The Platypus and echidnas are the only survivors of a distinct subclass of mammals known as monotremes which lay small, soft-shelled eggs and suckle their young on milk from glands on the skin.
Platypuses live in freshwater bodies and streams. They are well adapted to the aquatic environment having webbed feet, dense waterproof fur, and a soft bill containing electroreceptors that pick up electrical signals emitted by their invertebrate prey.
Male Platypuses have a sharp, venomous spur on each ankle to jab rivals – and anyone quick enough to catch them – particularly in the breeding season.
Platypuses are moderately common and widespread. However, they are increasingly threatened by the disturbance and degradation of its habitat by human activities including clearing of native vegetation, river regulation, stream siltation and pollution.
If you check your change, you’ll find the Platypus appears on the standard twenty-cent coin. The Platypus is also the animal emblem of New South Wales.
Distribution: eastern Australia from north-eastern Queensland to Tasmania and south-eastern South Australia
Conservation status: Least Concern
Evolutionary distinctiveness: High