Adaptations at the Discovery Centre

Here we explore some of the animals in the Discovery Centre and focus on how their adaptations help them to survive.

By Queensland Museum Network

Lamprima sp (1995) by Geoff Thompson, Queensland MuseumQueensland Museum Network

The Discovery Centre at Queensland Museum & Science centre provides a snapshot of the museum’s collection and research themes. With thousands of objects, animals and fossils to discover, the Discovery Centre awakens observation, stimulates curiosity and encourages inquiry.

Getting up close

Visitors to the Discovery Centre can get up close to mammals, birds, insects, spiders, fish, reptiles, crustaceans, sponges, corals, starfish, sea urchins, parasites and more. There is also the opportunity to see live animals, have conversations with scientists and knowledgeable staff, and get hands on with fossils, specimens and other activities to encourage visitor learning. 


What are the physical or behavioural characteristics that the animal has developed to allow the animal to better survive in its environment?

The Great White Shark

The Great White Shark is a stealth hunter thanks to their counter-shaded colour, large eyes and the ability to locate prey by scent (chemoreception). They swim with explosive speed for brief periods and catch fast and intelligent prey. Their enormous jaws and sharply serrated teeth enable them to rapidly disable prey.

Blainville’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon densirostris)

Whale’s skeletons are similar to humans, but they have adapted to living in water. The body is a streamlined tube, and the blowhole (like nostrils) are on top of the head. Modifications to the spine-bones allow for large muscles that power the tail,which propels the whale. The forelimb-bones steer the whale like the fish fins. The hind-limbs have disappeared.

Adaptations for defence or hunting

In a complex food web, many animals are either predator or prey or both. Their adaptations may help them to protect themselves from other predators or to hunt or seek out food.


The large lizards in this display are known to Australians as goannas (Varanus). There are several species, some with stout-spined tails used to block their burrows. Some have long sharp claws used to rapidly climb trees to escape or hunt. The long heavy tail of a large goanna can be used as a club or whip in defence.

Like most species, Australian bats fly mostly at night. Smaller species navigate by using a special sound and then listen for an echo with their enormous ears. Larger species feed on fruit or nectar and use sight and scent to find food. All bats fly using adapted arms with elastic skin stretched between them.

Wombats, koalas and the platypus are only found in Australia, while Echidnas are found in Australia and New Guinea. Like all animals they have specific adaptations that help them survive in their habitat. While they may look very different to each other, they also share some features in common.

Wombats (species of Lasiorhinus and Vombatus) live in deep burrows and koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) live in trees, and both are marsupial mammals. Differences in lifestyle have resulted in different adaptations. Wombats have short, stout limbs with heavy blunt claws. Koalas have longer arms with sharp claws and a strong grip.

Both koalas and wombats have the ability to digest poor quality food, such as dry grasses and herbs (wombats) and eucalypt or gum leaves (koala). As marsupials, they both carry their tiny newborn young in a pouch. However, like some other marsupials that dig, wombats have a backward-facing pouch.

Australia has two species of monotreme (egg laying) mammal, the Echdna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) and the Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) Platypus spend their life in a burrow or swimming, propelling itself with webbed feet and a beaver-like tail. It has electorrecepors to aid in hunting. To dig, it folds its toe webbing into the parm to expose stout, strong claws.

The Echidna digs for invertebrate prey, such as termites and to escape from predators. Like a wombat it has stout strong limbs with spade-like claws. When threatened, it quickly digs downwards or curls into a ball, to present the attacker with nothing but sharp, pointy spines.

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