Australian Animal Archive

Australian Platypus.
Ornithorhynchus anatinus.
(an'-ah-tee'-nus : "duck-like bird-snout")

Status: Abundant.

Australian Platypus

The Platypus is one of Australia's most unique and unusual animals. It lays eggs like a bird and suckles it's young like mammals. The Platypus feeds on aquatic insect larvae, shrimps and worms. The Platypus finds these by 'dabbling' its 'duck-like' beak, (commonly referred to as a bill), in the mud, silt and sand of freshwater rivers and lakes.

The Platypus keeps its eyes shut when swimming under water and their duck-like bill provides the platypus with a great sense of sound.

Underwater the webbed forefeet become powerful oars whilst the hind webbed feet act as steering and brakes. Whilst diving the eyes, ears and nose of the Platypus are tightly closed.

The duck-like bill is also extremely sensitive to the very small electric currents generated by its prey allowing the Platypus to easily find food in the in the mud, silt and sand of freshwater rivers and lakes.

The Platypus feeds at night and with peaks of activity several hours after dusk and before dawn. During the day the Platypus rests in a burrow in the banks of the rivers or lakes and can often be seen close to the entrance of its burrow either basking in the sun or grooming its dense fur.

The male platypus are larger than the females. The male Platypus has a sharp, hollow, horny spur on the inside of its ankles. These spurs are connected to a venom gland which produces a very strong toxin. Although the spurs can be used for defence against predators, they are more commonly used in aggressive encounters between male Platypuses fighting for mating rights.

Mating between Platypuses occurs only once a year, August in the warmer northern parts of Australia and in October in the southern parts of Australia. The female generally lays 2 eggs in a mating burrow, which can be up to 60 feet long (20 meters long), and incubates these between their abdomen and curled tail for about 2 weeks.

The female Platypus does not have suckling teats and the baby Platypuses suck milk directly from milk ducts located on the mothers abdomen. The young Platypuses are suckled for 4 to 5 months and emerge from the breeding burrow at about six weeks of age.

Characteristics:
Dark fur colour, otter shaped body between 40 and 60 cm long. Large leathery looking bill, large paddle like tail. Webbed front and rear feet.
Habitat:
Fresh water streams preferring still or slow flowing waters.
Behaviour:
Solitary mammal, resting and sheltering during the day in a burrow. Most active prior to dawn and dusk. Prey is stored in cheek pouches underwater and consumed whilst floating on the surface.
Breeding:
1 - 2 eggs although this can be up to 3 eggs laid about 3 weeks after mating. Eggs are incubated for 10 - 14 days.
Feeding:
Shrimps, yabbies, snails, insects. Ocassionally small amphibians and small fish.
Voice:
Ususally silent but will make a soft growling noise if disturbed.









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