I spent the last couple of weeks camping in a tent in east Gippsland which allowed one to witness the habits of the various creatures – they all seem to have a time of day when they would frequent the camp site or go hunting for food on the beaches.
Before we start on the birds, one animal that is very common in East Gippsland and which you will almost certainly see on the gravel roads or in your camp site, is the Lace Monitor lizard or goanna which is around 4 foot long with a powerful tail and claws and some venom in its saliva like perhaps all reptiles, although unlike Australia’s venomous snakes it cannot envenomate to cause significant systemic toxicity, but it’s bite can cause local tissue damage and infection. They are carnivores and seek small animals, eggs or road kill. The ones around camp sites are very used to humans and will walk within a few meters but are generally wary and will not appreciate being approached, so give them their space and they will not be problematic to you.
Australia is well known for its venomous snakes – we have most of the top 10 most venomous snakes in the world – and it is fascinating how they appear to have evolved.
Toxin venom producing lizards (Toxifera) evolved some 200 million years ago and from these, snakes evolved some 120-150 million years ago by turning off the genes which make limbs. Australia’s elapid venomous snakes appear to have evolved from an ancestor of the sea krait snake which appears to have swam to Australia around 25 million years ago (there were apparently no snakes in Australia before that time) and this then resulted in all of Australia’s terrestrial Elapid snakes evolving as well as via convergent evolution, some sea snakes. Monitor lizards didn’t make it to Australia until some 15 million years ago, while it seems pythons didn’t come to Australia until around 8-14 million years ago.