The duckbill does well

Posted on December 9, 2010


As one of only two living types of egg-laying mammal and the owner of a unique combination of physical features, the platypus is one of the most distinctive vertebrates.  Like other freshwater species, platypus are vulnerable to the damaging effects of habitat degradation, pollution and pest invasions, and these impacts are probably the reason why the species is now extinct in mainland South Australia.  In 1988, in an attempt to reintroduce platypus to this area, a small population was established in a purpose-built, two-kilometre long constructed wetland in the Warrawong fauna sanctuary at Mylor.  Twenty years later, the platypus population had grown to from six to ten individuals through natural reproduction, despite the fact that water quality in the wetland was poor, with a high nutrient load and low levels of oxygen, pH and invertebrate diversity.  On this evidence, it seems that unpolluted water is a less critical requirement for platypus survival than favourable biophysical factors.  Beneficial features of the wetland habitat included permanent flowing water, gravel bottoms, overhanging vegetation, consolidated banks with undercut edges, and ample supplies of suitable insect prey. 

Reference:  Stannard, H.J., Wolfenden, J. & Old, J.M.  2010.  Evaluating the capacity of constructed wetlands to sustain a captive population of platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus).  Australasian Journal of Environmental Management 17, 27-34.

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