Courtesy of: The Australian Platypus Conservancy
Diet Return to Platypus Page
- A platypus must eat relatively large quantities of food to survive - equivalent to about 15-30% of a given animal's body weight each day.
- Because platypus usually defecate in the water, their droppings are only rarely encountered. However, after analysing bits of food remaining in the animals' cheek pouches, scientists have concluded that the platypus diet mainly consists of - freshwater invertebrates such as shrimps, worms, yabbies, pea-shell mussels, and immature and adult aquatic insects (including mayflies, dragonflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, aquatic beetles, and water bugs).
- Small frogs and fish eggs are also eaten occasionally, along with some terrestrial insects that fall into the water from overhanging vegetation.
- A small amount of aquatic vegetation may possibly be ingested by platypus when feeding.
- However, it is unlikely that this constitutes a significant part of their diet, particularly as vegetable matter would not provide sufficient energy to fuel the active life-style of the platypus.
Feeding behaviour Return to Platypus Page
- The platypus hunts in the water, mostly at night.
- Hearing and vision are therefore of little use in detecting the small aquatic invertebrates on which the animals primarily feed. Reflecting this fact, a platypus protects its eyes and ears by automatically closing them underwater and instead relies on its bill to locate prey.
- The upper and lower bill surfaces are packed with hundreds of receptors which respond to touch and the tiny electric currents produced when invertebrates move in the water.
- These receptors are also believed to be vital to the platypus's ability to navigate successfully among rocks and other obstacles when submerged.
- Platypus are specifically adapted to forage in the water and there are no reliable records of the animals feeding on dry land, although they sometimes search for prey at the water's edge by digging under rocks or among the roots of streamside plants.
- While diving, the platypus temporarily stores small food items in special cheek pouches. When the animal returns to the surface to breathe, the food is ground up very finely between rough pads located inside the bill.
- While juvenile platypus have proper teeth, these fall out soon after the young first enter the water.
- The tail of the platypus stores fat for periods of low food supply, or for when the female burrows to breed.
Nocturnal behaviour Return to Platypus Page
- Platypus are active mainly at night.
- However, they can sometimes be seen feeding during daylight hours, especially in areas where the animals are very numerous or when the sky is overcast.
Hibernation/torpor Return to Platypus Page
- Platypus do not appear to hibernate, but observations in both captivity and the wild suggest that some individuals may periodically enter a state of torpor in which the animals allow their body temperature to drop, remaining inactive for up to about six days.
- Almost nothing is known of the conditions which trigger this behaviour, apart from the fact that it has only been recorded in the colder months of the year (late May to early September).