Platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: I have heard that the platypus is venomous - is this true?
Answer: The male Platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus is unusual in having a spur on its hind legs, each linked to a venom gland. It is believed that these spurs are used in territorial disputes. They can also be used for defence and they are capable of killing dogs and of causing extreme pain in humans. There is no known antidote for the venom.
Platypus are uniquely Australian, being one of only four monotremes in the world (mammals that lay eggs, the others being echidnas which occur in Australia and Papua New Guinea). When the first specimens were taken to Europe many considered them fakes and made from the parts of a number of animals. They couldn’t believe a mammal could have webbed feet and what looked to be the bill of a duck.
These aquatic animals occur in Tasmania and throughout Australia’s mainland eastern states. They spend up to 12 hours a day foraging for food in water bodies. Despite the large amount of change and degradation that has occurred to Australia’s waterways in the last 200 years the platypus remains relatively common in parts of its habitat, for instance they are still found in Melbourne’s Yarra River.