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Early response of the platypus to climate warming


Jenny Davis, tel. + 61 399051063, fax + 61 399055613, e-mail:


Combining a climatic envelope modelling technique with more than two centuries (1800–2009) of distribution records has revealed the effects of a changing climate on the egg-laying monotreme, the platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus. We show that the main factor associated with platypus occurrence switched from aquatic habitat availability (estimated by rainfall) to thermal tolerances (estimated by annual maximum temperature) in the 1960s. This correlates directly with the change in the annual maximum temperature anomaly from cooler to warmer conditions in southeastern Australia. Modelling of platypus habitat under emission scenarios (A1B, A2, B1 and B2) revealed large decreases (>30%) in thermally suitable habitat by 2070. This reduction, compounded by increasing demands for water for agriculture and potable use, suggests that there is real cause for concern over the future status of this species, and highlights the need for restoration of thermal refugia within the platypus’ modelled range.