Australia’s Animal Mysteries

With the coming of each new dawn, shadows of an ancient past echoacross Australia land of eternal mystery.

Alien and remote forcountless centuries, it remains today analmost mystical land.

a land only recently disturbedby the arrival of man.

Long before the time of man, there appeared here creaturesamong the most bizarre on Earth.

So unlike other animals are they that many early European explorerscould hardly believe they were real.

Even today, three centuries later, many of the questions the animalspose to science remain unanswered.

Throughout Australia, investigatorsand scientists probe the secrets of this infinitely varied wildlife.

Animals once dubbed "living fossils"have been properly identified and categorized, their evolutionaryrelationships better understood.

Yet, inevitably, there remain morequestions than answers haunting, ago-old mysteries that beckonall who behold the spectacle of life unique to Australian shores.

Washed by the South Pacific on theeast and the Indian Ocean on the west, Australia stretches for almostthree million square miles.

It is the world's smallest continent,the largest island a self-contained biological laboratoryunique in the world.

Science has long been puzzledby how and why this island-continent became home to what is probably themost distinctive assemblage of creatures found anywhere in the world.

Part of the answer lies inAustralia's remoteness, its geographic separationfrom the rest of the world.

Cut off from the Earth'sgreat landmasses, Australia has evolved in seaboundisolation for some 50 million years, its wildlife relatively undisturbedby influences from the outside.

But the world as we know it today does not hold all the answersto Australia's past.

We must look to a distant time inthe Earth's geological history when the continents were joined.

Scientists believe that somewherein the continents we know today as the Americas, Antarctica,and Australia, the earliest marsupialsevolved and fanned out.

When the landmass split apart, the continents carriedtheir life-forms with them.

However, in South America, predatorsand competitors for food eventually wiped out a greatnumber of marsupial species.

In Antarctica they becamefrozen out of existence.

Only in Australia,safely cut off from competitors, could these unique creatures flourish.

And until the relatively latearrival of man, they evolved, for the most part, undisturbed for millions of years.

Even today, Australia's humanpopulation is only 141/2 million, and because much of the interioris a harsh, arid land, the large cosmopolitancenters cluster on the coasts.

A common myth about "Down Under"is that one can see kangaroos hopping down the streets of Sydney.

Yet it is quite likely that many ofthese people have never even seen one, and perhaps never will, outside a zoo.

Zoos and sanctuaries are popularattractions throughout Australia.

Here, tame animalsprovide the opportunity for an intimate look at some ofthe country's most treasured resources.

Most of the kangaroos at this sanctuaryhave been raised here as orphans.

their mothers the victims ofautomobiles or a hunter's gun.

Under the watchful eye of a keeper, the joeys, as young kangaroos are called, can be cared for until old enough tobe on their own in the park.

I'm going to put him in a bag.

A pillowcase is an ample substitutefor the mother's pouch.

Good joey.

That's a baby.

Sit square on.

Put two hands one ontop of the other.

Perhaps number one of any popularitypoll is Australia's pride and joy, the cuddlesome koala.

Straight over your shouldertowards the camera.

Chin up.

And thank you.

Okay miss, just watching me, please.

Oh, you've got a beautiful smile,dimples and all.

How about that, eh? Captured young,koalas come to accept humans.

Even in the wild, they are basicallyunaggressive if undisturbed.

Life for the wild koala revolves inand around forests of eucalyptus trees throughout eastern Australia.

On the ground just to move fromtree to tree, the koala spends almost allits time high in the branches.

It has developed highlyspecialized adaptations for its arboreal life.

long arms, well-padded paws, and opposable thumbs witha vice-like grip.

Not only home and shelter, eucalyptus trees provide the koalawith its primary food.

It eats about two pounds of leaves a day.

Despite superficial resemblance, the so-called koala "bear"is not a bear at all, but a true marsupial apouched animal like the kangaroo.

After birth the young will stay in themother's pouch for about six months.

