University of Melbourne Magazine

DNA detectives: On the trail of the platypus

  • A platypus in water.

    University of Melbourne researchers in collaboration with San Diego Zoo Global, Cesar and several state agencies are using traces of platypus DNA left in the wild to track down dwindling populations.

    Advances in genetic sequencing technologies are allowing the researchers to detect animals in their habitats without direct encounters. The technology has been used to launch the largest investigation of platypus populations ever undertaken.

    Considering the difficulty of detecting platypuses in the wild, exacerbated by population decline and localised extinctions in some areas, the research is providing a more affordable and logistically viable way to shed light on their true conservation status and the impacts of major threats to the platypus on a large scale.

    The project will also enable analysis of why populations have declined in areas where they once thrived, informing actions to conserve this unique, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, egg-laying Australian mammal.

    Read more: On the DNA trail of the platypus