Duck-billed platypus, Boondaburra, Mallangong, Tambreet, Tohunbuck
The platypus is a most unusual animal. They have thick fur that keeps them warm underwater. Most of their fur is dark brown, with a lighter patch near their eyes, and a lighter color on the underside. On their front feet is extra skin that serves as a paddle when they swim. They walk clumsily on their knuckles in order to protect this webbed skin. Their bill is smooth, flexible and rubbery, and feels like suede. The male features a venomous spike on it back foot which has enough poison to cause severe pain for a human.
Platypuses are found on Eastern and Southeastern coasts of Australia as well as Tasmania, Flinders and King Islands. There is also small introduced population on Kangaroo Island. Platypuses are restricted to streams and suitable freshwater bodies, including some shallow water storage lakes and ponds.
Habits and lifestyle
Platypuses are solitary, particularly males. If their territories overlap, they will feed at different times to avoid each other. They are nocturnal and sleep during the day. They spend much time in water and rarely seen moving on land. They waddle onto the banks of the river to dig burrows, which are tunnels with rooms. They also live under roots, debris or rock ledges. They spend a lot of time hunting for food, up to 10 to 12 hours and remain in their burrows when not hunting.
Diet and nutrition
The platypus is carnivorous, feeding on annelid worms, freshwater shrimp, insect larvae, and freshwater yabby dug out with its snout from the riverbed or caught while swimming. It carries prey to the surface in its cheek-pouches. Each day it needs to eat as much as 20% of its own weight, so each day it must spend about 12 hours hunting for food.
Platypuses are polygynandrous, and males and females both have several partners. Females can first mate at the age of 2, but some don't until they are 5. The breeding season is between the Australian winter months of June and October. When females are ready to give birth, they burrow into the ground to seal themselves off in one of the rooms. She lays 1 or 2 eggs and keeps them warm between her rump and tail. The eggs hatch after about 10 days. The little bean-sized young remain nursing for 4 to 5 months. They stay in their burrow until they gain about 80 percent of their adult weight, around 6 months.
The largest threat is loss of habitat due to land clearance and water pollution. Predators are snakes, goannas, water rats, and foxes.
The ICUN lists the platypus as a "Least Concern" with decreasing population trend, but actually has very little data about population numbers.
The platypus, being a carnivore controls the populations of the species that it eats.
Fun facts for kids
- European naturalists first thought the platypus was a hoax, and that someone had sewn together a duck's bill an otter's tail and created an animal like a beaver.
- The name "platypus" come from the Greek "platys," meaning broad and "pous," which means foot.
- The platypus can growl like a puppy.
- The platypus uses its snout to search for prey. Its mouth is under the snout.
- The platypus uses its tail to store fat, about 50% of its body is a fat.
- Platypuses use their front feet to paddle and steer with their back feet and tails.