When strong enough to leave the pouch,it will do so only intermittently, and for the next few months willtravel everywhere with its mother, clinging either to her back or chest.

The koala has inspired myriad reactions from observers over the centuries.

One author has written: "The koala's expression always remindsme of a Byzantine Madonna or some dowager duchess.

rather bored, well-fed and well-bred.

But many aborigines saw somethingquite different to them the koala representedthe reincarnation of the spirits of lost children.

A research team from Queensland'sNational Parks and Wildlife Service is studying the koala's ecology andreproduction in the wild.

Their study area is roughly 600 acreswhere 30 to 40 koalas normally live.

He's got up higher than he waswhen we first saw him.


Okay, let's go.

Led by Dr.

Greg Gordon, the researchers have been capturingand tagging koalas since 1971.

It is by no means a simple task.

First they must get them down.

And, as the wary animalclimbs even higher, the pole must be extended to reach it.

This is not going to beall that easy, Greg.

He's got to he's going to drop justnear the edge of the embankment.

Yeah, I think you're right.

Experience has taught the scientists that the procedure is basicallysafe the koala its sturdy build and thickly padded rump seem to protect it against the fall.

That's it.

You're just below him now.

You're right below him.

Go on, drive him off.

Got him? See, doesn't hurt him at all.

Particularly when they come downon a branch like that.

It was a rude awakening, wasn't it.

Though easygoing by nature, a koala may becomeaggressive under stress.

The bag is a precaution againsthis powerful claws and tenacious bit.

Sought for its fur in the earlydecades of this century, the slow-moving koala was huntedto the very brink of extinction.

Today, thanks to government protectionkoalas are once again secure.

Recently, however,it this area of Queensland, there has been a puzzlingdecline in the birth rate.

By tagging the animals andstudying them over a period of years, the scientists hope to pinpoint the cause.

In the meantime, thorough examinations expandtheir understanding of growth patterns and general states of health.

Color-coded tags make the animaleasily identifiable even when high in the trees.

This one was tagged originallywhen still in his mother's pouch, and much about him is already known.

Tooth wear is about the mostreliable indication of age.

This male is roughly three years old.

Now, we'll do his chest gland.

On their chests all male koalashave a scent gland which exudes a distinctive odor.

By rubbing the gland on tree trunksand branches, they announce their presenceto others in the area.

Okay, we'll go out of the sun, over here.

That sound like a good idea.

Okay, fellow.

There we are.

Good as new.

He's not going to go to that tree again.

Go on.

Nasty, that one.

Momentarily disoriented after hisrelease from the bag, the young koala seems unsureof what to do next.

But within seconds he heads backquickly to the same tree from which he'd been captured.

Guess he proved me wrong.

He took that rather well.

Sensing only that he is safely backwhere he wants to be, the koala cannot possibly realizehow today's encounter with strangers may well help determine thefuture of his kind.

Perhaps the very symbol of Australia, the kangaroo remains as fascinating today as when the first live specimenreached England in the 1700s.

A handbill announcing theevent proclaimed that "to enumerate its extraordinaryQualities would far exceed the common Limits of a Public Notice".

Now, almost two centuries later,a rare piece of film documents one of the kangaroo's mostextraordinary qualities of all.

After a gestation periodof about a month, this red kangaroo prepares to give birth.

Though scientists now understandthe biology of marsupial birth, it is no less remarkable to behold.

All marsupials are born in anundeveloped state, their growth to be completedinside the pouch.

Defenseless and blind, the tiny newborn,completely unaided by the mother, must navigate through herthick fur toward the pouch.

If it loses its way, it will die.

Once inside the pouch,guided only by its sense of smell, the newborn finds one of themother's nipples.

Here it will remain attached,suckling for more than six months.

Now the joey will be strong enough toleave the pouch intermittently.

But even when it is old enough to graze, it will return to the pouch to nursefor several months more.

