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Australian Native Species - Platypus Enumeration

Even though it's easy enough to find pictures of this Aussie native, tracking down the real thing in the wild is actually really difficult. But that's exactly what these guys are trying to do. Their goal is to put together the most accurate count of platypuses in the wild ever! Basically, a platypus census!

There could be anywhere between 10-thousand and a 100-thousand platypuses living along the east coast between Tassie and Queensland. But no one really knows exactly how many! That's partly because these cute little critters are nocturnal - meaning they mostly come out at night - and partly because they spend a lot of time underwater or in their burrows.

That combo means these scientists from the University of New South Wales will have to wait very patiently through lots of cold nights for the next three years to try to tally them all up!

The platypus is a really, really unusual animal. It belongs to a tiny group of mammals called 'monotremes', which only includes platypuses and echidnas!

While most mammals give birth to live young, monotremes lay eggs! They also have a few other odd traits, like the male platypus's venomous barb!

In dreamtime stories, Indigenous Australians describe the platypus as a cross between a duck and a rat. And because they're so unusual, when the first platypus was sent to scientists in England they thought it was a hoax - believing someone had stitched different animals together!

We've learned a lot about the platypus since then. But figuring out exactly how many are out there has proved tricky. And knowing how many are hiding in the wild is important.

Some are worried things like foxes, riverbank erosion, and even dams are threatening platypuses. So, by tallying up how many are out there, and where they're living, we could figure out better ways to protect them.

Well I guess we'll just leave the platypus count to the experts.

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Andy Chen
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