Link - article by Rebecca Leib and Avi Abrams

      Be Different! and Stay Different - for 166 million years!
      This weirdest mammal has webbed feet, lays eggs and sweats milk

      If you were to visit eastern Australia and/or Tasmania, you would find a
      rare and bizarre creature: the Platypus. From its birth, this little fella
      is entirely unique; the platypus is amongst the five extant species of
      monotremes - mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to young
      ones. Though a number of species have been found on the record (the fossil
      record!), the platypus is the only living member of its family,
      ornithorhynchidae, and genus, ornithorhynchus.

      (photo manipulation
        via, original photo:
        Dave Watts, BBC)

      (image credit: Healesville Sanctuary,

      "The platypus is a very ancient offshoot of the mammal tree, so it was
        166 million years ago that we last shared a common ancestor with
        platypuses... and that puts them somewhere between mammals and reptiles,
        because they still maintain quite a lot of reptilian characteristics
        that we’ve lost; for instance, they still lay eggs."
      - the platypus genome code was recently cracked by the Comparative
      Genomics Group at the Australian National University (more

      (Platypus Skeleton! - photo by
        Katrina Mengchen Zhang)

      (image credit: Zina Deretsky,
        National Science Foundation)

      Half-Beaver, Half-Duck, Half-Otter, Half-... sorry, we're out of

      More bizarre than its pedigree, is the platty’s looks. This creature is
      like a lot of animals and tools wrapped all-in-one, in a furry (and
      waterproof) exterior:

      (image credit:
        National Geographic, more

      The platypus has a duckbill, a beaver tail and small otter feet. When on
      land, this little guy turns back the webs on its little otter front feet,
      revealing broad nails that help it walk. When in the water, a platypus
      swims forward with these same front feet. It uses its fat-filled tail as a
      rudder. The back feet of the platypus are used for it to brake and steer,
      like my first bike.

      (top image credit:
        Dave Watts,

      Fear the Platypus!

      What's more, the platypus is also highly venomous!. The male
      platypus can deliver a poison through a fancy spur on its back foot.
      Though the female is also born with the ankle-spur (a classy edition to
      any fall collection), she does not carry or spurt venom. The male’s highly
      potent venom is made from a cocktail of proteins, three of which are
      unique to the platypus. Don’t worry, ladies and gents: this venom won’t
      kill humans, though it is powerful enough to kill smaller animals - even
      dogs. Though we can breathe a sigh of relief that we’re safe from death, a
      platypus’ poison will be excruciating to endure, and can also leave a
      victim incapacitated.

      (left image credit:
        Katherine A. Smith, bottom right image

      Platypus inspires art of all sizes:

      (image credit:
        Piccolina Photography)

      (image credit:
        Jens Quade)

      Close your eyes, and navigate by electrolocation

      Platypuses are also known for a curious affectation called
      electrolocation. Monotremes are the only mammals that have this
      talent. Electorlocation is the ability to locate one’s prey using electric
      fields generated through muscular contractions. The platypus’
      electroreception is the most sensitive of any monotreme. Why? Because it
      doesn’t use sight or smell to hunt. In fact, when the platypus swims, it
      closes its eyes, ears and nose:

      (original unknown)

      Instead of using these seemingly crucial senses, a platypus will swim to
      the bottom of a stream, dig around up in there, and lets its
      electroreceptors do some super sweet shock therapy on the odd fly, shrimp,
      worm or insect larvae. Yum.

      I am the Walru... er, Platypus

      And don’t get me wrong; a platypus knows how to have a good time. It must
      eat at least one quarter of its body weight each day, which means twelvish
      hours of huntin’, eatin’ and electrolocatin.’ When they aren’t foraging, a
      platypus makes sweet sweet love in the water so that the female’s one
      functional ovary can make some babies. When the babies have hatched in the
      platypus’ burrow, the female oozes milk for the little hairless babies to
      lick off. Literally.

      (Platypus Nestling, Four Weeks - photo by

      Though platypuses (or, is it platypi?) have few natural predators,
      their encounter with larger and faster carnivores (such as a wild cat, a
      crocodile, even a snake) probably won’t lead to a second date, but a

      (image credit:
        Alex Fleisig)

      And we want the platypus to live a long time - their life span in the wild
      is eleven years, while in captivity some have often lived to see their
      sweet sixteen. Though the platypus isn’t under immediate threat, let’s
      keep this fascinating little species alive and well - so we can marvel at
      its awesomeness for generations to come!

      (bottom right: "The Vitruvian Platypus", art by



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Blogger su said...

what stunning imagery, magical descriptions and an awesome creature.
i have a new favourite animal. absolutely spectacular.

Blogger Unknown said...

It's worth saying that these animals are extremely shy. When I saw one, it was from a lodge that overlooked a small dam, so the platypus didn't know we were there. An Australian present said in awe, "Ninety-five percent of Australians will never see one in the wild."

Blogger Rusty Raccoon said...

the plural of 'platypus' is correctly 'platypodes' although everyone in oz just says 'platypii'
(yeah i'm an aussie)
i lived in the country and has a family of platypus in the creedk behind my house. such beautiful animals!

Anonymous mishele said...

You are correct about the proper plural of platypus. The same ending goes with "octopus" since that word, also, was of Greek origin. The "i" words (octupi, platypi) presume the words were originally Latin. RR, you were so lucky to live near a family of them - I've never seen a live one.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aww, I'd love to give one a cuddle...

And then scream for a few weeks afterwards while the venom works its way out.

Blogger Brett Hetherington said...

As a (former) Australian I am happy to see Perry the Platypus as the silent chick-magnet character on Phineas and Ferb and a worthy nemesis of the evil Heinz Doofenshmirtz.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are common, not rare. There are some at my property and I have seen them in the day, even when having a party ! Water-birds peck at them to make them dive and drive up other food !


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