Please don't run me over

IF you see a small brown animal scurrying along the roadside at dusk or dawn, it might not be a pesky rat.

It could be something much cuter - a baby platypus.

Young platypuses are currently dispersing from their home waterways, and WIRES Northern Rivers is warning motorists to be careful after reports that some of these tiny creatures had been run over.

"Once platypuses, especially males, get to a certain age, they start to leave their water source and look for somewhere new to live, particularly if there are a lot of males in their area," WIRES co-ordinator Sue Ulyatt said.

Platypus or platypi?

"This is something that will continue for the next few months.

"Unfortunately, the platypuses don't realise that they have to cross roads.

"People don't often see platypuses, so they aren't aware.

"But these young platypuses that are currently dispersing are still quite small - they are slightly longer than your hand.

"So when they're out and about at dusk or dawn, they tend to look a bit like rats, and people do accidentally run them over.

"We are really urging people to slow down.

"We want people to be aware and look around, particularly if you are driving near waterways."

Ms Ulyatt said the Northern Rivers had a growing platypus population.

She said people should be aware of the animals' movements to ensure they continued to thrive.

"They are amazing creatures," she said.

Platypuses or platypi?

According to Wikipedia, there is no hard and fast rule for describing platypus in plural.

Scientists go with "platypuses" or just "platypus" as a singular plural - in the same way sheep or fish can refer to one animal or many.

If you want to go fancy with your platy-plural, you can generally get away with "platypi". However, again, according to Wikipedia, that term is technically incorrect and involves the use of made-up Latin (something done in the creation of scientific names the world over).

If you want to be fancy and accurate, go to the Greek and try "platypodes".

You might also be interested to know, it took a few goes for Australians to settle on a common name for our beloved ornithorhynchidae. Early attempts saw the platypus sporting the less glamorous titles "watermole", "duckbill", and "duckmole".