11 Apr 2024


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Despite being a renowned recluse, the platypus is one of Australia’s most recognised animals. With water-resistant fur, this semiaquatic loves to frolic and play in the freshwater rivers and creeks it calls home. What an icon!

Here are 9 things you might not know about the platypus.

1. Platypuses are venomous.

They might look cute and cuddly but come across a male platypus in mating season and you’ll be in for a painful shock. Male platypuses have a hollow spur on each hind leg connected to a venom secreting gland, and while their venom is lethal, there are no recorded deaths from platypus stings.

2. The plural of platypus is.... platypus?

The common name of the species comes from the Greek platys, meaning flat, and pous, meaning foot. If we were to follow the Greek plural rules, the plural of platypus should be platypodes; however, the term has never really become mainstream. In several dictionaries, the accepted plural is ‘platypuses’ or ‘platypus’ when used in certain scientific and conservation contexts.

What do you think the plural of platypus should be? Let us know on our social channels!

Close up of a platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) bill
© slowmotiongli - stock.adobe.com

3. They give sharks a run for their money – at least as far as electroreception is concerned.

Like a shark, the platypus uses electronic impulses to detect underwater prey and locate objects in the darkest depths of the creeks and rivers they call home. They feed on insect larvae, freshwater shrimps, worms and yabbies, which they bring to the surface to eat.

4. Platypuses lay eggs.

Despite being a mammal, platypuses lay eggs – making them a monotreme. They’re one of only five monotreme species left in existence.

5. They’re over-dressers.

With two layers of fur – for insulation and waterproofing, platypuses use their fur to trap a layer of air next to their skin so they can remain buoyant and dry when they’re underwater, which they are a lot. The platypus spends about 12 hours every day underwater looking for food.

A platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) relaxing by the river on the grass
A platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) relaxing by the river on the grass © Clive - stock.adobe.com

6. They’re mysterious.

No one knows why, but when these small brown creatures are put under UV lights, they give off a biofluorescent blue-green glow. Which is strange, but even stranger are the people who keep putting them under UV lights.

7. Platypuses are cute, but their babies are even cuter.

Wildlife carer Margit Cianelli holding a platypus orphan
© Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

This could be why baby platypus are often called 'puggles'. Could they get any cuter? Platypus puggles don’t stay puggles for long, though. They typically leave their nesting burrows after four months, after which they are referred to as juvenile platypus.

8. They’re even harder to spot now than they used to be.

Prolonged droughts, bushfires, a changing climate and landclearing have impacted the platypuses' habitat and decreased their population. So, if we don’t want the modern platypus to go the same way as their seventy centimetre long ancestors, it’s more important than ever to work towards the conservation and restoration of platypus and their habitat.

9. They’re real!

A duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) swims in a river in northeast Tasmania
© Kevin - stock.adobe.com

When platypuses were first discovered in 1798, British scientists thought they were a hoax created by combining parts of different animals together – webbed feet and a bill like a duck, a body like an otter and a tail like a beaver. But the joke was on them, the platypus is real and it is awesome!

Platypus are disappearing from our landscapes. You can help bring them back.