17 July, 2009


The Platypus is unique in the true sense of the word. Another overused word is icon but in this case I think it is apt to say that the Platypus is an Australian icon.
As an egg laying mammal it blongs in the sub-class of monotremes. The other living family of monotremes are the echidnas.Stephen Kolomyjec from James Cook University has been studying their genetices. To do this he must catch the animals. Here he is setting his nets in the late afternoon as most activity will occur around dusk and dawn.
Once a Platypus is in the net it must be retrieved. As there are no weights on the net there is no rush as the animal can swim to the surface to breathe. However Stephen is keen to avoid stressing the animals.
Holding it by the tail, he frees it from the net. Into the bag it goes. The gloves are in case it is a male. Males have a spine on their hind leg, linked to a venom gland. Envenomation can produce a lot of pain for the unwary researcher.
Back on land the young female is measured and microchipped.
Have a look at her front feet. Beyond the long claws the webbing extends to make a huge paddle. Most of the swimming effort is made with the front legs.
Once I was explaining to a group of tourists that the Platypus was the only venemous Australian mammal. A fellow towads the back said, "Bullshit," just loudly enough for me to hear. As we left the site I asked him which other Australian mammal was venomous. He turned to his companion and said, "He obviously has not met my first wife!"

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