by John Woinarski
Bats make up around a third of the mammal
species in the tropical savannas. This is the inland forest
Photo: Alex Kutt
As with most other parts of Australia, native land mammals are
not an obvious feature to the casual observer in northern
But the native mammal fauna is reasonably rich: it is
just a bit discreet. Most mammals are small and nocturnal.
The main elements of the mammal fauna of northern Australia
reflect that of the continent as a whole. About a third of the
native fauna are bats (mostly small and insectivorous), about a
fifth are rodents, and almost all the rest are
marsupials — including kangaroos and wallabies,
bandicoots, possums and dasyurids (quolls, dunnarts, phascogales
and antechinuses). Most of the north has only one monotreme (the
echidna). And, except for relatively small areas in north-eastern
Queensland, the north lacks wombats, platypuses and koalas.
The mammal fauna varies gradually in composition from west
(Kimberley) to east (Cape York Peninsula) and from the generally
higher rainfall coastal areas to the inland. Particularly important
areas, because of their concentrations of endemic mammal species,
include the north Kimberley, the sandstone plateau of western
Arnhem Land, and Cape York Peninsula.
Flying-foxes are a notable component of the native mammal fauna
in northern Australia, because they often roost or forage in very
large numbers (sometimes to the displeasure of some human
residents). But they perform a very important ecological role, in
pollination and seed dispersal. Dingoes remain common across large
areas, although often in hybrid populations with feral dogs. Many
macropod species are at least locally common and reasonably
conspicuous: variably across different parts of the north these
include the large antilopine wallaroo, euro (or common wallaroo),
eastern grey kangaroo and red kangaroo, and the somewhat smaller
Recently introduced mammals like this donkey are
present in large numbers.
But it is foreign mammals that present the most obvious spectacle
to most visitors in northern Australia, and the biomass of feral or
domestic buffalo, cattle, horses, pigs, and donkeys far outweighs
that of native mammals.
Northern Australia is important for the conservation of
Australian mammals. Not only are there many endemic species, but
the north has also retained some mammal species (or close relatives
of species) that have been lost from the rest of the continent.
These include the squirrel-sized tree-rats, the nailtail wallabies
and the hare-wallabies.
Mammal status in northern Australia
Mammal status in northern Australia Leader: John Woinarski Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory Darwin Full title: Biodiversity on the fault lines: examination of mammal decline across northern Australia and… [read more...
Museum mammals to help track decline
A new research project using Aboriginal knowledge to complement Western science to explain where and why northern mammals are in decline. From Savanna Links, Issue 32, July - Dec 2005. [read more...
Three fat-tailed mice a find for Queensland
Article on the finding of the Fat-tailed Sandstone Antechinus near Mt Isa. From Savanna Links, Issue 5, March 1998 [read more...
TS-CRC Student project - Spatial patterns of distribution, abundance and diversity in the vertebrate fauna assemblages of the Desert Uplands bioregion, northern Queensland
James Cook University: Completed Alex Kutt Commenced 1996 Background | Fauna Survey | Unexpected finds and… [read more...
Unique kangaroo a tropical treasure
Article on a study of the antilopine wallaroo to understand its biology, conservation and management. From Savanna Links, Issue 29, July - Sept 2004 [read more...
Project Leader: Dr John Woinarski Parks Wildlife Commission of the NT Darwin Project 2 1 1 Summary | Highlights Challenges | Collaborative Approaches | Progress | Information and learning products | Future Directions… [read more...