month. The new born then climbs into the pouch and attaches itself to one of four teats. It is not uncommon for the female to mate immediately after giving birth, but not until the baby leaves the pouch, the embryo will remain in the form of a blastocyst. This basically means that the embryo is in a state of suspended animation. Baby Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Joeys) have a pouch life of ten months. They do not become independent until about 18 months of age.
Kangaroos can often be seen in the daytime. There is a 98% liklihood of seeing Eastern Grey kangaroos(above) on our tour .
Even though Koalas are often referred to as bears they are not related. Bears are placental mammals where as Koalas are marsupials like Kangaroos. The main difference between the two is, Koalas like other marsupials give birth to an underdeveloped baby where as bears give birth to a well-developed young. Koalas raise their young in a pouch.
The closest relative of the koala is the wombat. Both animals have pouches which open back wards. This is perfect for the wombat that does a lot digging. Koalas have very tight pouches compared to Kangaroos. This is very important as it stops the young (Joey) from falling out.
Koalas are found between south-eastern South Australia and Queensland.
They are selective eaters, choosing most of their food from a few varieties of eucalypt. Koalas have also been documented eating many other varieties of tree other than the Eucalyptus. Around Sydney, red gums and mahoganies are their favourite food source.
Even for the Koala eucalyptus leaves are very difficult to digest. They are tough and contain oils which can be toxic. To deal with such a potentially toxic diet, koalas have a long, thin appendix branching out from their intestines. This grows to a length of two metres. It is believed to help with digestion.
As their food contains little energy, koalas conserve energy by sleeping for most of the day and looking for food late in the afternoon and in the evening. A baby koala is very small (about half a gram), blind and hairless, and is born about two months after mating. Dragging itself into its mother's pouch, it attaches itself to one of her two teats. By about seven months, the baby has outgrown the pouch. It rides on its mother's back during this time, the young one nibbles on leaves.
The two most common species of possum in the Blue Mountains are the Brush tailed and Ring tailed possums. These marsupials are also popular residents in the suburbs of Sydney.
The brush tailed possum is the most widely distributed possum in Australia. They have a pointed face and a furry tail. This tail is used for balance and it can not support the possums weight. They have adapted quite well to living in suburbia.
It is most active at night and usually spends the day sleeping in a tree hollow.
In the Blue Mountains they feed on leaves, buds, flowers and fruits. Except when breeding, brush-tailed possums tend to lead a solitary life.
After feeding and growing for about five months in the pouch, the young possum spends about two months on its mother's back. Like the Koala generally only one young is born at a time, and the males do not help in looking after the young.
By time they are seven months old, the young possums are independent.
They are fully grown by about 10 months, and the females usually start to breed when they are one year of age. Apart from the Koala the ring tailed possum is the only other animal that eats eucalyptus leaves as part of its diet.
Spotted Tailed Quoll
The spotted-tailed quoll, or tiger quoll, is the largest carnivorous marsupial on the Australian mainland. It grows to roughly the same size as a domestic cat. It can easily be identified by its fur, which is a rich Rufus red to dark brown. Like other quolls it has spots scattered all over its body but is the only species that also has spots on its tail.
The only place that we have seen them is in the Wentworth Falls area, though there have been sighting over most parts of the Mountains. Competition for prey species with introduced carnivores (dogs, cats, foxes) is believed to be contributing to a noticeable decline in number in some areas. Like foxes and cats they hunt mainly at night. It eats birds, reptiles, small mammals and lizards and insects as well as scavenging on carcases and occasionally eats fruit. The spotted tailed quoll is also found as far north as Queensland and as far south as Victoria.
The monotremes or egg laying mammals, has only two examples: the spiney anteater and the platypus. Both of these species are represented in the Blue Mountains. The are considered by some to be the most primitive order of the mammal.
Echidna (Spiny ant eater)
The Echidna found in the Blue Mountains is also found all over Australia. It is also called the short beaked echidna. It is covered with spines and has very powerful claws allowing it to dig down into the ground when it is threatened.
The echidna is in the same order of mamal as the platypus called the Monotremes. The monotremes are egg laying mammals. They produce young from eggs which are hatched outside their body, in the same way as birds and reptiles. The echidna feed on ants and termites. Like a bird it has no teeth. It crushes its food using its tongue on the roof of its mouth. The Blue Mountains winters can get pretty cold and food becomes scarce. It is known that they hibernate during really cold spells.
Like the Echidna the platypus is a monotreme. Like birds and snakes it has only one vent called the cloaca. It is through this opening where feces, urine, eggs and sperm leave the body.
Up to 55 centimetres long, platypuses are dark brown on their backs and generally light brown on their bellies. Under their long, coarse outer hair is a fine, dense underfur which is woolly in texture. This fur ranges in colour from grey to dark brown. The name platypus means 'flat feet'.
The duck-like bill of the platypus is flexible, soft and very sensitive . It helps the animal to find its way about and to search for food, picking up electrical discharges from its prey. The platypus has no teeth. To chew its food it uses grinding plates on its upper and lower jaw. Mainly a nocturnal animal, the platypus can best be seen during the early morning and late evening. Platypuses are shy animals, and will usually dive underwater to swim away from an observer or predator however, if unable to escape, male platypuses will try to stab an attacker with hollow spurs on their hind legs. These spurs are connected to a sac containing poison strong enough to kill a dog.
The wombat is the largest burrowing animal in the world. There are three species of wombat found in New South Wales. The wombat that lives in the Blue Mountains is called the common wombat. It can weigh close to 40 kilograms. And can run up to 40 kilometres an hour over a short distance.
A wombat’s fur can vary from grey, brown or even black.