Amazing in their adaptability, somekangaroos are as at home in the trees as others are boundingacross rocky slopes.

There are about 50 speciesof kangaroos in Australia ranging from up to seven feet inheight to the size of a common rat.

But one trait they allshare is that they hop.

Though it may weighas much as 200 pounds, the kangaroo is a picture of gracewhen it takes to flight.

It can reach speed up to40 miles an hour, and cover as much as 25 feet in one leap.

Recently scientists were amazed todiscover that, at certain speeds, the kangaroo actually uses lessoxygen the faster it goes.

It was found that,like the spring in a pogo stick, the kangaroo's leg muscles andtendons store energy, which is then released without effortwhen the animal next pushes off.

Though the kangaroo is no doubt themost famous marsupial, Australia boasts as many as150 species of pouched animals.

The ferocious-looking Tasmanian Devilis one of the few that eat meat exclusively.

Once can only imagine the astonishmentof early explorers when they saw a pouchedanimal take to the air.

These possums do notactually fly like birds, but their kite-like membrane enablesthem to glide for distances of 40 yards or more.

Only in small patches of WesternAustralia will one find the numbat, a small, gentle marsupial now extinctin other parts of the country.

With sharp claws the numbat rootsout termites, its primary food.

Its long, sinuous, sticky tongue cancapture thousands of the insects a day.

With its distinctive bands of whiteand its bottlebrush tail, the numbat is considered by many to be Australia's mostbeautifully marked marsupial.

The majestic Blue Mountains lie40 miles west of Sydney.

Here, beneath the vivid blue hazewhich gave the mountains their name, areas of pristine wilderness abound.

Nestled in the hills, an historic estate called Yengospreads across 25 acres.

For the past 12 years ithas been a private reserve dedicated to breeding endangered animals.

He's really heavy, I'll tell you that.

The owner is businessman Peter Pigott, one of Australi'sforemost conservationists.

With his wife and son, he is transferring a wombat injuredin a fight to a safer enclosure.

Come here.

Come on.

Nice leg to bite.

Pigott's breeding success withwombats is considered phenomenal better than any zoo and is attributed to hisconcern for creating the most natural setting possible in a captive environment.

I guess that my first opportune atdoing something very constructive in the field of conservation was therediscovery of a wallaby that we thought was extinct.

The parma wallaby, a mall kangarooonly about 14 inches tall, was abundant until early settlersdestroyed its habitat and introduced new predators.

Though thought to be extinct,a small colony was discovered in 1965.

Starting with only 18 animals, Pigott has increased the populationhere to more than 200 in ten years.

A lot of people say to me,now why should we conserve wildlife? Why should we be really concerned? I mean, aren't people moreimportant than wildlife? We are all part of the 600 millionyears of evolution and I suppose that one ofthe great things that separates mankind from the animals is our sense andappreciation of the aesthetics our love of literature, our love of art and poetry,and of nature itself.

I often think that if we lose this wedisregard the world that's around us and the animals that are here.

We might wake up one morning andfind ourselves on the endangered list.

Her skies ablaze with color, Australia has been called"the foremost land of birds".

More than 300 species areunique to her shores.

One of Australia's most distinctive birds, the mallee fowl is a prodigious engineer.

To incubate their eggs in a harshenvironment that is generally dry and subject to sharp temperature changes, they build mounds up to 15 feetacross and several feet high.

Working together,male and female have laid down a bed of wet leaves and twigs.

To seal in the moisture and heatof the fermenting compost, they cover the mound with sand.

The egg chamber itself liesat the heart of the mound.

Beginning in the spring andcontinuing for three to four months, the female will come about once aweek to lay a single egg.

The mallee regions are marked bysharp temperature fluctuations between day and night andas the seasons change, but the egg chamber must be kept atan almost constant 92 degrees.

Once the female has laid her egg, she will heave the tendingof the mound to her mate.

To determine the temperature,he probes the sand.

