8 Videos of Platypodes in the Wild


When it comes to people, the platypus is pretty shy, and human encounters in the wild are rare. Here are a few people who got lucky enough to see these extraordinary creatures in the great outdoors, captured it on video, and put it on the Internet for the rest of us to enjoy.

1. Hobart, Tasmania

Max Moller is proof that sometimes, patience is rewarded. The Tasmanian filmmaker had spent seven years trying to make a movie about platypodes and had only 30 seconds of footage to show for it when, one day, his assistant saw something moving through the grass. "Thinking it was some huge lizard, we couldn't believe it when we saw this platypus walking between one creek to another," Moller told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "Filming platypus is one of the hardest tasks ever but sometimes the luck is on your side and, with the amazing job from my assistant, we have managed to film this animal for around five minutes." Much of the footage captured of platypodes shows them in water, so this video is even more extraordinary; scientists from the Natural History Museum in London plan to use it to study the animal's movements.

2. Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

A lucky hiker captured this footage of a friendly baby male platypus in 2007. Good thing this little boy was friendly: The male platypus is venomous; it uses spikes on its hind feet to deliver the toxin. It's not fatal to humans, but the pain has been described as excruciating.

3. Mole Creek, Tasmania

Like something out of The Secret, this YouTuber was walking with a friend "through this wonderful creeky bushland" in Tasmania and "mentioned how cool it would be to see a platypus (as it seemed to be the ideal habitat for them)." And then, a platypus appeared!

Just how did this creature come by its interesting name? George Shaw, the first person to describe the creature in his 1799 book Naturalist's Miscellany, named it Platypus anatinus, from Greek and Latin words meaning "flat-footed" and "duck-like." But the story doesn't end there: The following year, scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach suggested that the platypus be called Ornithorhynchus paradoxus, meaning "bird-like snout" and "puzzling." Then, as it turned out, Platypus had already been used to describe a group of beetles, so a new name was needed for Australia's strangest creature, which was created by combining Shaw's and Blumenbach's scientific names to get Ornithorhynchus anatinus. Platypus became the animal's common name.

4. Carnarvon Gorge, Australia

Ken Murray got footage of both platypus and wild pigs in this video, uploaded earlier this year. "Enjoy these playful Platypus in Carnarvon Gorge, Australia," he writes on the YouTube page. "They are very hard to film, because they are so shy and wary of any different movement or shapes and things. These wild pigs are also very wary of any strangers in their territory, as you will see!"

5. Mt. Field National Park, Tasmania

Evan Wels "spotted this playful platypus looking for food at dusk in July 2009 below Russell Falls" and shot footage of it using a Nikon D9. Platypodes use their bills, which are equipped with mechanoreceptors, to find food. They have no teeth, so they scoop up larvae, insects, worms, and shellfish off the bottom along with some gravel and mud, which they store in their cheek pouches and mash on the surface. Another fun fact: Platypodes don't have stomachs.

6. Kiewa River, NE Victoria, Australia

"Who said platypus are shy?" This YouTuber asked. "This little baby defied the rules and put on a great performance!" Fun fact: When these monotremes' eggs hatch, the female provides them with milk—but not through nipples. Instead, she secretes the milk through her areolae in two places, and the babies lap it up directly from her skin.

7. Tasmania

Jason Maraschiello uploaded this video of a platypus hanging out in shallow water in June 2013. The best time to spot platypodes is early in the morning or late in the day.

8. Queensland, Australia

In the 19th century, the platypus was described as keeping its body "flat as a plank" in the water, and from this footage of a platypus swimming in Johnston River, uploaded just two months ago, you can see that description is accurate.

BONUS: Hand-feeding a Platypus

And I'd be remiss if I didn't leave you with this adorable video of some lucky person hand feeding and playing with a platypus at the Victoria, Australia-based Healesville Sanctuary.

Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Gophers and Groundhogs?
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)

Gophers and groundhogs. Groundhogs and gophers. They're both deceptively cuddly woodland rodents that scurry through underground tunnels and chow down on plants. But whether you're a nature nerd, a Golden Gophers football fan, or planning a pre-spring trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you might want to know the difference between groundhogs and gophers.

Despite their similar appearances and burrowing habits, groundhogs and gophers don't have a whole lot in common—they don't even belong to the same family. For example, gophers belong to the family Geomyidae, a group that includes pocket gophers (sometimes referred to as "true" gophers), kangaroo rats, and pocket mice.

Groundhogs, meanwhile, are members of the Sciuridae (meaning shadow-tail) family and belong to the genus Marmota. Marmots are diurnal ground squirrels, Daniel Blumstein, a UCLA biologist and marmot expert, tells Mental Floss. "There are 15 species of marmot, and groundhogs are one of them," he explains.

Science aside, there are plenty of other visible differences between the two animals. Gophers, for example, have hairless tails, protruding yellow or brownish teeth, and fur-lined cheek pockets for storing food—all traits that make them different from groundhogs. The feet of gophers are often pink, while groundhogs have brown or black feet. And while the tiny gopher tends to weigh around two or so pounds, groundhogs can grow to around 13 pounds.

While both types of rodent eat mostly vegetation, gophers prefer roots and tubers (much to the dismay of gardeners trying to plant new specimens), while groundhogs like vegetation and fruits. This means that the former animals rarely emerge from their burrows, while the latter are more commonly seen out and about.

Groundhogs "have burrows underground they use for safety, and they hibernate in their burrows," Blumstein says. "They're active during the day above ground, eating a variety of plants and running back to their burrows to safety. If it's too hot, they'll go back into their burrow. If the weather gets crappy, they'll go back into their burrow during the day as well."

But that doesn't necessarily mean that gophers are the more reclusive of the two, as groundhogs famously hibernate during the winter. Gophers, on the other hand, remain active—and wreck lawns—year-round.

"What's really interesting is if you go to a place where there's gophers, in the spring, what you'll see are what is called eskers," or winding mounds of soil, Blumstein says [PDF]. "Basically, they dig all winter long through the earth, but then they tunnel through snow, and they leave dirt in these snow tunnels."

If all this rodent talk has you now thinking about woodchucks and other woodland creatures, know that groundhogs have plenty of nicknames, including "whistle-pig" and "woodchuck," while the only nicknames for gophers appear to be bitter monikers coined by Wisconsin Badgers fans.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

Watch Christmas Island’s Annual Crab Migration on Google Street View

Every year, the 45 million or so red crabs on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island migrate en masse from their forest burrows down to the ocean to mate, and so the female crabs can release their eggs into the sea to hatch. The migration starts during the fall, and the number of crabs on the beach often peaks in December. This year, you don’t have to be on Christmas Island to witness the spectacular crustacean event, as New Atlas reports. You can see it on Google Street View.

Watching the sheer density of crabs scuttling across roads, boardwalks, and beaches is a rare visual treat. According to the Google blog, this year’s crabtacular finale is forecasted for December 16, and Parks Australia crab expert Alasdair Grigg will be there with the Street View Trekker to capture it. That is likely to be the day when crab populations on the beaches will be at their peak, giving you the best view of the action.

Crabs scuttle across the forest floor while a man with a Google Street View Trekker walks behind them.

Google Street View is already a repository for a number of armchair travel experiences. You can digitally explore remote locations in Antarctica, recreations of ancient cities, and even the International Space Station. You can essentially see the whole world without ever logging off your computer.

Sadly, because Street View isn’t live, you won’t be able to see the migration as it happens. The image collection won’t be available until sometime in early 2018. But it’ll be worth the wait, we promise. For a sneak preview, watch Parks Australia’s video of the 2012 event here.

[h/t New Atlas]


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