Duck-billed What?

In depth study of the Platypus.

The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus Anatinus), is often called the duck-billed platypus. This is a common mistake that is irrelevant as there is only one species of platypus. Part of a very small group along with four species of Echidna, these five animals all come under the heading of Monotremes (Mammals that lay eggs).

Image via Wikipedia

They live across the Eastern side of Australia, feeding on Worms, Freshwater shrimp, Crayfish and Larvae. They live in burrows alone, coming out to fish in rivers. They mate only once a year, the female typically laying 2-3 leathery eggs which the male does not help with, having gone back to his own burrow. The male’s territory is around 3-4 square miles incorporating 3-4 females.

Image via Wikipedia

When first discovered the Platypus was thought to be a joke, it’s duck-like beak, otter-feet, beaver-like tail and the fact it lays eggs making it an unusual animal to say the least. Just like reptiles, the platypus uses the same opening for reproduction and eliminating waste. Dense brown fur covers it’s body aiding it in keeping an even body temperature of 32C. This is another anomaly as virtually all other mammals maintain a temperature of around 37C. The beak is unlike a birds as it doesn’t open to reveal a mouth. The mouth is actually underneath, the nostrils in the upper surface of the rubbery “beak”, and the eyes and ears just behind in a groove that closes when underwater. Once again the Platypus differs from other mammals that they are in the only group of mammals known to use electrolocation. Sensors in the broad snout detect tiny electrical changes caused by muscular contractions in their prey. They walk like reptiles, the legs on either side of the body rather than underneath. The webbing is more prominent on the front feet than the hind feet, and this webbing folds back when walking on land.

Image via Wikipedia

The Platypus can hold it’s breath underwater for around 30 seconds, it’s motion through the water unlike mammals is by alternate paddling of the front legs, the rear being used in combination with the tail for steering. The platypus young are born with teeth, but these soon fall out and are replaced with horny plates they use to grind their food. The mother suckles the young, but milk is released through pores in the skin as she has no teats. The young are born hairless, blind and vulnerable. The mother’s burrow is deep and blocked with “plugs” at intervals, presumably to protect them at this defenseless time.

Image via Wikipedia

Strangely the adult male has a venomous spur on the hind legs. The venom is very different to normal reptile venom including 3 proteins unique to the platypus. The venom is not fatal to humans but is seriously debilitating, sometimes causing pain for months after. Although the venom is strong enough to kill a dog, the incapacitating effects are thought to be used for dominance in mating fights rather than attack.

Finally the unravelling of the Platypus genome has found that where as mammals have 2 sex chromosomes, the platypus has 10, contains reptilian and mammalian DNA, and 2 genes only previously found in birds, fish and amphibians. It’s often joked that the Platypus is proof that God has a sense of humour. Someone or something certainly does to produce such a wondrous creature.

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9 Responses to “Duck-billed What?”
  1. UncleSammy Says...

    On March 6, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Nice Share

  2. atta muhammad Says...

    On March 6, 2011 at 10:59 am

    i like this nice share

  3. cacaritalucu Says...

    On March 6, 2011 at 11:00 am

    yeah,,that animal is more known as platypus (bebek tikus) in my country. i love the picture and that unique animal.

  4. CHIPMUNK Says...

    On March 6, 2011 at 11:01 am

    lovely share

  5. lmonline Says...

    On March 6, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Well-written and informative article.

  6. etheral76 Says...

    On March 6, 2011 at 11:23 am

    He he, they have such a cute look :-) . Thanks for the info Dave, wow did I learn today :-) .

  7. Stable Says...

    On March 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    What a great article Dave. I love nature and science posts, particularly when I learn new stuff. My tots loved looking at the pics too. Thanks!

  8. supersajjad Says...

    On March 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    What a strange animal. I’m sure there are loads more unusual things like this. Very good article as well, like the pictures :P

  9. Rens Labadie Says...

    On March 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm


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