Lesson Plans for Australian Animals and Biomes

Grades 4-12

When it comes to animals, Australia is unique. For example, it is the only continent on Earth that naturally has all three subclasses of mammals: placental, marsupial, and monotremes. Surrounded by seas and oceans, the animals on this continent are isolated. Over time, the animals adapted and changed to survive in the biomes of this continent. Many animals that were native to Australia have become extinct. Some are becoming endangered. In Australia, we discovered that people are very aware of nature and concerned about the many threats to their native animals. In other cases, humans are having to live with animals that are coming into their neighborhoods from the forests that are being depleted. The Kangaroo is one of those animals that is a frequent visitor on golf courses and in neighborhoods.

The continent of Australia and it's nearby islands have three main biomes: tropical; savanna; and desert. Our animal study was mainly in the tropical area of Melbourne, Phillip Island, the Grampian mountains, Healesville Sanctuary, and the neighboring towns shown on the map. We were excited to see the Australian animals in natural habitats including the forests and the seashore. (Activity 6).

The ecological interactions are amazing in Australia. Like environments everywhere, Australia has coexistent systems of many plants and animals interacting with one another. The plants grow and use energy from the sun. Some animals eat plants and some eat other animals. When the plants and animals in the environment die, they decompose and return nutrients to the soil to be recycled. Everything within the habitats we visited interacts with everything else. Just to see how complex it can all be, try Activity 7.

 

Activity 1: Imagine that you were one of the first European settlers in Australia over 200 years ago. Using the pictures on the Can Do web page and the links to Australian sites, write a letter to a friend describing the characteristics and strange behaviors of the the marsupial animals.

 

Activity 2: The world is made of living and non-living things. However, Australia has a unique abundance of distinct mammals and marsupials. We can classify living things as part of the plant kingdom or the animal kingdom. Use our chart to find out how the animal kingdom is classified into other groups. The animals on the continents of America, Africa, and Australia have many similarities and big differences. Make a big chart like the one below. With your friends or family, brainstorm as many animals as you can that are unique to each continent.

If you live near a big zoo, take a trip and classify the animals you saw from different continents. Are there any similarities or differences?

 

Type of Animal`

Africa

Australia

American

Leaping Herbivores

Springhaas

Red Kangaroo

?
Burrowing, feed above ground

African Ground Squirrel

Wombat

?
Burrowing, feed underground

Golden Mole

Marsupial Mole

 

?
? ? ? ?
? ?

Australian Deer

?
? ? ?

Opossum

? ?

Peacock

?
Running, flightless birds

Ostrich

 

 

Emu

?

Running, herbivore

Zebra

 

? ??
Running, carnivore

Cheetah, Lion

Tasmanian Wolf

? ?

Black Swan

 

 ?

Herbivore

Eating Eucalyptus

leaves only!!!

?

Koala

?
? ?

Dingo

?
? ? Duck-Billed Platypus ?
? ?

Australian Sheep

?

 

Activity 3: Australia's animals have shapes and forms which are similar to animals around the world. Are there animals on other continents that are similar to Australian animals? E-mail us back your answers.

Activity 4: Find out what sort of things cause problems for Australia's native animals. Are they the same kinds of problems for native American animals? Prepare a short report on your favorite mammal or marsupial. Think about including information on where the animal lives, special living requirements, threats to survival, and suggestions to ensure its future survival.

Activity 5: All living things have the ability to reproduce. Kangaroos are sometimes said to "breed like rabbits", however this may not be a valid comparison. Rabbits can breed when the animal is only 3 months old. Mother rabbits can have up to five litters per year and five kittens in every litter. Kangaroos do not reproduce until they are two years old. Then a female kangaroo can only produce one joey (baby kangaroo) every year.

Here's a math problem: Start with a population of 100 kangaroos. Assume that all females begin to breed in the first year, every year; all offspring survive; half of the offspring are females and half are males. Calculate the population growth for a period of 10 years.

 

Year

Number of Males

Number of Females

Number of Joeys

Total Number of Kangaroos

0

50

50

50

150 (100 adults + 50 joeys)

1

75

75

75

225 (150 adults+ 75 joeys)

2

112

113

112

 
3        
4        
5        
6        
7        
8        
9        
10        

Graph your Results. This pattern of growth is called exponential growth. If all animals increased in number at the same rate, Australia could become very crowded with kangaroos. However, not all joeys survive their first year. There is also competition among the male kangaroos and kangaroos are part of the food chain. Why then are kangaroos becoming a problem in Australia? What solutions are being proposed for this problem?

Activity 6: Food is a basic need for all living things. What do Australian animals eat? Are they herbivores (eat only plants); carnivores (eat only other animals), or omnivores (eat both plants and animals)? Using the Can Do web page and links to other web pages, see what you can find out. Then try to construct as many simple food chains as possible from your information.

Australian Animal

What the Animal Eats

Herbivores, Carnivore, or Omnivore

Biome

Kangaroo      
Emu      
Wombat      
Fairy Penguin      
Koala      
Tasmanian Devil      
Dingo      
Platypus      

Animals living in the Australian biomes are adapted to live successfully in their environment. What special adaptions do these animals have to live successfully in each biome? Consider: diet, legs, jaws and teeth, tails, need for water, daily migration patterns, etc.

 

Go to Activity 7.

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