What Native Animals live in the Murray-Darling Basin?

By Sarah Whitman

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The Murray-Darling Basin is in southeastern Australia. Its name originates from the two waterways in the area, the Murray and Darling rivers. It spans an area more than 2,000 miles in length and is home to a variety of native animals. Some are holding their own, while others are endangered.

Murray-Darling Basin Info

The Murray-Darling Basin is home to many land and water species, many of which are endangered. According to the Murray River Travel website, at least 35 birds and 16 mammals are endangered, and 20 mammalian species have already become extinct there. In total, the basin is home to hundreds of native species including 98 kinds of birds, 53 frog species, 46 varieties of snakes, 100 types of lizards, three species of freshwater turtles and at least 45 species of fish.

Birds

Of the almost 100 bird species in the region, the Australian pelican is one of the best known. Other birds include parrots and cockatoos, including red-tailed black cockatoo and the regent parrot, which lives only in a small area in the southwestern part of the basin area. The turquoise parrot, another native bird, experienced population decline during the 1920s but is slowly recovering. The superb fairywren is another native bird, as is the rare barking owl.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Numerous lizards, frogs and snakes live in the basin. Native dragons, a type of lizard, include the eastern bearded dragon, one of the area's most familiar. Other lizards include the dwarf skink, Burton’s legless lizard, shingleback lizard, Bynoe’s gecko and the blue-tongued lizard, recognized by its namesake bright tongue. The basin is home to only a handful of turtle species, and many deadly snakes including venomous red-bellied black snakes, copperheads and notorious pythons that constrict their prey.

Fish and Insects

The golden perch is the most sought-after fish in the basin, while the murray cod is Australia's largest freshwater fish. Other natives include the kingfishers, smelts, catfish, rainbowfish, cod, carp, eel and herring. Native fish species have declined over the last 50 years as a result of habitat loss, interference with migration and non-native species intrusions. Local insects include the bogong moth, which migrates to and from the area by the millions and was a sought-after protein source for aboriginal people.

Mammals and Others

The Murray-Darling Basin is centered around the two rivers, but some land animals, as well as water-dwelling mammals, live here too. Natives include the squirrel glider, a possum that glides from tree to tree during the overnight hours. Other famous locals include the platypus, a mammal that lives in the rivers, as well as some of Australia's streams and lakes. The wombat, an iconic Australian animal, once had a strong population but is declining due to habitat loss, hunting and other causes.

Photo Credits

  • Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Author

Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.