40 Australian Creatures You Never Thought Existed

It is a widely accepted fact that the moment you step off of the plane in Australia you are doomed to die. It’s really only a matter of where, when and which ungodly creature will be the likely culprit.

Though you all know about great white sharks and saltwater crocodiles. Here are a few more to worry about before your next adventure to the land down under.

Perentie Goanna (Varanus varius)

Image: YouTube

The perentie is the largest monitor lizard or goanna native to Australia. It is also the fourth-largest living lizard on earth. The bite of a perentie can do A LOT of damage. Not only because they have enormous sharp teeth but because they secret very harmful bacteria in their saliva that can cause horrendous infections. They are wicked fast and can run up to 40 km/h. They will spring on all four legs but can also run on just their hind legs. These monsters grow in excess of 2.5 metres and have been known to run up people, slicing them with their long claws out of fear. Steer clear of these big guys.

Creatonotos Gangis Moth (Creatonotos gangis)

Image: News.com.au

This creepy freak of nature is another one of Australia’s horrifying moth species. Though it looks like something out of a Lovecraft novel, it is apparently designed to release pheromones from its four hind coremata to attract a mate. The above photo was taken in an Australian kitchen. Good luck, mate.

Rhinoceros Cockroach (Macropanesthia rhinoceros)

Image: Our Breathing Planet

Also known as the Giant Burrowing Cockroach, this little shop of horrors can grow to 3 ½ inches and weigh up to 35 grams. They also live for around 10 years. Luckily, unlike other cockroaches these do not have wigs and cannot fly. In fact, they live underground and aren’t really considered a pest as they are mostly confined to the back garden. Phew.

Spitfire Caterpillars (Perga affinis)

Image: The Courier

Commonly mistaken for caterpillars, these sawfly larvae huddle in clusters on tree trunks and are known to eject a strong-smelling yellow-green liquid that consists mostly of eucalyptus oil (hence the name Spit Fire) when threatened. It is most likely to cause problems for humans if this liquid gets in your eyes as it can burn.

Bird-Eating Spider (Phlogius crassipes)

Image: Pinterest

Also known as the barking spider, whistling spider, or Goliath, this nightmare fuel is Australia’s largest spider. It’s venomous fangs can grow up to 1cm in length and, as their name suggests, they make a whistling or barking sound if they are approached or feel threatened. Though a bite from one of these bad boys won’t kill you, it can cause up to six hours of vomiting. Its venom is toxic enough, however, to kill a dog or cat so keep your pets from digging in areas these spiders are known to burrow. They typically live underground in self-made dugouts that can be as large as 1m. Their diet includes small birds, amphibians and large insects. That’s a whole lotta nope for one spider.

Hercules Moth (Coscinocera hercules)

Credit: JungleDragon

Australia’s largest moth species, females have a wingspan of up to 27cm with the largest wing area of any moth in the world. Males grow long tails from the bottom of their hindwings. You’ll find these beasts throughout Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Drop Bear (Urbanus legendus)

Image: Australian Geographic

Rumoured to ‘drop’ onto tourists from great height, these beasts have been the urban legend of choice for many years in Australia, outranking the Yowie, the Hoop Snake and the River Murray Bunyip. These fictional beasts are described as looking like giant koalas but equipped with razor sharp teeth. Any Aussie will tell you they lurk high up in the treetops just waiting for an unsuspecting bush walker to enter their territory.

Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake (Hydrophis platurus)

Credit: ABC.net.au

While it is true that all Australian land snakes can swim. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Australia is also home to a few seabound serpents as well. The Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake may only grow to the length of around 1m they are far-roaming animals, typically inhabiting the deep, offshore waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Interactions with this creature of the deep are rare, but these snakes have begun washing up on Australia’s urban beaches more often in recent years.

The Yoda Bat (Not yet classified)

Image: Australian Geographic

Resembling a certain Jedi master, this stub-nosed bat species was only recently discovered, begging the question, how many other weird creatures are hiding in Australia’s vast landscapes that still haven’t been uncovered? And why can’t we just leave them there, far away from us?

Cookie-Cutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis)

Image: The Sun UK

Though extremely painful, a bite from this breed of dog shark is unlikely to be fatal. This small shark feeds by biting cookie-sized chunks of flesh from its prey. Ouch.  

