Sense-ational Superpowers: Five strange hidden talents of Australian animals

February 8th, 2024

Author Stephanie Owen Reeder shares some of the weird and wonderful superpowers of Australian native animals.
Illustration of a lyrebird singing, its song represented by twilring purple lines and quavers. Beneath is a frilled-neck lizard, banjo frog, dingo, gang-gang cockatoo and emu.

Discover the fascinating talents of boisterous birds, impressive insects, singing sea creatures and marvellous mammals! (Illustration: Cher Hart, Sensational Australian Animals)


Stephanie Owen Reeder in front of a bookshelf. She is holding her book 'Sensational Australian Animals' and smiling.

Stephanie Owen Reeder is the author of Sensational Australian Animals.

We all know that Australian native animals are amazing and unique, with iconic Aussies such as the koala and the quokka being beloved the world over. But many Australian animals are amazing for more than just how unusual or cute and cuddly they look – some are even hiding some very strange superpowers!

No-one knows this better than Stephanie Owen Reeder, author of Sensational Australian Animals, which explores native Australian animals through the five basic senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. As part of her research for the book, Stephanie did a deep dive into all the weird and wonderful abilities and behaviours of Australian animals.

“There were so many things to choose from,” shares Stephanie.  “The book is full of amazing things that blew my mind when I was researching it. I drove my family crazy constantly saying, ‘Did you know that…’!”

We asked Stephanie to give us her favourite ‘sense-ational superpowers’ of Australian animals.


Sense-ational Superpower: 200/200 vision

Scallops have up to 200 eyes around the edges of their shells. Each eye focuses through a telescope-like mirror. Their super-sensitive eyes allow them to see clearly at night and in turbulent water. And if one of their eyes gets damaged, they simply grow a new one!

Illustration of a scallop resting and a sandy seafloor with seaweed in the background. A multitude of eyes lines the lip of its shell.

The scallop lives by the saying “more is more”. (Illustration: Cher Hart, Sensational Australian Animals)


Sense-ational Superpower: An auditory advantage

Whilst birds don’t have ears that stick out like human ears, they still have great hearing. They pick up sound waves through funnel-shaped earholes just behind and slightly below their eyes. In fact, Australian Magpies have such acute hearing that they can hear bugs wriggling around underneath the dirt!

Illustration of a magpie standing on a lawn, head cocked and listening intently to the worm crawling among the roots below.

You know what they say: the ear-ly bird gets the worm. (Illustration: Cher Hart, Sensational Australian Animals)


Sense-ational Superpower: A stinky disguise

Bird-dropping Spiders not only look like bird droppings, they also smell like them, which can help fool predators into leaving them alone. When it’s dinner time, they release a chemical scent that smells like a female moth to lure in their favourite food – unsuspecting male moths. A magnifi-scent talent!

Illustration of a spider curled up tightly and dreaming of a moth to eat. The spider is flecked with shades of brown and white and looks like a bird dropping.

Who knew spiders were so good at method acting? (Illustration: Cher Hart, Sensational Australian Animals)


Sense-ational Superpower: Electroreception

The rubbery bill of a platypus has touch and temperature receptors, as well as something really special – electric sensors. When it is hunting for its next meal, these electric sensors enable the platypus to sense the electricity given off when its prey moves its muscles!

Illustration of a platypus swimming underwater.

In a world full of ordinary, be extra, playtpus. (Illustration: Cher Hart, Sensational Australian Animals)


Sense-ational Superpower: Tasty skin

The Green Tree Frog secretes mucus that helps to keep its skin moisturised and healthy. When it is ready to shed its skin, it wriggles around until it’s loosened the old skin, and then pulls it over its head like a jumper… and then eats it. Waste not, want not!

Illustration of a green tree frog clinging to the outside of a window.

Brings new meaning to the phrase “you are what you eat.” (Illustration: Cher Hart, Sensational Australian Animals)


Cover of 'Sensational Australian Animals', featuring illustrations of an emu, a blue-ringed octopus, a fly, and a red-bellied black snake.


Written by Stephanie Owen Reeder and with gorgeous illustrations by Cher Hart, Sensational Australian Animals showcases more than 145 astounding animals and the strange things they can do with their eyes, ears, noses, mouths and skin. Perfect for ages 8 to 12, this book is available to purchase on our website and from all good bookstores.

We have also produced free downloadable Teacher Notes to support the use of this book in the classroom.



Stephanie Owen Reeder sitting at a table in front of a bookshop bookshelf. She is smiling and poised to sign a book.

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Dr Stephanie Owen Reeder is the author of historical novels and picture books for children, including Swifty: The Super-fast Parrot. She has won the NSW Premier’s History Award and the CBCA Book of the Year Award for information books.


Illustration depicting a framed picture of Cher Hart, standing in front of floral wallpaper and smiling. She is wearing glasses and her dark hair in a bun.

Cher Hart (self-portait)






Cher Hart is a nature illustrator, graphic designer and spatial analyst with a background in biology and a sense of fun. She has created scientific communication material for journals, exhibitions and government. This is her first published children’s book.



Watch the Sensational Australian Animals video trailer: