During the hours of daylight, the platypus remains in an individual, oval-shaped burrow, dug three to eight metres into an earth bank (8). Emerging at dusk, it spends most of the night foraging in shallow water for bottom-dwelling invertebrates, such as crustaceans, worms and molluscs and the larvae of freshwater insects (3) (8). Throughout the 20 to 40 second dives, the platypus probes the muddy bottom with its highly sensitive bill, aided by an array of electro-receptors capable of detecting the small muscle activity of prey (3) (6) (7) (8).
Although platypus home ranges often overlap, these solitary animals generally only come together to mate (7) (8). Breeding occurs from late winter to spring, with mating taking place in the water (3) (8). Around 21 days after mating, the female lays from one to three, leathery-shelled eggs in an elaborate nesting burrow, up to 30 metres long and comprised of multiple chambers (6) (7) (8). The tiny, naked young hatch after an incubation period of just 10 days, but remain in the burrow for three to four months, during which time they feed on milk sucked from the fur around the female’s mammary glands (3) (6) (8). Emerging from the burrow in summer, the young enter the water and begin to feed on the benthic organisms on which the adults thrive (3). In the wild the platypus may live for up to 20 years (1).