Giant Centipede (Ethmostigmus rubripes)

Image: News Org

This nocturnal predator is the largest terrestrial centipede in Australia and Asia. So powerful, it has even been known to eat snakes. People have been known to keep them as pets, because sure, why wouldn’t you? A Giant Centipede may bite if disturbed or handled. A pinch from one of these causes severe pain that can persist for several days. Luckily, no deaths have been recorded from the bite of any Australian centipede.

Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine)

Image: Museum of Australia

Wrongly accused of killing farmer’s sheep, the Tasmanian Tiger was hunted to extinction in the 1930’s. However more and more sightings are being reported every year and with the thousands of unexplored land in Australia’s outback, it is likely these little hunters are still out there growing in number.

Moreton Bay Bug (Thenus orientalis)

 

Image: Ubuntu Forums

Though it looks like a massive cockroach of the sea, this species of slipper decapod is a delicious delicacy eaten all over Australia. Prepared and served much the same way as lobster, it is a popular treat. Mmmm….

Black Portuguese Millipede (Ommatoiulus moreleti)

Image: Reddit

Though not dangerous, these creepy crawlies swarm and huddle in smelly masses. When threatened, they emit a pungent yellowish fluid containing quinones which can stain clothes and irritate eyes. This pest was accidentally introduced to Australia and with no natural enemies it has run rampant.

Mole Cricket (Gryllotalpa brachyptera)

Image: Wikipedia

The mole cricket is a creepy hybrid of burrowing insect and locust. Most of their life is spent underground, but adults have wings and fly in swarms during in the breeding season. The males are known to sing from the openings of their burrows, and at a whopping 3-5cm in length, you’ll know about it if you run into some of these little nightmares on your evening stroll.

 

Hoopsnake (Serpentus rarus)

Image: YouTube

This breed of snake bites down on its own tail and uses this hoop shape to roll after its prey. Ok. Obviously this one is a joke. Nonetheless, it’s a legend proud Aussies have been using scare campers for decades.

Scaleless Blackfish (not yet classified)

This horrifying little snapper was recently discovered living among other new species inside the dormant volcanoes off of Sydney’s coast. They say that we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about our own oceans. If Australia’s sea creature discoveries are anything to go be, we still have a lot to left to fear/discover.

Image: GizModo

This horrifying little snapper was recently discovered living among other new species inside the dormant volcanoes off of Sydney’s coast. They say that we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about our own oceans. If Australia’s sea creature discoveries are anything to go be, we still have a lot to left to fear/discover.

Swooping Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen)

Image: Daily Telegraph

Though they may seem harmless, these black and white passerines are vicious when mating season comes around. Known to dive-bomb and peck at unsuspecting bypassers, Magpie Swooping Season is now a recognised time of year for all Australians in early spring. Cyclists prepare by attaching hundreds of cable ties to their helmets to act as harmless spikes to fend off these feisty aves. Pedestrians are cautioned with large signs in common swoop areas such as parks and leafy neighbourhoods.

Flesh-Eating Sea Lice (Not yet classified)

Image: ABC News Australia

Recently added to the list of ‘what the hell is it? Australian animals’, these flesh-eating sea bugs made a meal of a kid’s legs in Melbourne. He had just finished a long football training session and stood up to his knees in sea water at his local beach. When he left the water he noticed his ankles were bleeding and two hours later when his mother couldn’t stop the bleeding, he was taken to hospital. It is still not confirmed what ate his legs but some scientists suggest it could be a meat eating kind of louse similar to that of the common flea.

Forest Scorpion (Cercophonius squama)

Image: Australian Museum

This is the most common among 26 species of scorpion living in Australia, though not the largest. A sting from this guy won’t kill you but you will be in pain for a few hours. You may even have nausea, vomiting and tiredness but as yet there are no recorded systemic effects from a scorpion sting.

Witchetty Grubs (Witjuti grub)

Image: NZ Brendan

Food that has been sourced from and is eaten in the Australian outback is also commonly known as ‘Bush Tucker’. These moth larvae are a good source of protein and are a common staple of the Indigenous Australian diet. Tourists are often encouraged to try them in much the same way you see crickets and scorpions on display in Thailand markets. A raw witchetty grub is described to taste like almond where a cooked one has crispy skin like roast chicken with a yellow filling similar to cooked egg.

