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Despite being a renowned recluse, the platypus is one of Australia’s most recognised animals. With water-resistant fur, this semi-aquatic creature loves to frolic and play in the freshwater rivers and creeks it calls home. What an icon!
Here are 8 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 platypuses or from platypus stings.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. They’re mysterious.
No one knows why, but when these small brown creatures are put under UV lights, they give off a biofluorescent green-blue glow. Which is strange, but even stranger are the people who keep putting them under UV lights.
6. Platypuses are cute, but their babies are even cuter.
Which could be why the name for a baby platypus is a puggle. And a baby platypus who has one wizard parent and one human parent is a muggle puggle.
7. 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 conservation and restoration of platypus and their habitat.
You can help protect platypuses and their habitat by becoming a defender of the Unburnt Six.
SIGN THE PETITION
8. They’re real!
When platypuses were first discovered in 1798, British scientists thought they were a hoax created by putting 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!