Platypus

Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Click to view a larger image. Click to view a larger image. mammal mammal

Museum specimen featured in the Wild exhibition
Source: Museum Victoria

Platypus
Image: David Fleetham
Source: photolibrary

Type: mammal

Platypus Platypus
Image: David Fleetham
Source: photolibrary

Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

Dramatic changes in rainfall in south-eastern Australia have huge implications for Platypuses, since they rely upon a permanent freshwater supply. Drought reduces the flow in streams, as does the removal of water to supply farms, towns and cities. In the northern parts of their range, Platypuses may be flooded out of their homes by tropical storms. In all areas, stream degradation from erosion or pollution is also a concern for this species.

WHAT THEY EAT

carnivore

Platypuses are carnivores.

They feed on insect larvae and freshwater bivalves.

HOW BIG THEY ARE

Platypus relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a sparrow and a cat.

Weight:
0.7–2.3 kg
Length:
40–55 cm

Amazing Platypuses

Platypuses are among Australia’s most bizarre animals. They belong to a group called monotremes, which are amazing mammals that lay eggs. The only other living monotremes are echidnas which are found in Australia and New Guinea.

Platypuses are brilliantly adapted for hunting in their watery environment. They can close their eyes and nostrils when they dive underwater, and they have webbed feet, streamlined bodies and thick, waterproof fur coats. Their fleshy bills are exquisitely sensitive and are used to locate yabbies and other freshwater invertebrates by the tiny electric fields generated by their prey’s muscles.

These animals are active mainly between dusk and dawn, but sometimes can be seen during the day. Adults live a solitary life in their burrows along the banks of streams and ponds, the exception being breeding females. Female Platypuses lay 1–3 eggs and incubate them for ten days. The newly hatched young are blind and hairless and live on their mother’s milk for 3–4 months. The milk is exuded from special pores in the female’s skin; Platypuses do not have teats. 

Male Platypuses have poisonous spurs on their hind limbs that can deliver an extremely painful wound. These are probably used to assert dominance during the mating season.

Did You Know?

Platypuses

  • are so bizarre that British zoologists thought the first specimen was a hoax
  • store fat in their tails
  • have an extra bone in their shoulder that is not found in other mammals

WHERE THEY LIVE

Platypus distribution map

Platypuses inhabit streams and lakes in eastern Australia. They are extinct in South Australia.

OTHER ANIMALS

Other animals from Australasia

Southern CassowaryBennett's Tree KangarooBanded Hare-wallabyThylacineSouthern Brown Kiwi