The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semi-aquatic mammal. Platypus are one of only two egg-laying mammals (monotremes). The other is the echidna. The platypus has cheek pouches where food items are stored while it forages underwater. Male platypus are larger than the females. It is a primarily nocturnal animal.
According to Aboriginal legend, the first platypus was born after a young female duck mated with a lonely and persuasive water rat. The duck's offspring had its mother's bill and webbed feet and its father's four legs and handsome brown fur. The Yugambeh people language people, the traditional custodians of lands in the South East Queensland and North East NSW, call the platypus 'wajin'.
Platypus can be found in:
- permanent freshwater rivers, creeks and pools
- coastal lowlands
- cold highlands
- tropical rainforests
- areas such as Mount Tamborine and the Lamington Plateau.
- artificial water bodies such as farm dams, particularly those close to natural waterways.
They live in burrows that they dig along the banks of freshwater rivers, creeks and pools. Several platypus may inhabit the same stretch of water but they are primarily solitary in behaviour. Their burrows:
- are often built along moderately undercut banks where vegetation overhangs the water
- may be quite complex, have many side branches and can be up to 30 metres long
- have nesting chambers that are used to lay eggs.
The elements that make a good platypus habitat include:
- a thick cover of healthy, native vegetation on the banks including trees, shrubs, reeds and sedges
- overhanging vegetation that assists in hiding burrow entrances
- varied bedrock layers with pools, crevices and grooves
- long, straight stretches of water containing logs and tree roots that extend into the water.
When hunting underwater, the platypus closes its eyes and ears. It relies on an electroreceptor system located in its bill. This helps it to detect the small flickers of electricity produced by the aquatic creatures on which it feeds. Platypus feed on freshwater water bugs such as insects, worms and yabbies. These water bugs live amongst pebbles, logs, sand and mud.
Platypus have very thick fur to keep them warm. To stay warm in the water, its fur must remain clean and waterproof. It cannot be covered by oils or other pollutants.
Platypus mate in spring and the offspring come out of their burrows in autumn. When breeding, the female blocks the entrance to her burrow with vegetation she collects with her tail. She does this every time she enters and exits the burrow.
A declining population – help us find out why
Although the platypus is officially classified as 'common but vulnerable' in Australia, it is not so common to see this animal in our city. This is due to human pressure and our city's urban footprint.
Our platypus population appears to be declining due to:
- habitat disruption
- water extraction
- waterway pollution
- illegal capture.
Platypus are also very shy animals. They are very good at hiding, especially during the day – so you may not see many.
PlatypusWatch is a community-based program from Watergum, supported by us. You can help:
- undertake platypus surveys
- promote and record platypus sightings
- assess platypus habitats.
Help us learn more about where platypus live and where they are disappearing to.
Report water pollution
As water pollution appears to be impacting our platypus, if you see any – act and contact us:
- report this problem with our online form
- call us on 07 5667 5988
Report water pollution