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Platypus

Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Class: Mammalia
Lifespan: Up to 20 years        
Diet: Carnivore       
Weight: Up to 2.4kg              
Height: Up to 38cm
Speed: Up to 35km/h                            
Reproduction: Live birth
Status: Near threatened

Platypus belong to the Monotreme family, which means they are egg-laying mammals. The only other Monotreme species in Australia is the echidna. The female platypus has mammary glands located on their bellies. The milk secretes from the mammary gland ducts and collects in the grooves on their skin, which allows the young to feed.

Platypus can typically be found throughout 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, they have cheek pouches which act like expandable 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. The platypus has extremely sensitive bills, and finds their prey through the use of electrical signals (electro-location), picking up on water movement or other signals sent by their prey.

A platypus can stay underwater for up to 10 minutes. When submerged, their nostrils close with a watertight seal and folds of skin will cover their eyes and ears to prevent water from entering. 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.

Platypus are venomous mammals. Male platypus have a large, venomous spurs located on their hind feet, 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 nets, 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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