Juvenile platypuses at risk from Victorian storms
04 December, 2017
With severe storms bringing widespread flooding to much of Victoria over the weekend, what impact may this have on platypuses? While adult platypuses probably cope with flood events quite well, recently hatched juveniles are extremely vulnerable.
Mating season for platypuses recently finished in the state (around August to October each year). Many adult females will have constructed an extensive burrow in the river bank, taken in nesting material and laid 1-2 small eggs. The eggs are incubated by the mother and hatch in approximately 10 days.
Therefore we expect many maternal burrows to contain small, unfurred nestling platypuses at this time of the year. Young platypuses are restricted to the burrow, completely dependent on their mother until emergence in late summer and very vulnerable to any disturbances to the burrow. Maternal burrows can be quite extensive and the mother will typically block the entrance with loose soil plugs. However, large increases in water levels can potentially flood burrows and displace or drown nestlings.
Although we can’t predict exactly how much of an impact the current floods may have, large summer rainfall events in previous years have been associated with low juvenile recruitment. The impacts are likely to be worse in urban areas where the changes in water levels are more severe. Hopefully our platypus populations have been able to ride out the storm but we won’t know until we see how many juveniles are recorded during our autumn surveys. Fingers crossed.
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