The platypus lives in freshwater rivers and lakes, and creates burrows for shelter and protection. They are active mainly during night-time hours. They use their webbed feet for swimming and when swimming the platypus has its eyes shut. They swim underwater for 2 minutes, before returning to the surface for oxygen. They can, however, stay underwater for up to 10 minutes, but due to their natural buoyancy, they need to be underneath another object to achieve this.
The platypus has a woolly coat and ranges from 30-45 cms in length and the tail is about 10-15 cms in length (30cms=1 foot). The woolly fur coat actually has three layers. The first layer keeps the animal warm by trapping air; the second layer provides an insulation coat, and the third layer of long flat hairs detects objects close by. (I imagine this would be necessary if they swim with their eyes shut). These creatures weigh on average between 1-2.4 kilograms (1 kg = about 2.2 lbs) and have an average lifespan of 12 years.
The platypus is regarded as locally common throughout its range along the east coast of Australia, from north-east Queensland through to south-west Victoria and Tasmania. It is also found on King Island, and on Kangaroo Island, where it was introduced. The only area from where it has disappeared since European settlement is South Australia. However, it is vulnerable to habitat loss, pollution and from inadvertent capture in shrimp traps. The IUCN classifies the platypus as "near threatened" on its Red List, mainly because of the susceptibility to water pollution There has been little success at captive breeding platypuses.
The platypus is a monotreme and is one of only three types of egg laying mammals in the world, the others being the two species of echnidas (also native to Australia). It is a carnivore surviving on worms, insect larvae, flies, small shrimps (yabbies) and other small water borne species. Once caught the prey is stored in cheek pouches and taken to the surface where it is ground between the animal's toothless jaws; it spends around 12 hours a day foraging for food and needs to consume at least one quarter of its body weight each day.
Breeding takes place in late winter/early spring (earlier in the north of the range). One to three eggs (normally 2) are laid two weeks after mating, the female curling around them for incubation. Upon hatching the young are blind and hairless and are fed on milk secreted from the mother's skin (platypuses have no nipples), something that will continue for three to four months. During this period the mother will only leave the burrow for short periods and will 'stop-up' the burrow while she is away. The young will leave the burrow after four months. The male platypus plays no part in raising the young.