With a sensitive spot eitherin his bill or tongue, he gets a reading as accurateas any thermometer.

Regulating the temperature byremoving sand to release heat or adding sand to conserve it is analmost constant job for the bird, a consuming task towhich he dedicates himself for up to nine months of the years.

Roughly every two months, a chick will work its way up throughthe thick soil and wander off, never to see its parents again.

> From the depths of the forest echoesa haunting and memorable sound.

the lyrebird, master of vocal mimicry.

Seemingly endless in its variety, the lyrebird's repertoireinclude other bird calls, as well as man-made sounds.

The mating ritual is highlighted by a shimmering display ofthe bird's immense fan-like tail.

In central Australia,heavy rains have flooded to desert.

But storms are few and short-lived inthis harsh, arid country.

As the claypans begin to dry up the water-holding frog demonstratesa remarkable adaptation.

Increasing its body weight by as much as 50 percentwith water absorbed through the skin, the frog burrows into the softened clay to a depth of more than three feet.

Once underground, it will entera sleep-like state its active life essentially overuntil the desert once again sees rain.

Encased in a cocoon-like bagof dead skin, the frog will remain in its chamber, sealed beneath the now dryand hardened earth.

In times of drought, these amazingcreatures have been known to stay buried for two years or more.

Only when the rains finally comeand the earth begins to soften can the frog begin to emerge.

It must mate quickly so that itsmyoung will maturein time to soak up their own water supply and bury themselvesuntil the next rains come.

In the forests ofsoutheastern Queensland, a major scientific discoverywas made in 1972.

Since that time, a bizarre animal unique in the worldhas been making history.

The first noteworthy fact was thatit existed at all Australians had always believed thatin their country there was no such thingas a frog that lived in water.

Since the time of the original discovery, captured animals have been sent tothe Zoology Department at the University of Adelaidefor study by Michael Tyler.

One of the contriesforemost takes on ton-frog.

Spending their daylight hourshidden under rocks these frogs are the most light sensitiveand shy of any Tyler has ever seen.

The only way he has been able toobserve them successfully is to remove them fromtheir regular aquarium.

In a specially built tank withone-way glass windows, the frogs will be unawareof Tyler's presence.

Because many have died in captivityand in recent years no more have been found in the wild, these two remain tounlock the mysteries of some of the most unusualanimal behavior ever recorded.

But though action like this free-fallingis bizarre and unexplained, it is the animal's reproduction that has most electrified the world.

What is so unusual about thegastric-brooding frog is the fact that it carriesits young in its stomach.

Superimposed on an X ray, an artist's conception followsthe growth of some two dozen tadpoles until, at roughly eight weeks, the female's stomach is completelydistended with fully developed frogsready to be born.

The mother opens her mouth and thenshe dilates her esophagus and the babies pop up from the stomach one or two at a time,and sit upon her tongue.

And then they sit and look around,look at the world outside, and then just very, very gently step out.

Tyler's rare photo of an actual birthhas made headlines around the world.

Here we have an animalwhich can switch off acid being produced in the stomach.

An awareness that that would be anextremely novel way of being perhaps able to treat peoplewho might need to be able to make use of that as an advantage.

For an example, during the treatmentfor peptic ulcers, it would be so useful to be able toswitch off gastric acid secretion totally for a period oftime and do it very, very readily.

I say it's a long, long way.

Between what we've done so far and such a thing as a possibility.

But, I mean,in the matter of a few years ago no one would have dreamedthat the existence of this frog with this habit couldpossibly occur and so, with that in mind,I don't think it's impossible or too far fetched to maintain hopesthat is may have clinical application.

In the reptile world, Australia stands out as the continent with the largest proportionof venomous snakes.

The death adder is one of thecountry's most poisonous snakes.

Without treatment,half of its human victims will die.

Like all snake,the death adder feeds primarily on small animals like lizards.

