Is body size variation in the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) associated with environmental variables?

Elise Furlan, J Griffiths, Nick Gust, R. Armistead, P. Mitrovski, K. A. Handasyde, M. Serena, A. A. Hoffmann, A. R. Weeks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The body size of the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is known to vary across both its latitudinal range and relatively short geographic distances. Here we consider how variation in platypus length and weight associates with environmental variables throughout the species' range. Based on data from over 800 individuals, a Bergmann's cline (increased body size in regions of lower temperature) was detected across the species latitudinal range. The opposite association, however, was present at smaller scales when comparing platypus body size and temperature within southern mainland Australia, or within an individual river basin. Temperature regimes alone clearly did not dictate body size in platypuses, although disentangling the effects of different climatic variables on body size variation was difficult because of correlations amongst variables. Nevertheless, within suitable platypus habitat in south-eastern Australia, areas of relatively lower rainfall and higher temperatures were typically associated with larger-bodied platypuses. The potential benefits to larger-bodied animals living under these conditions are explored, including consideration of variation in energy expenditure and food availability. Assuming these associations with environmental variables are biologically significant, a shift in platypus body size is anticipated in the future with predicted changes in climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-215
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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