Melbourne Zoo

Platypus

A visit to Melbourne Zoo is a chance to see one of Australia’s most fascinating native animals, normally very shy of humans, up close.

Platypus are not presently at risk as a species. However, these animals rely on the health of the waterways in which they live. You can help preserve a healthy environment for Platypuses by using phosphate-free detergents and reducing or eliminating your use of plastic bags, which are deadly for the animals of our creeks, rivers and seas. Opera house nets, although illegal, are taking a horrible toll on Victoria’s wild Platypus population.

Meeting the Platypuses at Melbourne Zoo is an important way to connect with the animals of Australia, and to learn about the Zoo’s conservation programs, especially those aimed at conserving threatened native species. The money you spend helps to support the Zoo’s conservation programs and fight species extinction.  

Platypuses have thick brown fur, which traps an insulating layer of air next to their skin. Males grow to a length of about 60cm, females 50cm. Males have a venomous spur on the inside of their hind leg.

The soft bill of the Platypus resembles that of a duck, but is covered with soft, leathery skin containing sensitive nerves that can detect faint electrical fields generated by the small aquatic animals that they prey on. This electroreception is unique among mammals.

Platypuses are most active early morning and late evening and spend most of the day in a burrow. The front paws are webbed and are used like paddles. When swimming, their eyes and ears are closed, and the sensitive bill sweeps from side to side searching for electrical impulses of their prey. Platypuses can stay underwater for several minutes and store food in their cheeks before coming to the surface to grind it up and swallow.

Echidna species and Platypus are the only animals in the Monotremata order: mammals that lay eggs.

Did you know?
  • The Platypus makes a soft growling sound when disturbed
  • Adult Platypuses do not have teeth, having instead horny plates in their mouth to crush the food. Young Platypuses have molar teeth, which they lose as they mature
  • The Platypus is widespread in eastern Australia and common in Tasmania
  • Platypuses don’t have teats, releasing milk through pores in the skin instead. They have grooves on their abdomens where the milk pools, allowing the young to lap it up 
  • Litter from humans, such as plastic bags or fishing lines, can trap and kill Platypuses