Monday, May 13, 2013


I am somewhat bewildered as when I went to publish this today it showed that it has been posted on 7 May and yet I was sure I'd not done that.  There were no comments and as this is one very important Australian animal I decided to delete the previous post and redo it.  My apologies if anyone had already seen it and why it was out of alphabetical order I have no idea.
P is for PLATYPUS (Omithorhynchus anatinus) which is found in eastern Australia.  The scientific name is derived from the Greek words for "bird-snout" and "duck-like".  The word platypus also comes from the Greek for "flat" and "foot". The term duck-billed often prefixed platypus but as there is no other type, this term is redundant.  There is no agreed term for the plural of platypus, with platypus, platypoda and platypuses all being used. (My other half suggested "platypi" for the plural form which I thought quite an excellent idea.)

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.
The platypus has featured on various Australian stamps over the years, some of which are shown below:


  1. Oh Mimsie this has been a favourite of mine since I was a child I think the very cool name is what attracted me the sound of Platypus rang in my head making me happy then once I seen the photos I was truly smitten.. Thank you for the information. Hug B

    1. You are welcome Buttons and there IS something about the name platypus that is intriguing. I've only ever seen photos as we don't have them here in the West (I must check if we have them at the Perth Zoo). x

  2. It is very prehistoric looking isn't it?

  3. Yes, you could say that. I often think it was made up with bits and pieces left over when other animals were 'made'.

  4. I saw that this post was up a little while ago - but when I clicked on it I was told 'page not found'. I am very, very happy to see it again.

    As you know, I saw them recently - and am still on a high. Fascinating animals.
    I understand that when the first specimens were sent back to the UK that the scientists at first thought that someone was trying to be 'funny' and had put the bodies of two or three different animals together. I was also amazed to learn that the males have 'poison spurs' on their hind legs for defence. We do seem to have a lot of beasties with poison in their arsenal.

  5. I think what happened previously was that I had clicked to post instead of save and when I realised that I'd done I deleted the post. Unfortunately when I tried to re-post it I couldn't so had to redo it completely.
    My physio today was saying she saw platypuses in a lake when she was holidaying in Tasmania and was really fascinated with them.
    I too heard that story about the scientists thinking their legs were being pulled as they felt there couldn't possibly be such a creature. I feel it is so unique with very few other animals rivalling it for its 'unusualness'.
    We do have beasties with poison don't we and perhaps with creatures such as foxes, dingoes, feral cats etc it is just as well they have. Not sure why we need the spiders and snakes that are so venomous though. We have the red-back here but fortunately not the funnel web (or is it tunnel web?).