The platypus is a unique Australian animal. Although it is a mammal (suckles its young), it is unusual in that it lays eggs. It belongs to the Monotreme family (egg-laying mammals). The Australian Echidna (sometimes known as the Spiny Anteater) is the other member of this family.
The male is about 60cm long while the female is slightly smaller. It has a bill with no teeth but can crush its prey. The male has a poisonous spur on the hindlegs which can inflict a painful wound.
The female platypus digs a burrow into the creek bank, often 20 metres long. The nesting chamber at the end is lined with grass. The eggs are about 15mm in diameter. They hatch in about seven to ten days. The female has no teats. The milk seeps through pores. By 7 days after hatching, the babies have grown from 20 mm to 40 mm.While rearing the young, she blocks the tunnel in several places. After 16 weeks, the young are weaned from their mother and take to the water.
The bill of the platypus is extremely sensitive. It closes its eyes while swimming underwater, and detects with its bill the electric currents emitted by its prey- freshwater shrimp, crayfish etc. Earthworms are its favourite food, and it eats half to three-quarters of its bodyweight each day. Insect larvae are also eaten.
As it submerges, it traps air in its fur for insulation against the cold. This air streams off as fine bubbles as it swims underwater.
I filmed this platypus at Atherton on the Atherton Tablelands which is about 90km inland from Cairns in North Queensland. Although Cairns is very hot, the Tablelands are cool due to the altitude. I believe the lowest temperature recorded there was minus 17 degrees C.
The platypus in North Queensland with bill, fur,tail, and webbed feet.
Has been digging for worms in the bank of the creek.
The platypus is an air breather, so must come up for air. It can stay underwater for about six minutes. It can eat food while submerged.
Platypus heading to a new location.
The eyes, nostrils and ears are closed while the platypus is submerged.
Outback Farina Station
The Sunshine Coast
The Aquarium Room