Is it a Duck? Is it a Beaver? No! It’s an Ornithorhynchus anatinus! Thankfully for us, it also goes for its common name: Platypus.
Platypuses are one of the most unlikely animals to have ever existed. The body of an otter, the tail of a beaver, beak and paws of a duck, and venomous spur… Quite an unusual combination for such a small fellow, but we love it anyways.
They seem to be made of animal bits to create a weird hybrid. Matter of fact, in the first encounter with this species, scientists thought of it to be a practical joke. Interestingly enough, even though aboriginal populations had known them for centuries, Platypuses were not commonly known until 1799, when it was first seen in England and studied by Dr. George Shaw.
They’re excellent swimmers
They may not seem very graceful, but platypuses are actually amazing swimmers. They paddle with their front webbed paws and steer with their back paws and powerful beaver-like tails. Additionally, they are equipped with folds of skin that prevent water from entering their eyes and ears when they dive underwater.
They have their own freaky way to hunt for food. They hunt underwater for shellfish, larvae and worms by scooping them with their duck-like beaks. While they do so, they also scoop some pieces of gravel and dirt along. They take all this delicious mix in their cheeks to the surface and use the gravel as improvised teeth to ‘chew’ their food because of their lack of such. Yummy!
When we say they’re unique, we don’t just say it because they look like a lab accident gone wrong, platypuses are actually fantastic. They are one of the only two mammals in the world to reproduce by eggs, only one or two at a time. The other one is the Echidna. Mothers keep their eggs warm by sealing themselves in a burrow and holding them between their body and tail. They also have the most incredible way of feeding their little ones; females secrete milk from their skin because their mammary glands do not protrude from their bodies. It’s somewhat similar to the process of human sweating.
Platypuses have no stomach
Platypuses sure got the short end of the stick… This incredible little creature has no stomach. How does it process food? In other animals, the stomach has enzymes to help proper digestion of foods, in the Platypuses’ case; the esophagus is connected to the intestine creating just a small swelling where food passes through. Luckily for them, their soft diet doesn’t require major processing.
They are venomous
Both males and females are born with spurs on their hind limbs but only the males’ spurs secrete venom. Platypuses are the only known mammal to produce D-amino acid. They only produce this venom in breeding season which leads researchers to believe that it is intended only to compete with other males, not for protection. If scared or angered, platypuses may inject their venom in their attackers causing excruciating pain, but not supposing any lethal threat. Because it is just a defense mechanism, the worst thing platypus venom causes in human bodies is temporary paralysis. But we’re sure you don’t want that either.
- Aboriginal legend states Platypuses were born by the crossbreed of a young beautiful female duck and a lonely and persuasive water-rat.
- One of the biggest disputes that surround this little creature is about the plural of its name. Because it comes from a Greek origin, technically the plural should be <Platypodes> but common dictionaries accepted the use of Platypuses.
- Because our little Frankenstein-like friends are basically loners, there has never been a need for a collective name. Fish have schools, cattle have herds and Platypuses have… Platypuses.
- Convinced it was a prank, Dr. George Shaw opened the first platypus he was prepared with a pair of scissors waiting to find stitches attaching the beak to the body.