Image: Derwent Estuary Program
Community type

Aquatic herbland

Habitat type

Tidal wetlands and macrophytes beds

This endemic Australian animal is an unusual mammal as it lays eggs, provides milk to their young directly through the skin, and is toothless. Also known as the ‘duck-billed’ platypus, they use their soft fleshy bill to sort through the debris and substrate at the bottom of wetlands, lakes and rivers. With a sideways head shaking motion they sift through material to find insects, crustaceans and worms, which they crush between two horny plates before ingesting.

Another unusual feature is the sharp spurs behind the hind legs of male platypus. These spurs are used for defence against predators, and injecting venom while inflicting a nasty wounds. Platypus are common in wetlands of the Derwent estuary, with up to five individuals sighted at the one time in Murphy’s Flat wetlands. They dig long and winding burrows in muddy banks where they rest and breed. Platypus are most often sighted swimming on the water’s surface, but will quickly disappear underwater when disturbed.

Much of the text within the species area of our website was written by Veronica Thorpe, as part of the Derwent River Wildlife Guide (2000).

The DEP has developed a variety of classroom and outdoor activities focused around the key estuary habitats of tidal wetlands, salt marshes and rocky reefs. These include classroom materials, online resources, interpretive walks, games and sensory experiences.