Platypus

Platypus, Australia

Platypus, Australia

Many people who live in Australia have never seen a platypus in the wild. They can be seen on the 20-cent coin, postage stamps of the past, and even as a mascot at national events.

 

But in the wild, the platypus eludes most people.

 

platypus

platypus

They are a unique egg-laying mammal with a large duck bill, fur and feet like otters, and a beaver-like paddle tail.

 

Only found in Australia, their unusual features baffled early naturalists, who didn’t know know how to characterize this “amphibious mole-like” animal (David Collins).

 

Other interesting features of the platypus include their ability to:

  • locate prey by detecting electric fields;
  • deliver venom powerful enough to kill smaller animals; and
  • use the front feet for propulsion, and the back feet and tail for steering.

 

platypus

platypus

Read more about the platypus here.

 

Our first trip Down Under, we spent an entire day at the Black Swamp searching for the platypus, to no avail.

 

Eleven years later, on our second trip, we made the playtpus a budgetary priority and hired a guide.

 

The guide drove us to a small river behind a housing development, where he had seen Ornithorhynchus anatinus before. It was 6 a.m., their hunting time.

 

Platypus print by John Gould, 1863. Courtesy Wikipedia.

When he told us what we had to do to see the “platy,” it was clear this wildlife adventure would be entirely without dignity.

 

Platypus are extremely shy and sensitive, so we could not utter a sound; and we could move only when the platypus was submerged.

 

If the platypus detected any movement, he would disappear into the riverbank mud.

 

Therefore, we had to freeze in place when the platypus lifted his head out of the water; and move only when he submerged.  “Just do as I do” said the guide.

 

Excellent swimmers, they paddle quickly along in the water hunting for crayfish and shrimp, their heads frenetically darting back and forth. After about a minute, they come up for air.

 

Within minutes we spotted one.  Below the water’s surface was the big bill and his 20-inch long (51 cm) body.

 

We tromped along the shore following him.

 

Then as soon as the animal lifted his head, came up for air…we stopped. Froze. When he’d go back under water, we’d run again.

 

Due to the rain, the grass was slippery and the trees limbs were hanging low.  So the three of us were ducking and sliding around, getting muddier by the moment. We each had on a backpack that was soaked and awkwardly swaying as we ran.

 

It would have helped to laugh at this silly escapade, but we couldn’t make a sound.

 

This stop-and-go game lasted for nearly one glorious hour, until it had become more light out. By then the platypus was done hunting, and people were heading for work and walking their dogs.

 

An elusive Australian mammal that lays eggs and looks like a duck, beaver, and otter…sure, I would make a fool of myself any day to see such a creature.

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Wicked WalkaboutAuthor’s Note: Jet’s mystery novel Wicked Walkabout is set in Australia. Purchase the e-book here for more Australian wildlife fun.

 

 

 

 

Distribution of the Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus).png

Platypus range, courtesy Wikipedia. Red=native, yellow=introduced.

 

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64 thoughts on “Platypus

  1. What an incredible experience seeing them in the wild. Friends have boasted in the past of having platypus on their properties but me thinks it was merely a bushman’s yarn!

  2. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck…It’s a Platy! (Aussy version)
    That’s animal is an almost impossible combination of other animals. How did it develop so? Great post Jet, as always! 🙂

    • I loved your Aussie version HJ, made me smile. And you’re right about their stupefying characteristics. The platypus has stumped naturalists and biologists for centuries — another reason to marvel at them. Enjoyed your comment, and always appreciate them. 🙂

  3. Thanks for this, Jet! Had me laughing along, reading about your efforts to spot a platypus – that’s commitment, and I’m glad you were rewarded. What a wonderful creature, and so uniquely strange. I always learn from your posts – I had no idea they are venomous.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • I’m glad to hear I had you laughing along on our silly riverside escapade, pc. It was a lot of fun and exactly what we wanted…to see a platypus in the wild. A joy to have you along for the adventure, my friend~~

    • I hope you do ask him. The platypus are in zoos and aquariums in Aus., but finding one in the wild is not common. If he has seen one in the wild, would you let me know, Christy? Many thanks for your fun visit~~

      • Hi Jet 🙂 My dad says he saw a platypus in the Adelaide Zoo in Australia. Cool! He didn’t ever see one in the wild though. Thanks for the fun conversation your post prompted between he and I. Great you were at the beach this weekend too. Hugs

      • Oh dear Christy, this was such a fun exchange, and really great to know about your dad’s platypus encounter. I’m glad it engaged you and your father, and I’m smiling big at the platypus who brought this all about. We had a great day at the coast, too, thank you. Many thanks!

  4. Everyone could use a platypus in their life. Today, in honor of my 29th birthday, I’m picking 29 random blog friends to send some extra special thoughts of love. Come visit my blog and say happy birthday if you wish, and keep spreading the love!

    • Oh how I enjoyed this comment, David. It was a funny scene with 3 of us, soaked, and trying to dart around and stay upright. If this wasn’t funny enough, then we stop and go, stop and go; first our arms and legs are flailing, then they’re frozen mid-air until the platypus swims on. Silly but effective. Thanks for your visit, it is much appreciated.

  5. What a wonderful experience! As a kid I remember acquiring the platypus stamp and treasuring it in awe. That was (can you believe) b4 internet, colour TV or mainstream travel programmes. The dark ages. The stamp was the closest I got! RH

    • I love hearing your platypus stamp story, RH; and I am glad your life is so surrounded by water and wild creatures, it is obviously well-suited to your adventurous spirit.

  6. Oh, what fun it would have been to watch the three of you cavorting along the shore…not to mention watching the platypus in the water! Fascinating.

  7. What an interesting and fascinating story, Jet! I love your drive and your passion to see one of the world’s most elusive creatures. What a thrill for you! This is one adventure (of many, I’m sure) that you will lovingly laugh about for years to come. Thanks for another great post! :))

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