Tasmania & New Zealand 2014 travel blog

Two echidnas sharing a meal

Black swan by the boardwalk

Seahorses in breeding tank

We are just north of Launceston, in the Tamar Valley. This is a major wine area. The river is tidal, as I suspected last night.

This morning we spent some time getting online, etc., then headed north. In the town of Beauty Point, we went to two attractions: Seahorse World and Platypus House.

Seahorse World was amazing. There was a room with tanks of tropical seahorses, then they took us into where they are breeding Pot-belly Seahorses, which live in Tasmanian waters. It turns out that these seahorses need at least 1 ½ meters of water depth in order to successfully mate. The couple swims up and down together, then the female releases her eggs into the pouch of the male just below. If they get to the surface too soon, she doesn’t release the eggs. Then the male keeps them in his pouch until they hatch. He looks really pregnant, too!

They had tanks of “retired” seahorses, breeding ones, and lots of tanks of juveniles, sorted by age. They can ship seahorses anywhere in the world, with a transit time of less than 48 hours. It is quite an operation.

They also had some Weedy Seadragons, which are pretty amazing relatives of seahorses. They are bigger, with growths that look like leaves on them. These males carry the eggs glued onto their tails. There is another species, the Leafy Seadragons, that are even fancier, with lots of “leaves.” The Seadragons are very difficult to raise in captivity and extremely hard to breed.

After being amazed by seahorses, we went to the next building, Platypus World, where we saw a few platypuses. Males will fight and kill each other, so they have to be kept separate. They have not yet been successful in breeding the platypuses, but it was interesting to watch them. The female, in particular, was a very active feeder, scurrying around the bottom looking for food, then coming up for air, and going back down. Platypuses in Tasmania have recently been attacked by a fungal disease.

They also had 3 echidnas there. We got to walk around in their enclosure and watched them eat. They have very long flexible tongues, which they use to get ants out of anthills (they also dig up the anthills). They also have spines and fur. Echidnas are not uncommon here.

Both platypuses and echidnas are monotremes. They are mammals that lay eggs, suckle their young, have one opening for excretion and egg laying (like birds and reptiles), and have rear legs and hips like reptiles. They are the only monotremes that still exist, and they live only in Australia.

After that, we headed to the beach, but it really wasn’t warm enough, either in the air or water. We drove out to Narawntapu National Park, and took a short walk, then headed back to our cabin for sandwiches.

After dinner, we went back to the Tamar Island Wetlands, where we were last night. Tonight the tide was in, meaning the mud flats were under water, and fewer birds were visible. They were in the tall grass on the islands. We did manage to hike out to the end of the trail, and on the way back, the tide had turned, and was going back down. More birds were visible, but it was also getting dark, making it harder to see them well.

This evening I am typing this as I do laundry. The laundry area is near the office, so I should have wifi to upload it.

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