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Platypus

Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Platypus are Australian mammals and belong to the Monotreme family, which means they are mammals which lay eggs. Their closest living relative is the Echidna. Fossil evidence of the platypus is up to 130 million years old. Platypus are warm-blooded and can have an average body temperature of 32°C (90°F). Platypus can typically be found along eastern Australia, but have also be known to reside in the high altitudes of Tasmania and the Australian Alps. They can be found in freshwater rivers, streams and creeks. They are most active at dawn and dusk, although this can be influenced by breeding, water temperature, human activity and food resources. Therefore, this animal’s activities can be known as diurnal (day time activity), nocturnal (night time activity) or crepuscular (dawn and dusk activity).

Platypus feed on freshwater crayfish, small fish, insect larvae, and aquatic invertebrates. Like a hamster, platypus have cheek pouches which act like exandable pockets for worms, snails, and shellfish, along with some gravel. The gravel then acts as a blender to mash the food for the toothless mammal. When underwater, their nostrils close with a watertight seal and folds of skin will cover their eyes and ears to prevent water from entering. The platypus is duck billed. Their bill is extremely sensitive and uses electrical signals (electro-location) to locate their food via water movement or signals sent by their prey. A platypus can stay underwater for up to 10 minutes. They swim by using their front feet for movement and their back feet for steering.

When not in the water, platypus will move into a secure burrow via a tunnel. Burrows provide excellent security for nesting as well as the birth and growth of young. The female platypus has mammary glands located on their bellies. The milk secreets from the mammary gland ducts and collects in the groves on their skin, which allows the young to feed. Platypus are venomous mammals. Male platypus have a large, venomous spur located on their hind feet. This is used to defend their territory during breeding season and can cause extreme pain, or even death, of an opponent. Wild platypus numbers remain stable, although they do face various threats. These include drowning in illegal yabbie traps and net, entanglement in fishing line, and litter-related death or injury.

An easy way you can help a platypus and other aquatic animals is to throw all rubbish in a bin, before it reaches our river systems.

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