The platypus is even odder than it looks
It has a bill of a duck, a body of an otter, and the tail of a beaver. The platypus is probably the weirdest-looking native Australian animal. As if that is not enough, the platypus still has some surprises in store. Read on to learn more.
Platypuses are endemic to Australia
The platypus is just one of the native Australian animals that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. They live in the streams, rivers, and lakes of Eastern Australia and Tasmania.
Platypuses lay eggs but they are neither birds nor reptiles
When most people think of egg-laying animals, they usually think of birds, reptiles, and fishes. But there are actually mammals that lay eggs and that include the platypus. They are called monotremes. Aside from the platypus, the echidna is the only other monotreme. Both of them are native to Australia.
Platypuses don’t have nipples
What differentiates mammals from other animals is that they nourish their young with milk secreted by the mammary glands. Most mammals have nipples connected to the mammary glands to aid in feeding the young.
In the case of the platypus, the milk secreted by the mammary glands just oozes out of the skin. The baby platypus then sucks the milk from the folds of the skin or from the tufts of the fur.
Platypuses are duck-billed but their bills aren’t exactly like a duck’s
A duck’s bill is hard but the platypus bill is soft, rubbery, and pliable. It has a smooth texture that feels like suede.
Platypuses have extra sensitive bills
When hunting for food underwater, it closes its eyes, ears, and nose. How do they find food then? Platypuses have bills with electroreceptors that can detect electrical impulses from animals in the water.
Gravel and dirt help the platypus to chew its food
Platypuses are carnivores. They are bottom feeders and lives on a diet of crayfish, shrimps, insect larvae, worms, and shellfish.
Upon detecting potential food using its bill, platypuses scoop their prey along with some bits gravel and dirt, stores them in its cheek pouches then come up to the surface to eat. The platypus uses dirt and gravel to help in grinding the food.
Platypuses don’t have stomachs
A platypus’ gullet connects directly to the intestines. While this characteristic is not exclusive to the platypus (some fishes lack stomach), it is quite rare among mammals.
Platypuses cannot stay underwater for too long
While platypuses are adept in swimming in the water, they cannot breathe underwater. They are mammals after all. They can do short dives and hold their breath underwater for around 30 to 60 seconds to get some food.
Male platypuses have venom on their spurs
This timid-looking animal is not totally harmless. On its hindlegs are sharp spurs which are connected to crural glands that produce venom during mating season. When fighting over females, a male platypus will stab its opponent with its spurs rendering the latter temporarily paralysed. The victor will then go off with his mate.
There is a recorded case of a human being stung by a platypus and it is not pretty. The person survived, but he experienced excruciating pain that cannot be alleviated by the usual pain medications. So, no matter how adorable platypuses may look, it is best to appreciate them from afar.
Platypuses have retractable webbed feet
Being a semi-aquatic animal, the platypus has webbed feet to help them in moving about in the water. When they go on land, they retract the webbing on their feet and expose their nails.
The platypus also uses its feet and nails to dig burrows near the water.
The platypus’ tail is multi-purpose
The platypus uses its tail to store fat reserves in case of food shortage. The tail is also used to collect leaves, twigs, and other materials for building a nest. The female platypus also uses its tail to hold eggs against its body to incubate them.
Newborn platypuses are the size of a lima bean
Female platypuses lay eggs in a burrow. They typically lay one to two eggs per season. Platypuses’ eggs hatch in about ten days. Newly-hatched platypuses are tiny as a lima bean, pink, hairless, and helpless creatures. Baby platypuses have to nurse for three to four months before it can emerge from their burrow and hunt on its own.