Let's look at the Platypus
There is no denying the Platypus is the most famous example of evolution to date, with their first discovery by European settlers in the late 1700s being suspected as a hoax due to their incredibly odd, seemingly borrowed appearance - so odd that they thought a duck's bill had been sewn onto a beaver.
Nowadays, we're able to freely see this marvel of a mammal, but we fail to notice how much we're taking their existence for granted.
Why so iconic?
Platypuses have been around for about 110 million years, thriving in eastern Australian waterways and Tasmania.
That being said, it developed similar traits from animals that were on the other side of the world. This is why the platypus is probably the most iconic example of convergent evolution - the evolution of shared traits without being related due to similar survival needs.
It has changed the way we see as normal, merging characteristics from ducks and beavers, but even crocodiles, snakes and otters.
A study by Deakin University scientists in 2018 even revealed their milk to have antibacterial properties that may be more effective than other drugs! Having such an incredible creature living on our land is something to be proud of, although this is unfortunately overlooked as all of these factors make it more popular for display purposes, often neglecting their environment and damaging their population.
What's actually happening?
The freshwater creeks are home to once widespread platypuses.
Unfortunately, we also depend on these very same freshwater creeks to provide drinkable and safe water, and our dependence on it has been damaging to our native flora and fauna.
While we build dams, pick at riverbank plants and pollute the water we "don't need" with chemicals and garbage, we are suffocating marine life, unknowingly suffocating ourselves in the future.
Some of these threats to platypuses were direct as well, being from yabby fishing. Our agriculture even destroys their burrows, lowering chances of breeding.
Case in point: the Tasmanian Tiger
Back before 1976, we once had the beautiful Tasmanian Tiger roaming the Tasmanian grasslands and eucalyptus forests.
Being so unique, they were hunted, and their habitat was also damaged while we were settling peacefully.
Once we realised what we had done to the species, it was too late to save them.
The platypus was also once hunted for their soft, waterproof coats.
They could be the next Tasmanian Tiger if we don't acknowledge them now before they're gone forever.
In fact, due to their independent behaviours, we still have a lot more to learn about the Platypus; so much so that the first step of breeding them has been limited in success.
How you can help
Taronga Conservation Society Australia announced in March there would be a platypus sanctuary built by 2022 at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in New South Wales to combat their extinction.
But there are many ways you can also help in saving their species.
The most efficient way I have found is to donate to adopt a platypus, such as Taronga's program.
Of course, there is another way to help platypuses without being expensive, even saving your own money: by reducing your water footprint. This involves taking shorter showers, minimal hose usage, being mindful of the tap while brushing your teeth, and recycling wherever possible.
The platypus is already listed as a threatened species in South Australia, but by doing just this, we could save the platypus from becoming a threatened species in Victoria if no changes are made as soon as possible.
Save the platypus.
- Paige Williams writes for The Courier's youth platform, SHOUT