Australia is home to some wonderfully weird creatures.

We’ve got bunnies with pouches, black swans and mammals that lay eggs.

So it’s probably no wonder that some fake animal “facts” have snuck their way into our faunal folklore.

To help clear things up a bit, here are five curly and not-so-curly tales that need setting straight.

Do quokkas throw their babies at predators to escape?

A meme that has resurfaced online, suggesting quokkas are ‘bad parents’.(



They’re one of, if not the most photogenic animals on the planet, and until recently the marsupial quokka with the butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouth smile could do no wrong.

That was the case at least, until a malicious rumour began circulating that the darlings of Rottnest Island had a diabolically dark secret.

According to a meme that has recently resurfaced online (pictured), when being pursued by a predator, quokkas “toss their babies” at them in order to escape.

“No! It can’t be true!” I hear you say. And you’re right. But only on a technicality.

The word “at” in that accusation makes the meme a bit misleading. But take out that one offending preposition and it’s true — quokkas sacrifice their babies in order to escape predators.

“The pouch is really muscular so the mum will relax it and the bub will fall out,” conservation biologist Matthew Hayward from the University of Newcastle says.

It’s the “ultimate survival strategy” that’s only really available to marsupials, according to kangaroo ecologist and behavioural expert Graeme Coulson from the University of Melbourne.

“[The mother is] interested in her own survival and her future reproduction,” Associate Professor Coulson said.

But before you judge quokkas too harshly, you should know they’re not alone in employing this dastardly device, according to Professor Hayward.

“Macropods in general, that’s their strategy to get away from predators,” he said.

“Woylies and boodies, potoroos do it — they all throw their young, and the mother gets to live another day.”

Are daddy-long-legs one of the most venomous spiders on the planet?

Daddy-long-legs are rumoured to be extremely venomous.(

Getty Images: Photos by Shmelly


This “myth” usually goes something along the lines of: Daddy-long-legs are extremely venomous but their fangs aren’t able to penetrate human skin.

But a quick skim of forums online reveals countless reports from panic-stricken parents whose babies have been caught making a meal out of the wiry arachnids.

Proof! you might say, that they can’t be venomous? Not quite.

Unlike poison, venom molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin, and need to be injected into the bloodstream or lymphatic system to take effect.

Although a cut in the mouth or upper digestive tract could allow envenomation to occur through swallowing, typically when venom is swallowed it’s broken down by stomach acids.

So babies swallowing daddy-long-legs doesn’t prove they’re not venomous.

And the truth of the matter is, they are venomous. Just not to people.

Instead, daddy-long-legs are spider killers. Their venom is capable of taking down arachnids far bigger than themselves, including the fearsome funnel-web, according to the Queensland Museum’s arachnid expert Robert Raven.

“They can use those massive long legs to bite spiders over and over, while bouncing back out of reach [of the victim].”

Maybe that’s where the confusion has come from. Or maybe there’s a simpler explanation?

“From my understanding, a boy scout leader in Cairns started a rumour [that daddy long legs were deadly] on April Fools’ [Day] and it got loose,” Dr Raven said.

Are the kangaroo and emu on the coat of arms because they can’t walk backwards?

It’s true that kangaroos struggle to walk backwards — but it’s not the case for the emu.(

Flickr: Joyce Seitzinger


According to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the perceived inability of both kangaroos and emus to take a backwards step was the reason they were chosen for the coat of arms:

“The shield is held up by the native Australian animals the kangaroo and the emu, which were chosen to symbolise a nation moving forward, based on the fact that neither animal can move backwards easily.”

If the key word here is “easily”, then it’s probably fair to say that does apply to the kangaroo, according to Dr Coulson.

“For a kangaroo, they can [move backwards] but it’s not graceful,” he said.

Unfortunately for the legitimacy of our coat of arms, that ascription for the emu is patently false.

“The emu certainly can [walk backwards]. I don’t think it is any trouble at all for an emu to step backwards,” Dr Coulson said.

The original coat of arms was granted to the Commonwealth of Australia by King Edward VII in 1908, with an updated version from King George V taking its place in 1912.

It’s unclear whether the metaphorical inaccuracy of our coat of arms has been implicated in any of the steps, backwards or otherwise, the country may or may not have taken over the past century.

Is it true freshwater crocodiles don’t attack people?

Freshwater crocodiles have been responsible for at least 23 attacks since 2000.(

ABC Kimberley: Lisa Herbert


For anyone who has lived or travelled in the northern third of Australia, there’s one rule that’s pretty well known: no swimming where there are saltwater crocodiles.

On average there have been 1.5 fatal saltwater crocodile attacks in Australia each year between 2010 and 2019, according to the ABS, with an exceptionally bad year in 2014, when five people were killed.

Men were three times more likely than women to be the victims during that period.

But the presence of the salties’ freshwater cousins usually does little to deter swimmers from taking a refreshing dip in one of the north’s many beautiful waterholes, especially in the middle of summer.

That’s because it’s usually accepted that “freshies” pose us little harm.

But while it’s true that freshwater crocodiles have never been responsible for a recorded fatal attack in Australia, they are regularly involved in non-fatal encounters with people.

Since 2000, there have been 23 recorded freshwater crocodile attacks in Australia, according to global crocodile database CrocBITE.

Most recently, a seven-year-old girl was attacked on Lake Moondarra near Mt Isa in March last year.

While freshwater crocodiles don’t view us as food, we can still fall victim to their territorial defences, says senior research associate and CrocBITE project lead Adam Britton from Charles Darwin University.

“We know one of the things the adult males will do is spend time aggressively defending an area or territory,” Dr Britton said.

Bite wounds from freshwater crocodile attacks on people show the crocodiles typically give a single bite before letting go — proof they’re not trying to kill us, according to Dr Britton.

The only real danger that an attack could result in death is if the victim were to panic and drown, he said.

Do white-tailed spiders cause necrotising flesh wounds?

White tailed spiders have been implicated in necrotising flesh wounds.(

Getty Images: Andrew Waugh


The white-tailed spider has been implicated in some pretty nasty stories of rotting flesh and gore.

As recently as 2017, a white-tailed spider bite was wrongly blamed for an infection that resulted in the double amputation of a Filipino tourist’s legs while visiting regional Victoria.

But all the evidence says the white-tailed spider is a victim of guilt by association.

A 2003 study of 130 confirmed white-tailed spider bites found “no necrotic lesions or ulcers” developed from the bites.

And analysis of the spiders’ venom has found no properties that would cause necrosis, according to Dr Raven.

The rumour that the white-tailed spider causes necrotic flesh wounds dates back to the late 1980s, he said.

“A lady who was gardening in her [yard] near the New South Wales-Victoria border presented [to hospital] with a necrotic lesion,” he said.

“Six weeks later a doctor and his student, who knew nothing about spiders, went to her garden and collected 19 spiders.

“When I asked [the doctor] why he thought it was the white tail, he said it had to be, because it was the most common.”

As well as there being no evidence that the spider bites cause necrosis, it doesn’t make biological sense for them to do so either, according to Dr Raven.

“Spiders want to kill their prey and bring it down quickly — it doesn’t make sense for them to be biting their prey and having them go on walking around.”