Its approach is neithertimid nor aggressive, for in the end it relies on an extraordinary devicefor enticing the skink within range.

Wriggling its tail tip as a lure, the snake can lie quietly and wait.

Attracted by what must appearto be a squirming insect, the skink draws near.

The venom, five times more powerful thanthat of its cousin, the king cobra, paralyzes the musclesthat control breathing, and the victim dies of asphyxiation.

The Australian reptile Parkwas founded by Eric Worrell, who has worked with snakesfor more than 50 years.

People overseas alwaysthink of Australian animals as being koalas or kangaroos.

They don't think very much aboutour snakes, our other reptiles.

We have the deadliest reptilesin the world.

Robyn Worrell is an experiencedsnake handler.

With careful concentrationcombined with skill, she has been bittenonly once in ten years.

Though her snake-milkingdemonstration may draw curious crowds, the primary goal of her work lies inthe realm of science and medicine.

What I'm milking here isthe mainland tiger snake.

There's probably about seven or eight different typesof tiger snakes in Australia.

It's the third deadliestthat we have in Australia.

What I'm actually doing nowis just enticing the snake to bit over the rubber.

The fangs are penetrating throughthat rubber and the venom accumulates in the bottom of the beaker.

Generally we keep.

Over the years, the venoms collectedat the park have proved invaluable to laboratoriesdeveloping snake-bite cures.

The work we do here is vital in that it has been estimated that we saveone life a day from snake bite.

That's during the snakes'active season, which is to say fromSeptember until April.

And I think that works out tosomething around 20,000 lives that this organizationhas saved since we started.

Thanks largely to the Worrells' work, there are now antivenomsfor all Australia's poisionous snakes.

In addition to snakes, Australia's reptiles include some400 species of lizards.

Lacking venom as protectionagainst predators, they depend on an impressivearray of defenses and bluff.

Looking like some creaturefrom the Dinosaur Age, the Thorny Devil belongs to thegroup aptly called dragon lizards.

Actually a squat, slow-moving,ant-eating lizard, the devil is found throughout thearid regions of central and western Australia, and has adapted to some ofthe continent's harshest conditions.

But perhaps its most notable adaptation is its coat of spines a barricade of daggers warningall the might come near.

Lizards abound throughout Australia.

The most famous and perhapsthe most spectacular roams the forests of the warmer northern regions.

Undisturbed, the frilled lizardlooks harmless enough.

But in the face of an enemy,it performs with remarkable bluff.

If all else fails,it need only make a hasty retreat.

The entire range of Australian wildlife is the domain of these two naturalists Together they are knownas Mantis Wildlife Films.

Individually they areAustralian Jim Frazier and his British-born partner Densey Clyne.

For the past 12 years they havespecialized in filming behaviors the naked eye can barely see.

Today the object of their search isone of the most fearsome ants on earth.


They're coming out already.

This one is bringing somethinginto the nest.

What is it? It looks like a bit of food.

Food or.


I don't know what it is.

About an inch long, They've seen us already.

The formidable bulldog ant inflicts a powerfuland painful sting.

But to film their behavior, Jim and Densey must collectthe entire colony perhaps as many as 400 ants.

Even the larvae be taken, butJim's film sequence to be completed.

There we are.

At Densey's home,the headquarters of Mantis films, Jim has built a plaster model based onhis knowledge of the nest in the wild.

There's quite a lot ofthem on the glass there.

Yes, right.

They're coming out everywhere.

The slippery white coating at the topwill prevent the ants from escaping.

It's amazing what a lot of noisethey make, isn't it? Yeah.

Running around.

You can actually see the sting coming out and trying to sting the glass.

Going in between the sections of glass.

Look at this one here.

Look at the sting.

They're not happy are they? Well, if I had my homeuprooted like that, I wouldn't be very happy either.

Jim, I think although they're in abit of a panic now, you know, as soon as the queenis settled in one of the chambers, they'll be alright.


They're starting to slow down now.

