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Unique and primitive forms of animal life exist in Australia. Seven families of mammals and four families of birds are classified as native to the country. About 70 percent of the birds, 88 percent of the reptiles, and 94 percent of the frogs are unique to Australia. Seven of the more than 750 known species of birds have become extinct since the beginning of European settlement, and another 35 are endangered or vulnerable. Of mammals, 19 are extinct and 63 are threatened. Environmentalists have argued for more rigorous conservation policies to protect Australia's unique animal life.One striking aspect of mammal life in Australia is the absence of representatives of most of the orders found on other continents. However, the primitive, egg-laying mammals known as monotremes are found most abundantly in Australia. One of them, the platypus, a zoological curiosity, is an aquatic, furred mammal with a bill like that of a duck and with poisonous spurs. It lives in the streams of southeastern Australia. Another monotreme of Australia is the spiny anteater, or echidna.
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