Introducing the plants and animals of the Wet Tropics

The Wet Tropics is rich in biodiversity and special plants and animals.

In this section you can read all about rainforests and the many other habitats which provide a home to many unique and rare plants and animals. For instance, the World Heritage Area contains:

  • 40% of Australia’s bird species
  • 35% of Australia’s mammal species
  • 60% of Australia’s butterfly species
  • 20% of Australia’s reptile species
  • 21% of Australia’s cycad species
  • 29% of Australia’s frog species
  • 65% of Australia’s fern species
  • 30% of Australia’s orchid species

Over 2,800 plant species from 221 families are found in the Wet Tropics. More than 700 species (25 percent) are endemic to the Area. Sixteen out of the world's 28 lineages of primitive flowering plants grow here and within these families, there are at least 50 flowering plant species found only in the Wet Tropics. Some of the ancient plants in the rainforest have been around for hundreds of millions of years. The Wet Tropics provides an unparalleled living record of the ecological and evolutionary processes that shaped the flora and fauna of Australia over the past 415 million years. See the Wet Tropics World Heritage evolutionary timeline (1.6MB) for details.

The Wet Tropics is home to about a third of Australia's 315 mammal species - 12 of these species are found nowhere else in the world. They include unique green possums, ringtail possums, quolls, rare bats, tree-kangaroos, a rat-kangaroo, a melomys and an antechinus. There are many spectacular insects to see in the rainforest and surrounds. Do you know what a peripatus is? You can read all about the invertebrates that inhabit these forests including, crustaceans, worms, beetles, ants, spiders, mites, scorpions, amblypygids, centipedes and millipedes, not to mention the snails and slugs. While the Wet Tropics is home to a quarter of Australia's frogs and a little over a third of the country's freshwater fish, it is also home to nearly half of Australia's birds - that's more than 370 different species.

There are so many different things to see in our forests that many interesting but less visible species go unnoticed. Keep an eye out for some of the colourful forms of mushrooms and fungi that inhabit the rainforest floor. They play an important role but for most of their lives, they remain hidden inside rotting wood or in the soil - only making a cameo appearance when it is time to reproduce.


Endemic and threatened plants and animals

Many of our special Wet Tropics plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world (they are endemic to the Wet Tropics). You can read about them in the rare and endemic page under World Heritage values.

Over 200 plant and animal species, including our iconic cassowaries are listed as threatened. You can read all about threatened species and communities in the World Heritage values section.


Rainforest glossary

You can download a rainforest glossary here to help you understand some plant and animal names and terminology.

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