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Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat

Distribution

Only occurs in Australia

(Grant 2015; Woinarski and Burbidge 2016, and as noted)

  • Eastern mainland Australia
    • Limited occurrence in South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • King Island
  • Western Kangaroo Island
    • Introduced (Fleay 1944b)

Historical distribution

  • Hawke et al. (2019) show a substantial range reduction in mainland Australia has occurred since European settlement
    • Likely due to impacts of historic fur trade and other ongoing threats
  • Recent local extinctions in Victoria and New South Wales (Woinarski and Burbidge 2016)
  • South Australia
    • Populations severely reduced in the early 1900s due to hunting for fur (Grant 2015)
  • Western Australia
    • No evidence of natural occurrence (Grant 2015)

Habitat

Freshwater ecosystems of eastern Australia

(Grant 2015)

  • Permanent freshwater streams and associated banks (Grant 2015)
  • Shallow lakes (Grant 2015)
  • Isolated pools in ephemeral streams (Grant 2015)
  • Freshwater wetlands and adjacent riparian zones (Grant 2015)
  • Artificial water sources (Grant 2015, except as noted)
    • Water storage lakes
    • Weir pools
    • Artificial ponds
    • Farm dams (Otley 2001)
  • Occasionally, brackish areas of estuaries (Otley 2001; Rakick et al. 2001; Grant 2015)
  • Occasionally, caves for nesting (Grant 2007; Grant 2015)

Elevation range

  • In freshwater wetlands, tropical rainforest lowlands to high elevations of Tasmania and Australian Alps (Grant 2015)

Thermal environment

  • Depending on location, platypuses may experience water temperatures ranging from 0°C (32°F) (Tasmania) to 31°C (88°F) (Cooktown) (Nicol 2017)
  • Warm temperatures may limit the platypus’ range in northern Australia (Nicol 2017)

Habitat preferences

  • Seldom found away from water and riparian areas (Grant 2015)
  • Rarely observed moving on land in mainland Australia (Woinarski and Burbidge 2016)
    • Occasionally seen out of water in Tasmania
  • Burrows usually made in earthen stream banks (Serena 1994; Grant 2015; Woinarski and Burbidge 2016)

Platypus Distribution

Distribution map of the platypus

The platypus is endemic to Australia.

The platypus is not found throughout the range shown on maps like these—rather, it is only found in discrete (isolated) freshwater systems (Grant 2007).

Warm temperatures may limit the platypus' range in northern Australia.

Adapted from www.d-maps.com according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN).

Seldom Away From Water

Represenative stream habitat of the platypus

Platypuses are dependent on freshwater streams, pools, and associated banks.

Platypuses show resiliency to habitat disturbance, but are vulnerable to poor land and watershed management practices.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

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