Biting Midges (Ceratopogonidae)

Image: Owlcation

Also known as the sandfly, these little buggers will have you covered in bites without you realising until around 48 hours later when you notice you have hundreds of inflamed and chronically itchy bites all over you. Midges range in size from 1-3mm so it is unlikely that you will ever see the one (or 20) that got you. You’ll remember them though, as your bites will be itchy, swollen and maybe even painful for a couple of days. These evil little ‘no-see-ums’ are most common in the summer months around coastal areas.

Textile Cone (Conus textile)

Image: Wikipedia

Looks harmless enough right? Think again. This pretty little shell actually contains the cone snail, the most venomous of the 500 known cone snail species. Several human deaths have been attributed to these pretty little shells after being picked up at the beach.  How? When picked up it shoots a harpoon like dart and injects a neurotoxic venom. When an Aussie tells you repeatedly not to pick up random things and to watch where you put your hands, listen.  

Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

Image: Zoos Victoria

Cute isn’t he? I bet you didn’t know this little sweetheart is also one of the few living mammals to produce venom. Males have a pair of razor sharp spurs on their back legs that secrete a venom when plunged into the flesh of an opponent. While the after effects of a platypus sting are described as excruciatingly painful, this venom is not actually lethal to humans. And if this fluffy little oddball didn’t already seem strange enough, you should also know that the Platypus the only mammal to lay eggs like a reptile rather than birth live young.   

Feral Pig (Sus scrofa)

Image: Mantra_2008 Photobucket

Welcome to the land of pigs. Brought over with the First Fleet, domestic pigs were kept as a source of food for the colonial settlers of Australia. Over the years, numerous pigs escaped and formed a super race of these monstrosities. Estimates suggest that there are now close to 23 million of these mammoths roaming around, outnumbering the human population of Australia.

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)

Image: HuffPost

Because yes. In Australia even the plants can kill you. Looking very similar to blueberry varieties that commonly grow around the country, this little berry is deceptively sweet when bitten into but just two berries can kill a child. It only takes 10 or 20 to kill an adult. Don’t even think about the leaves. Eating one of these is enough to do the job.

 

Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus)

Image: Wikipedia – Unfed tick vs. fed tick

Of the 70 species of tick found in Australia, this one is responsible for over 95% of tick bites in Eastern Australia alone. What does this mean? Either they have an unquenchable thirst for human blood, or, there are just so many of the things that contact is alarmingly common. Perhaps it is a terrifying combination of the two. According to the Australian Museum a Paralysis Tick bite  initially causes local itchiness and a hard lump at the site of the bite. Other more serious symptoms present themselves over a number of days whilst the tick continues engorging itself (unbeknownst to you). Symptoms include rashes, an unsteady gait, weak limbs and partial face paralysis.

Turtle Frog (Myobatrachus gouldii)

Image: Museum of Western Australia

Though this shell-less tortoise-frog-toad thing is harmless, its boiled turtle appearance and colourless eyes make it one of the creepier looking species from the land of the cuddly koala.

Oleander (Nerium)

Photo: Swaminathan/Flickr

This plant is both pretty and deadly. So much so in fact that just brushing against it can cause serious irritation to your skin. Many Australians have burned these trees to clear the threat not realizing that inhaling the fumes is actually more dangerous. Pets have died from eating these leaves and websites warn against the use of this plant’s spikes as toothpicks. I’m sure there are some amazing stories there. Every part of this plant is poisonous, from the root, stem and leaf to the flower.

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

Image: That History Nerd

The second largest living bird by height, these feisty feather balls can do some serious damage. They grow up to 1.9 metres and when tested can run at speeds of 50km/h. An emu will not intentionally hurt you, but if it feels threatened it will lash out and kick. With sharp talons they can lacerate vital arteries, and have done so in the past.

Culturally, the emu has significant meaning, it appears in much of Aboriginal folklore and can also be found alongside the kangaroo on the Australian Coat of Arms. Much like kangaroo, it too is cooked on the barbeque and eaten.

Fun fact: Australians are the only people in the world to eat the animals that appear on their coat of arms.

Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide Moroides)

Image: Telegraph UK

Also known as the stinging brush or the suicide plant, these broad leaves pictured above contain millions of silica type hairs that become lodged in the skin. If inhaled they embed themselves in your lungs. Why is this a problem, you may ask? Because like most things in Australia, it causes severe pain that is difficult to stop. In fact, the extremely painful stinging sensation can last anywhere from days to years as the injured area becomes covered with small, red spots joining together to form a red, swollen welt.

