The platypus looks like a mishmash of a duck, a beaver and an otter, and is yet for some inexplicable reason still super cute. It is widely known as one of the most unusual animals to exist and we are lucky enough to say it’s a resident of our home, Australia!
It’s really no wonder why popular culture has taken a liking to the little creature; the image of a platypus is even found on Australian coins and postage stamps and a huge array of children’s picture books. If yours is a kid with lots of questions about this furry mammal with a duck-like bill, read on to learn some facts about them. There is also a list of places below that you could visit with your kid to see them in person.
Fun Platypus Facts
- The scientific name for a platypus is Ornithorhynchus Anatinus
- Platypuses are so unusual that it took British Scientists more than eighty years just to decide what they are. Scientists first thought the platypus was a hoax!
- The first platypus specimen was described in 1799
- Platypuses belong to the monotreme family, a classification of mammals that lay eggs. There are only two monotremes alive today; the echidna and the platypus (both Australian animals).
- Platypuses have a flat tail, short legs, webbed hind feet and webbed front feet and a duck’s bill.
- Platypuses are often mistaken for water rats.
- The platypus mating season is between June and October.
- The platypus builds their long burrows under the sides of river banks.
- The home range of a platypus can include several kilometres and they can use several burrows within this home range.
- Platypuses nurse their young by secreting milk through their specialized skin – sort of like sweating it out.
- Platypuses are carnivores and eat insects, insect larvae, freshwater shrimp, shellfish and worms scooping them into their cheek pouches.
- Platypuses are semi-aquatic mammals. That means they can survive inside and outside water.
- Platypuses spend a lot of time looking for food with around 12 hours spent underneath the water every day.
- Platypuses have dense waterproof fur.
- Platypuses depend on freshwater and are usually found in streams and rivers.
- Platypuses are nocturnal.
- The average size of a platypus is around 38cm – 60cms long.
- An adult platypus in the wild can expect to live for around 20 years of age.
- Natural predators of the platypus include snakes, water rats, goannas, foxes, and crocodiles.
- Platypuses’ bills are filled with electric fields or sensors to detect buried prey.
- Platypuses are venomous, but only the males, and only during mating season. What’s more, is that their venom is not found in their teeth but instead found in venomous spurs on their ankles.
- A pregnant female will enjoy a short pregnancy of approximately 2-3 weeks and then incubation and tending of the eggs for just 6 to 10 more days.
- Platypuses don’t have stomachs. Their oesophagus connects directly to their intestines.
- Platypuses don’t have teeth. They scoop up gravel along with their prey from the riverbed and when they come to the surface, grind the two together in their mouth. It’s sort of like they use gravel as their makeshift teeth!
- The platypus courtship process is lengthy, sometimes happening over 6 weeks!
Where do platypuses live?
Platypuses live in freshwater rivers and creeks across Eastern Australia as far up as the Northern Queensland Tropics and as far south as Tasmania. They also live on King Island and Kangaroo Island.
If you suspect they live in a creek near you then our advice is to get up early in the morning when the air is still and quiet and sit and wait. They are elusive creatures though and to see them in the wild is quite rare.
Platypus Citizen Science for kids
There are a few citizen science projects designed to try and capture sightings and movements of the platypus. You can record your sightings on the Australian Platypus Conservancy website where you can also get more insights into their behaviours and tips on how to spot them.
The Australian Conservation Foundation also hold a September-long “platy-project” where they ask you to head to local creeks and rivers in the hope of spotting and recording platypus sightings.
There are also a number of DNA projects that are funded from time to time in different parts of Australia. Basically, rather than trying to spot the elusive Platypus, a sample is taken from a creek bed to see if any platypus DNA can be identified.
Is the platypus threatened?
Platypuses are legally protected native Australian animals but there is no question that the platypus is declining in numbers. While the platypus is on the iucn red list as decreasing, its conservation status in Australia fails to recognise the grim situation the platypus finds itself in. The fact is, there is no population count of platypus with the exception of island populations such as Kangaroo Island. This means there is no way of telling what position they are in population-wise.
What we do know is that their populations are threatened by land clearing (habitat loss), bushfires, droughts, dams, climate change and farming practices- all threats that are leaving every single other Australian animal in population decline. In other words, it is mainly human activity that is leading to the decline of the iconic platypus. What is more worrying about the platypus is their reliance on smaller creek catchments and the impact that climate change is having on the water level in these habitats.
Where to find platypus in Brisbane:
Finding platypus in the wild in Brisbane may seem like a feat of impossibility but you can find platypus in Brisbane at the following locations:
- Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – Located 12 kilometres from the main city of Brisbane and famously known for being the first koala sanctuary in the world, it is today a safe abode for a number of other wild animals. The sanctuary has two platypuses named Barak and Aroona who you can choose to catch live via their webcams or see in person.
- Walkabout Creek Wildlife Centre – This centre is unique because the animals that live here are kept in their natural habitats. There are two scenic paths to choose between to take a stroll through the wildlife centre; the Corymbia circuit and the Araucaria Track. You can find the platypuses in the Gondwana Platypus Rockpool, where you will be able to stop and observe them in their element.
- David Fleay Park is home to a rescued platypus called Wally. In 2014, Wally was found injured and underweight.
- According to some DNA testing in 2021, water samples revealed platypus at both Moggil and Pullen Pullen Creeks and are also known to frequent Bunya Riverside on the Northside of Brisbane.
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