They're not quite as frantic as they were.

No, they're not.

Some of them havefound the larvae and pupae down below.

It will be three or four days beforethe ants settle down sufficiently for Jim to begin filming.

I worked at the Australian Museumfor about seven years, and in that time I learned how tomanipulate the environment, as it were, in making miniature dioramas, and it seemed a natural thing tocombine photograph with the filming of small animals.

Colony life centers around the queen whose primary function is to lay eggs.

She may produce as few as one a dayor as many as one every two hours.

Using her sharp mandibles,she gently picks up the egg and looks for a safe place to lay it down.

She must be careful that thevoracious developing larvae do not steal it for food.

But indeed, this time it is alarva that wins out.

To complete their developmentinto adult ants, the larvae will seal themselvesinside a cocoon they make by spinning silk around debrisfrom the tunnel floor.

Having adjusted to theirman-made environment, the ants go about their routine.

An intruder into their silent,miniature world, Jim Frazier feels privileged to havewitnessed little known behavior of one of the mostprimitive ants on Earth.

Millions of years of isolation inAustralia have protected a group ofanimals that today has no living relatives on Earth.

Sharing features of both ancestralreptiles and early mammals, they may offer a glimpse of how moremodern mammals evolved.

One of these egg-laying mammals,or monotremes, is the echidna, the spiny anteater.

This small, unaggressive creature has only a tiny mouth at the endof its sticklike snout and no teeth.

In the daily search for ants, it relies solely on the long stickytongue as its means of getting food.

The echidna's only defensesand very effective ones they are are needle sharp spines and the ability to sink out of sightin the face of danger.

Digging rapidly into the hard earth, the powerful echidna candisappear within minutes.

An almost impenetrable shield willbe all that remains above ground.

The female echidna carriesa singly leathery egg in a pouch that forms on her belly at the beginning of the breeding season.

In about ten days the egg will hatch.

The tiny baby nurses in the pouchfor up to two months.

By definition, a mammal is a warm-blooded, haired animal that suckles its young.

The echidna qualifies in all respects.

But it retains the distinctly reptilian characteristic of laying eggs.

When and why other mammals stopped layingeggs and began to bear their young live remains a recurrentriddle of evolution yet to be solved.

In eastern Australia's streams,rivers, and lakes is found the echidna's onlyliving relative on Earth.

Outwardly looking nothingwhatever like its spiny cousin, the platypus does share itsreptilian traits, including the laying of eggs.

Although it is often called the"duckbill" platypus, its bill is actually soft, pliable,and rubbery, quite unlike a duck's.

Filled with sensitive nerves, it is a specialized adaptation forfeeling out the insect larvae and crayfish on which the platypus feeds.

Lacking teeth, adults grind their foodbetween large horny plates in the jaws.

Because the platypus spends much ofthe time burrowed in riverbanks, little of its life cycle is known.

So unlike other animals is the platypus, it was considered a hoaxwhen discovered in the late 1700s.

Laymen still gaze quizzically at ananimal that appears to be part mammal, part reptile, part bird.

At an early date it was named "paradoxus".

So much of a paradox is the platypusthat almost two centuries later it remains a creature shrouded in mystery.

One of Australia's foremost naturalists, David Fleay has been studying theplatypus for close to 50 years.

Today at his Fauna Reserve in Queensland visitors can enjoy an assortmentof Australian exotica, but it is the platypus most touristscome especially to see.

Well, he's going throughhis ordinary routine now.

He's out feeding and swimming and when he's had enough of that,which goes on for about 10 hours, right into the night, he goes back into these tunnels,curls up, and goes to sleep.

It was almost 40 years agothat Fleay gained world-wide fame as the first person to breed aplatypus in captivity.

It began in 1943 with a couplenamed Jack and Jill.

Taken from the wild, they adjusted well to captivityand became unusually tame.

Not long after mating had been observed, Jill stopped eating and disappearedinto her nesting burrow.

