Meet the bizarre but beautiful platypus, one of only 2 egg-laying mammals in the world (monotremes). SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is home to 2 female platypuses, and you'll find them as soon as you enter in the Freshwater Streams and Lakes area.
The platypus, *Ornithorhynchus anatinus*, belongs to the
smallest mammal order in the world, the monotremes, or egg-laying
mammals. The only other member of this exclusive club is another
Australian, the echidna.
Found only in eastern Australia, the platypus makes burrows in the steep banks of creeks and rivers and hunts for small prey such as shellfish, fish, tadpoles and insect larvae in deep pools.
Though the platypus can cope with conditions ranging from the humid heat of north-east Queensland to the snowy winters of Tasmania, this shy, protected animal is at risk from predators such as goannas, snakes, eagles, eels and feral animals, as well as destruction of its habitat, water pollution and illegal fishing nets.
The platypus habitat at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium recreates a typical deep-pool community of water life, including fish, turtles, lizards, shellfish and insects. Home to two female platypuses, Zoe and Jackie, the girls get along fine, however the male platypus is a territorial animal, which may use poison spurs on the heels of its hind legs to fight with other males over females and territory. There's enough venom in a spur to kill a small dog and, while females are also born with the spurs, they lose them at around one year of age.
The indigenous people of Australia have always had a special relationship with the land and water and tell many stories about how things came to be. These are known as Dreamtime stories.
In Dreamtime, the Platypus was set apart by ancestor spirits as uniquely important, because Byamee the sky-father who made all land and water animals and birds, had given Platypus a bit of every group. This made her very special, for whenever they saw a platypus, everyone would be reminded of Byamee. The platypus was never hunted and respected at all times.
Food is a big issue when you're keeping a platypus in captivity because to survive it needs to eat a third of its body weight in food each day. That might not sound like much, because the platypus is not very big - males weigh about 1.7kg and females 0.9kg - but, to put it into perspective, a saltwater crocodile, weighing hundreds of kilograms, will eat only a kilo of food a week. At SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, platypus are fed on a diet of yabbies, earthworms, blackworms and insect larvae, and are regularly weighed to ensure they're eating enough.
The platypus hunts by means of a unique receptor that enables it to detect small electrical fields generated by the muscle activity of small prey moving in the water. It's the only mammal that can do this.