Platypus in Profile

Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)


The platypus is unique to Australia with natural populations identified in New South Wales, the ACT, Queensland, Tasmania and an introduced population on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. It is a monotreme, which is a mammal that lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young.

They make their homes in the banks of freshwater rivers or lakes, and create burrows for shelter and protection. They are active mainly at night and feed on insect larvae, worms or other freshwater insects. They use their bill to locate these animals on the bottom of the lake or river and store their findings in cheek pouches. 

When swimming, a platypus will have its eyes shut. They can swim underwater for 2 minutes, before returning to the surface for air, but normally dive for 30 seconds to 1 minute. They can however stay underwater for up to 10 minutes but only if they wedge themselves under a rock or log and don’t use up too much energy swimming around.

The platypus, which can grow up to 60 cms in length and weigh between 1- 3 kilograms, has two layers of  fur in its coat that trap a layer of air to keep the animal warm.  They can live up to 21 years.

The male platypus is larger than the female and they mate once a year between July and October. The female lays between 1 – 3 eggs and incubates these for a 10 day period. When a young platypus is born, it feeds on milk from its mother. 

The platypus biggest threats are foxes and dogs but they may sometimes also fall victim to large eagles or owls.  Another big threat to the platypus is man, via waterway pollution or land clearing and the use of illegal traps in our rivers and streams.

The male platypus has a hollow spur about 15 millimetres in length on the inside of both hind ankles. This in turn is connected to a venom gland. The males use their spurs to fight in the breeding season but they can also be used to defend against predators.