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What is the correct plural of platypus? Platypuses or platypi?
Easily the most commonly asked question. While most people seem to prefer platypi, the correct term is platypuses. Platypus is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘flat foot’, therefore the correct plural ending is ‘es’ (although apparently the more correct greek term is platypodes). The ‘i’ ending is used for words with a Latin origin. Platypus is also commonly used as a plural itself (similar to sheep).
How many platypuses live in this creek/river/area?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to answer this. There is currently no reliable way of estimating absolute numbers of platypus in a given area. While numbers may be quoted in the media or popular science, they are, at best, an educated guess. Platypuses can’t be individually identified by sight and are mostly active at night so visual surveys are ineffective at estimating platypus numbers and can really only confirm presence in an area. Live trapping surveys are difficult, do not capture all animals in an area (and it is unknown what proportion of animals are captured although a larger trapping effort will result in a greater proportion captured), and will sometimes fail to detect platypuses even when they are known to be present in the area. Platypuses are also highly mobile and have a tendency to avoid nets after their initial capture. This behaviour violates the assumptions of mark-recapture models and renders these estimates unreliable.
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