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The Platypus at play

The Platypus at play

Posted on 27 July, 2015 in Yungaburra

Platypuses (not Platypi) are only found in Australia, and then only in a few parts of Australia, so how lucky are we that they can be found just minutes from our doorstep? It is such a thrill to walk along the creek and spot one in the creek. They are carnivorous and when they find something interesting, like shellfish, insects, larvae or worms, they scoop it up in their bills, store it in their cheek pouches and swim to the surface where they use the gravel and other hard matter they have scooped up to help grind their food into digestible pieces. So when walking, if you spot ripples moving along under the surface, and also often a trail of bubbles, freeze and watch the spot because you may well be rewarded with the sight of one of these marvellous creatures. 

The platypus uses its front feet to paddle through the water while the back feet help in steering along with the tail. When it moves on land, it curls its webbing under and walks on its knuckles. The bill, which actually isn't hard like a duck's bill is soft and leathery and sensitive to touch. This helps the platypus to find food and navigate in water.

Platypuses spend much of their their time hunting for food, and a hunt can last 10 to 12 hours. They are most active during night-time and dusk, so we send guests over to Petersen Creek at around 5.30 pm (and 6.30 am for the more adventurous). Despite being a mammal, the platypus lays eggs (only one of five types of mammals that does this) and they make burrows just above the water line where the female will lay and care for her eggs. The eggs develop inside the mother for about 28 days, then she will lay them and curl around them for about 10 days of external incubation.  She has no teats with which to feed, but secretes the milk via pores which pool along special groves found on her abdomen. It is from there that the platypus babies lick up their milk, instead of suckling on nipples. The newly hatched young are vulnerable, blind, and hairless and totally reliant on their mother for protection. It is not until around four months that the young emerge from the burrow.

Mating occurs between June and October, so we are in the best time of year to spot the honeymooners  as they engage in Platypus romance. So if you are stopping in Yungaburra, make sure you ask for a Petersen Creek map and take advantage of the opportunity to experience these delightful creatures!

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