Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Platypussy galore

One of the really cool things about evolution is that every so often it throws out something freakish. Most of the time, evolution produces similar solutions to the same problem all around the world, subtle variations upon the same theme. Every now and then however the availability of genetic material to build upon and the combinations of influencing factors combine to produce (over time) something utterly bewildering. There's one swimming around a pond in the video below.

It's not too clear in that video but this is an animal so bizarre that the first scientists to see its skin assumed it was a hoax sewn together from multiple species. If that's not enough of a giveaway it's one of these.

The platypus. I saw many, many platypuses on my recent aus trip partly because I'm a very lucky boy and partly because I had very good gen. Having been provided with a nailed on site for platypus I turned up there to find that it was closed for the day to give the platypuses a rest from viewing. Come back tomorrow they said. With that I headed on to Yungaburra, a quaint little village in the Atherton tablelands with a platypus viewing hide (and some other cool wildlife). After 2 hours of patient waiting I was rewarded with a 30 second glimpse of platypus in the dusk halflight. A magical moment but no photos. So the next day I returned to my first site - Tarzali Lakes. This is one of the most unique wildlife experiences I've ever had.


The lakes is an aquaculture centre growing various endemic aussie fish and crustaceans organically for the table. It just so happens that the resulting environment is a ridiculously perfect platypus home. There are now literally dozens living and breeding there, in fact many of the females were on their eggs (that's right: eggs) when I visited. Even so I got to see many platypuses at extremely close range in broad daylight behaving completely naturally.


A fair few cool birds about the place too. Platypus viewing is one of the great nature experiences. They are so freakish, so unique, that you can't hold back the sense of wonder. Old men and ladies become children again (I know because I watched them watch the platypuses), kids freak out, couples coo and hug each other. It's amazing and Tarzali Lakes is the most amazing place to do it (plus their homeproduced food is pretty special).

A couple of days later I was back at the Yungaburra watchpoint (which doubles as a meeting point for one of the local wildlife guides) showing some Japanese tourists the platypuses there (and a bonus barn owl) as I waited. Even after all the sightings of the previous day it was still magic.

1 comment:

Sally said...

Magic indeed is the only word for it. Thanks for these incredible views! Love the video...