The only known remedy is to apply hydrocloric acid to the affected area and a hair removal strip. Be careful to wax the hairs out full intact as broken tips lodged deep in the skin will only cause more pain.

Stonefish (Synanceia)

Image: Pretraveler

Not only is this the most venomous fish in the world, it is also perhaps the hardest to spot. Burrowing into the sand, most issues with a stonefish occur when they are trodden on. As pressure is applied to the stonefish’s spine, it raises a spike that injects venom. As well as being fatal to humans, this venom is also known to deliver one of the most painful stings imaginable.

So much so that an entire Aboriginal story is told through dance about the sting of the stonefish. The victim writhes around in agony on the ground until finally succumbing to his death song. Need we say more?

European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Image: Telegraph UK

It is a widely known fact that bees are vital to the continued survival of humans. Responsible for pollinating the planet and all of our food crops. So you might be surprised to learn that the European honey bee is more deadly to Australians than the many venomous spiders that live there. This is because a huge percentage of the Australian population is allergic to bee stings and unfortunately for those afflicted, these bees happen to be very common. For most of us, a bee sting will likely cause localised swelling and redness but for those who are allergic to bee venom, asphyxiation occurs rapidly. Yikes.

Sydney Funnel Web (Atrax robustus)

Image: Planet Deadly

Not only is this shiny beast of burden Australia’s most deadly spider, it also ranked number 1 in the world. It is a relatively large species of spider known to grow to 10cm with rear-facing fangs sharp enough to pierce fingernails. I think it goes without saying that a bite from one of these is fatal unless treated rapidly. Death can occur within 15 minutes of a funnel web bite.

Cassowary (Casuarius)

Image: Quora

Australia’s answer to the velociraptor, this giant prehistoric looking chicken can grow to 2m in height. Though no one has died from a cassowary attack in recent years there are constant reports of people being charged when attempting to feed these animals. Be careful. See those big feet. That toe in the middle has a nail that can slice any part of you open. There is an active conservation effort in place to protect these majestic birds so if you see one, it’s best to leave it alone.

Box Jellyfish (Cubozoa)

Image: Box Jellyfish Org

Though it might look like a psychedelic dream, this translucent wonder is the also most venomous sea creature in existence. Death by box jellyfish is quick and violently painful as the venom acts quickly to stop the heart and restrict breathing. Many victims die before reaching the shore.

Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis)

Image: Wildlife QLD

Responsible for the most bites to humans in Australia, this is also the second deadliest snake in the world. These snakes commonly grow to lengths up to 2m. You’ll know if you are in danger if you see this snake arch its neck into an S shape. This indicates it is about to strike and as death by eastern brown takes about 30 minutes, you don’t want it to make contact. Your best move if you encounter any Australian snake is to stand still. Close your eyes if you have to. Scream as much as you want. Just. Don’t. Move. Unlike snakes found in other parts of the world, Australian snakes do not have any way to detect heat, relying solely on vibration and very little sight. Leave these snakes alone and they will do the same for you.  

Blue-Ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena)

Image: FerreBeekeeper

These sneaky octopi are sand-coloured and hide in shells, so you are unlikely to see one of these until it has already bitten you. When agitated, the bright blue rings as pictured appear on the skin. Unfortunately, by this stage it is likely too late for you, as blue ringed octopus bites are always fatal. To this day there is no known antidote.

Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus)

Image: Pinterest

Though ranked the most venomous snake in the world, it is not necessarily the most dangerous. In fact, you are far more likely to be bitten by an eastern brown snake than an inland taipan. However, if you do happen to be bitten by one of these you are likely in a part of Australia that is very far from a hospital. This is because these snakes are commonly found in the inland central area of eastern Australia. Inland taipan venom is the most venomous of all land snakes and as the taipan is known to strike more than once in an attack, your chances of survival are not high.

Irukandji Jellyfish (Malo kingi)

Image: Wikipedia

That tiny little white thing in the plastic container is a type of highly venomous jellyfish despite being no bigger than you thumbnail. Fully grown at 1 cubic centimetre it is able to fire its stingers into its victim, causing symptoms known as Irukandji syndrome; severe headache, backache, muscle pains, chest and abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, sweating, anxiety, hypertension before causing heart attack. It is also commonly known to bring with it a sense of impending doom and knowledge that you will die. Apparently, patients have been so sure they were going to die they have asked doctors to just do it and get it over with. Gee, imagine why.