Wildlife Wednesday: Duck-Billed Platypus
Do they even need an introduction? This Wildlife Wednesday, we get to learn a little more about the now-famous platypus!
This semi-aquatic animal is so funny looking that, when it was first discovered in 1797, scientists thought it was a hoax! This Wildlife Wednesday, we’re talking about the part-duck, part-beaver creature and why researchers think its numbers might be dwindling.
Platypuses are found in Tasmania as well as eastern Australia. They make their homes around ponds, streams, and other bodies of fresh water.
- Platypuses have earned many alternative names—including “duckmole,” “duckbill,” and “watermole”— which they, in all likelihood, earned due to their rather unique appearance.
- As it turns out, platypuses are neither omnivores (like a duck) nor herbivores (like a beaver). Their diet normally consists of fish eggs, mollusks, tadpoles, and many other tasty treats that they find at the bottoms of lakes or streams.
- Adding to the proof that almost anything from Australia is dangerous, male platypuses have poisonous spurs attached to their hind legs. While not deadly to humans, the venom released by these spurs can be extremely painful.
- However, they’re slightly less terrifying when you learn that a baby platypus is known as a “puggle.” How cute is that!
Why they’re threatened
Although the IUCN has listed these fuzzy little bug munchers as “least concern,” researchers have noted that the platypus population has declined—or even disappeared—in areas across Australia and Tasmania.
While they might be incredibly (and surprisingly) well adapted for their semi-aquatic lifestyle, they aren’t as adaptable to water pollution or the habitat degradation caused by poorly managed agricultural or forestry practices. Other hazards include fish nets, which may trap and drown unwitting platypuses, as well as cars and dogs.