Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Elusive Platypus

As I mentioned in my last post, after leaving the farm I headed down south to Paluma where I volunteered on a JCU project studying platypuses. The researcher, Stephen Kolomyjec, is investigating platypus population genetics - how the platypuses in different areas are related to one another and the extent to which gene flow occurs between areas and that kind of thing.

So I spent a fairly relaxed week staying in Paluma and heading out to Hidden Valley every afternoon or morning to attempt to trap some platypuses. The valley is on the western side of the Paluma range and, because of the rain-shadow effect, is quite dry and covered in open sclerophyll forest. In the afternoons, at certain spots on the Running River, we would put gill and fyke nets in place then sit back and wait, checking the nets regularly. It got quite cold at night (once it got down to 10 degrees C) and I was really feeling it, being acclimatised to a much warmer clime!

Unfortunately my first hand experience didn't amount to much - we only caught a single female in our six nights of trapping! It was great to see and hold that one though. The fur and beak are really quite incredible.

Suspicious of mammals...

I did learn a lot about platypuses through chatting with Stephen, so I'll relate a couple of random facts that I found interesting.

 - There's a gap in the distribution of platypuses between Mackay and Townsville

 - FNQ platypuses are puny compared to their southern relatives - those from Tassie are about three times as heavy!

 - The ear-hole is located right behind the eye

 - Apparently you really don't want to get spurred by the males

 - Body temperature is a cool 32 degrees C, so in the North overheating can be a real problem.

Though the platypuses seemed a bit thin on the ground, the area did seem rich in mammals. Squirrel gliders visiting tree wounds. Bettongs and bandicoots bounding around the undergrowth. Dingos howling in the distance. Some sort of dunnart-like thing. I even saw my second ever feathertailed glider zipping up a tree! And of course the ever-present brushtailed possum.

Reptile wise, it was a bit cold and the only thing of interest was this gecko which I've not identified yet due to laziness:

Pretty though! Frog-wise too it was a bit quiet, just a few common species around.

All in all it was a pleasant if rather uneventful week! After Paluma I headed back to Townsville for a night to meet a friend, then it was back on the road again.


yen said...

I love you you do for hobby, that said I don't know how to handle animal. Keep it up and I hope more people will visit your site for nature awareness.

Cialis said...

That platypus is so adorable!