Recently I went to Eungella about an hour west of Mackay to try and photograph Platypus. I was extremely lucky in this quest and ended up with hundreds of shots, quite a few of which turned out OK. I won’t go into the issues with photographing Platypus as I have already covered that in a previous post, Eungella.
This post is more about the Platypus itself.
- Adult platypus range from about 30 cm to 45 cm, their tails taking up about 10 – 15 cm of this overall length. The males are slightly larger than the females.
- The platypus’ tail stores between 30 and 60% of their total body fat. Researchers can gauge the overall condition of a platypus by examining it’s tail. They use a five point rating system from fair to excellent. Most platypus score “average” indicating that they are very good at balancing resources with their population.
- Male platypus have a hollow spur about 15 mm long on each hind leg which is attached to a venom sac. This venom can kill animals up to the size of a small dog. Their sting won’t kill a human but can inflict an extremely painful injury.
- Platypus forage underwater with their eyes closed – the platypus bill is fleshy and sensitive, packed with thousands of special sensory receptors. Their dig up the mud at the bottom and they find their food – insect larvae, worms and fresh water insects – using these receptors. The food is then placed in a pouch behind their bill to be eaten on the surface at a later time.
- Platypus young are often referred to as “puggles” but this is incorrect. It has been suggested that they be called Platypups but there is no official name for their young. I am going to refer to them as “Platypups” from here on in!
- Like horses, Platypus have an official birthday – 1st November. The platypups will emerge with their mothers around mid-late January in Queensland. It is slightly later in the southern states.
- Platypus can hold their breath for u to 10 minutes, but they generally spend about 2 minutes under water. Because of their natural buoyancy, if they need to stay under for longer they will wedge themselves under something.
- Mating occurs once a year between June and October (like a lot of married humans!) and the female lays between 2 and 4 eggs which hatch in about 2 weeks. The female has no nipples but secretes milk from glands under the skin which soaks her fur and this is how the platypups feed.
- The platypus is a mammal because the females produce milk, but it lays eggs – so it is a member of a very special order of mammals: monotremata – the monotremes or egg-layers. The only other species of monotreme in Australia is the echidna (spiny ant eater). The only other country in the world that has monotremes is Papua New Guinea (2 species of Echidna).
- The word monotreme translates as “one hole” – a reference to the fact that the platypus and echidnas have a single opening (or cloaca) for all excretory and sexual functions, as opposed to two in other mammals.