Fleay suspected she must beready to lay eggs.

It was roughly eight weeksbefore we thought, as the information was at that time, that at eight weeks the babyshould be able to crawl about and swim.

So we took the risk ofopening up the tunnel at this point, and having looked.

I felt that somehow that we weredoing the wrong thing.

And as it proved,it was the wrong thing.

We found that shehad one solitary young.

Nice and fat and in good order, but it was blind and helpless andobviously couldn't either swim or walk.

We'd opened that up much too soon.

We left things alone and just watchedcarefully from that point on.

And then, at a further rate, about 16 weeks altogether,we opened the back of the tunnel again and found that the babywas alive and well.

It was a tremendous relief.

Well, it was relayedround the world and it was announced in New York and London.

The platypus, of course,is a fabulous animal.

It's always attracted a lot of attention.

It was considered impossible roundabout the 1930s for one to live in captivity formore than a few days.

After all the years of effort,it was a tremendous thrill.

We put the flag up that day.

Four decades later not even Fleay hasmanaged to breed the platypus again.

With his assistantsfrom the university of Queensland, Dr.

Frank Carrick works afterdusk and at dawn when the platypus is most active.

He has been studying the animal'secology since 1972.

At least with the waterbeing high like this, there are fewer snags.

An unweighted fishing net has beenlaid parallel to the riverbank.

The scientists check the net atregular interval guided by a light from shore.

Although the net is designedso the animal can surface and breathe, there is always thedanger of entanglement.

Gary, I think there might be ananimal in the net a bit further from us there.

Would you like to just putthe sop on it? Excellent.

Yeah, he's gone under a bit.

Go out and get him out.

Okay, just ease it up here, Jim.

Here he is, you little beauty.

Get him out.

Into the boat you go.

It's male, too.

His spurs.

Because the male platypus hasvenomous spurs on his hind legs, he must be handled with extreme care.

Although it's not certain, scientists speculate the spurs areused against other males in competition for females at mating time.

You got the box alright.

Put him in.

In you go, chief.

Bless you.

Now, in you go.

That's a boy.

That's got him.

There, check him.

Let's have a look at him.

Good boy.

Once the animal is lightly sedated, Dr.

Carrick can safelybegin his examination.

Although the platypushas existed for millions of years, significant information on its ecology has been gathered onlywithin the last decade.

And so even the most basic dataon weights and measurements are invaluable.


21 hundred.

less the bag.

I think, really, the platypus isone of the most crucial animals of all the Australian animalsthat we need to know much more about.

Both for the interest of seeing how patterns in the modern mammalsevolved and also of course, in helping usin a rational way to ensure the platypus doescontinue on into future as it has done for many millions of years.

It always happens, doesn't it.

It's Well, starting to rain.

Thanks, Jim.

Alright ol' mate, you'll never notice it.

Levels of hormones in the bloodhelp the scientists determine when and how often the male platypusis sexually active.

In any wildlife study,many of the important findings come from animals thathave been captured before and then followed over time.

Because platypuses, for the most part, remain in arelatively small home range, Carrick hopes to entrapthis animal again, a metal band identifying himas Number 89.

A bit of jewelry.

Now, marked and identified by his captors, Number 89 is ready to be set free to return to his burrows, his secret ways.

We going down with you? No.

I'll put him in.

No sense everyone getting wet.

With the surge of scientific researchin Australia over the past two decades a fascinating tableau of lifehas unfolded.

Unlike bewildered early explorerswho saw only a topsy-turvy world of improbable-looking animals, scientists of todayunderstand how isolation and geography helped shape theevolution of Australia's wildlife.

But the puzzle is far from complete.

And so it remains.

Haunting questions of an ancient past echo still across this remote,exotic land.

Perhaps someday, one small animalwith its tiny metal band may help unlock some ofthe long-hidden secrets of Australia, a land that time forgot.

Source: Youtube