Thursday, 26 March 2015

Exceptional View of a Platypus

Yesterday I went down to Fern Glade (in Burnie, Tasmania) for a bit of birding but I soon found myself sidetracked.  I couldn't believe my luck when a Platypus hauled itself out onto a log to have a good old scratch. I didn't have the tripod so I leaned against a tree to try to steady the camera. After ten minutes my arm was aching trying to hold it still but at the same time I was smiling from ear to ear. It was one of those singular experiences where you get to share the moment with an otherwise secretive animal. 



For anyone not familiar with this semi-aquatic mammal, the Platypus is a bit of a zoological enigma.  When the first specimens were sent to Europe, many thought it was some sort of clever taxidermic hoax. An egg laying mammal with webbed feet, a duck-like bill, and a beaver's tail. The male even has venomous spurs on the hind limbs. (You can see these spurs in the video.)


(If you are not interested in the next section on the naming of the Platypus then you may want to scroll down for a poem by Banjo Paterson.)

The Naming of the Platypus

A quick search on the web came up with several aboriginal names for the Platypus. They include, Oonah, Boondaburra, Biladurang, Mallingong and Tambreet.

Other European names are, Duckbill, Duck-billed platypus, Duckmole, and Watermole,

Interestingly, the current common name, Platypus, is actually from the original scientific name.  Dr George Shaw named it Platypus anatinus back in 1799.

     Platy - from the Greek platýs meaning flat
     Pus - from the Greek poús meaning foot
     Anatinus - Anatis is latin for duck. Anatinus means, "concerning a duck"

So we have a flat footed duck like animal.

Unfortunately, the name Platypus had already been used six years earlier by Johann  Herbst for a group of, fungus farming,  weevils (quite a few of which are found here in Australia). The name was therefore changed to Ornithorhynchus anatinus.

 The original Platypus, a Weevil - Platypus cylindrus
Picture from British Entomology Vol 2 Plate51 Author John Curtis (1791–1862)

Ornithorhynchus was the name given by Professor Johann Blumenbach of Germany in 1800. Both Shaw and Blumenbach gave this animal descriptive names based on the animals duck-like bill. The full name given by Blumenbach was Ornithorhynchus paradoxus.

     Ornitho - from Greek ornis or ornith meaning bird.
     rhynchus - from the Greek rhýnchos meaning bill or snout.
     paradoxus - as in the English word paradox.

So we have a bird billed (Duck-billed) animal with the name  paradoxus  reflecting the contradictory nature of the animals appearance.

Mark Twain quotes a New Zealand Naturalist who seems to have his own name for the Platypus ( as well as his own system of trinomial nomencalature). He calls it Ornithorhynchus
Platypus Extraordinariensis.

This naturalist (who is known simply as Christian) was apparently a bit of a poet and Twain quotes the following verses about the platypus:

"Come forth from thy oozy couch,
O Ornithorhynchus dear!
And greet with a cordial claw
The stranger that longs to hear

"From thy own lips the tale
Of thy origin all unknown:
Thy misplaced bone where flesh should be
And flesh where should be bone;

"And fishy fin where should be paw,
And beaver-trowel tail,
And snout of beast equip'd with teeth
Where gills ought to prevail.

Of course our own Banjo Paterson also wrote poetry about the Platypus:

Old Man Platypus

(Banjo Paterson  -  1933)

Far from the trouble and toil of town,
Where the reed beds sweep and shiver,
Look at a fragment of velvet brown,
Old Man Platypus drifting down,
Drifting along the river.

And he plays and dives in the river bends
In a style that is most elusive;
With few relations and fewer friends,
For Old Man Platypus descends
From a family most exclusive.

He shares his burrow beneath the bank
With his wife and his son and daughter
At the roots of the reeds and the grasses rank;
And the bubbles show where our hero sank
To its entrance under water.

Safe in their burrow below the falls
They live in a world of wonder,
Where no one visits and no one calls,
They sleep like little brown billiard balls
With their beaks tucked neatly under.

And he talks in a deep unfriendly growl
As he goes on his journey lonely;
For he's no relation to fish nor fowl,
Nor to bird nor beast, nor to horned owl;
In fact, he's the one and only!

linked with : Saturdays Critters    and    Our World Tuesday


  1. You were extremely lucky to spend that much time with the platypus.Terrific video.

  2. Thanks Neil - Especially lucky considering this was at around midday. (Not the best time for Platypus spotting)

  3. Such an incredible looking animal.

  4. Thank for the comment Adam Jones. They certainly are!

  5. Fascinating animal and great video. Have a great weekend.

  6. Thanks Margaret. You too.

  7. Wow, cool sighting of the Platypus. Awesome sighting and video..Thank you for linking up! Have a happy weekend!

  8. What a fascinating animal! Great video capture.

  9. Fantastic video! You just want to reach in there with a back scratcher and help him out! :-) And they swim pretty fast. I was entranced to get to see this animal one almost never sees or hears about. Your info was great, but I especially loved the two poems!

  10. Awesome video of the platypus! It's an adorable critter.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this really special footage. I will never, ever see one in the wild so this is the next best experience.

  12. I didnt know there was a Weevil - Platypus I like learning new things :)
    LOVED watching the video and hearing the birds in it too :)

  13. Thanks for commenting eileeninmd, Pat, Linda M Carmean, Gunilla Bäck, Fun60, and Jen Massey.

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Platypus weevils are new to me too :-)


  14. Wonderful and fascinating video of the platypus and great post!

    Happy Week to you,
    artmusedog and carol

  15. The Platypus is such an unusual animal. - Margy

  16. Thank you carol l mckenna and Powell River Books.