Mapping the Platypus Century

More than 100 years of platypus observations for 277 waterways across the breadth of Tasmania are now available for download via the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network’s Eco-informatics’ ÆKOS data portal. The acronym ÆKOS stands for the Australian Ecological Knowledge and Observation System – they’re online at aekos.org.

Mucormycosis, caused by the fungal pathogen Mucor amphibiorum, has infected Tasmanian platypus for almost three decades. The disease causes skin lesions, morbidity and mortality. The Tasmanian Platypus Survey was conducted in 2008 and 2009 and aimed to

  • Document the distribution of the fungal disease mucormycosis in Tasmanian platypus through time and space.
  • Investigate influences of the fungal disease mucormycosis on the hematology, plasma biochemistry and other indicators of health in platypus.
  • Examine body size and demographic patterns in Tasmanian platypus.

The scientists responsible for collecting and compiling the information were Nick Gust and Josh Griffiths. The 2008-2009 live trapping surveys were undertaken to determine the spread, prevalence and persistence of the disease. In addition, demographic (sex, age), morphometric (body size) and health and moult condition of captured individuals were assessed. Furthermore, influences of mucormycosis on the hematology, plasma biochemistry and other indicators of health in platypus were investigated.

Methods included live trapping across three categories of waterways: those that were historically affected by mucormycosis, those that were possibly affected and those outside the known distribution of the disease.

Over 200 platypuses were caught and microchipped, measured, sexed and examined for health and condition indicators. These indicators included Tail Volume Index, fur moult status and evidence of parasites, and ulcers caused by mucormycosis.

The Tasmanian Platypus Survey dataset has been submitted into ÆKOS by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) and contains historic records from 1901 to 2007 that were compiled and analysed to run a comprehensive survey across Tasmania and King Island between 2008 and 2009.

Open-access via ÆKOS is, for the first time, enabling the general public and the ecosystem science community to view and download site data on platypus observations, collection methods and the relationship among observations.

The addition of the Tasmanian Platypus Survey to the ÆKOS data portal not only provides increased accessibility to the data set for researchers, but also contributes to the enduring knowledge base for this precious creature.

This is the first data set that DPIPWE has worked to make transparent within the ÆKOS Data Portal. Following its successful integration, the Agency is enthusiastic to identify further data sets that may be suitable for the ÆKOS Data Portal. The Agency is also working to integrate the Tasmanian Platypus Survey within their State information management system, the Natural Values Atlas.

Platypus Survey Data, Tasmania (1901 – 2009) contains 277 study locations – AEKOS Portal