All animals possess unique features that make them stand out, certain distinguishing features that set them apart from other animals and make them easily recognizable well this not accurate for the Platypus.
A fish has gills and scales. A bird has wings and a beak, a snake, has a forked tongue and slithers about, It is not very uncommon to see two different animals possess the same distinguishing features.
For instance, a lion and a horse both have a mane. Now, what gets really surprising is to see the Platypus that possesses up to four features that are unique to different animals.
The Platypus, has a duck’s bill, the feet of an otter, the tail of a beaver, and lays eggs as well. Monotremes are one of the only mammals known to have a sense of electroreception: they locate their prey partly by detecting electric fields produced by muscular contractions.
The Platypus’s electroreception is the most sensitive of any monotreme.
Table of Contents
- Scientific Classification
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Monotremata
- Family: Ornithorhynchidae
- Genus: O. anatinus
Europeans first encountered the Platypus in 1978. So, you can imagine the surprise on the face of Captain John Hunter, the second Governor of New South Wales, when in 1798, he saw and sent a souvenir pelt and sketch of a platypus to Great Britain.
The features seen and described of a platypus were so unbelievable that British scientists of that era labelled it a hoax. In 1799, the person that first produced a detailed description of the Platypus in the Naturalist’s Miscellany, George Shaw, stated that doubts could arise given the nature and appearance of this animal.
The Platypus (or duck-billed Platypus) is a semi-aquatic animal of mammalian origin that has a thriving habitat and comfortable abode at Tasmania, which is located at the eastern part of Australia.
The Platypus feeds on insects, frogs, and fishes on the surface of water bodies, and it also feeds on invertebrates that dwell at the bottom of these water bodies.
The Platypus has an odd combination of both primitive evolutionary features, and particular special adaptations like the duck-like bill, white patches of fur located under its eyes.
It also has fur all over its body, lighter-coloured fur on the underside and dark to light brown colour above. The length of a platypus ranges from 15-24 inches, and the male species are generally larger than their female counterparts.
Since the Platypus is semi-aquatic, it has features like a dense waterproof fur that keeps it properly insulated, flat, streamlined body, and eyes and nostrils that are dorsally positioned.
Extensively-webbed front feet (the webbings extend past the claws and are very much vital to the propulsion of the Platypus whilst in water).
It also possesses long guard hairs that keep the soft underfur well protected, such that, even after spending hours in the water, the underfur remains dry.
The Platypus achieves stability during swimming by making use of its paddle-like fur, which acts as a stabilizer, and then the back feet are improvised as rudders and brakes during swimming.
Connected to a venom gland located over the thighs are spurs which are on the inner side of each ankle of the male Platypus.
The venom spilt by each spur acts as an agent of offence and defence because it is strong enough to kill smaller animals like the dog, and cause significant pain when the spur penetrates the skins of humans.
The front limbs of the Platypus are powerful, hence the need for a wide humerus that provides extensive attachment areas for the muscles. The flat pads of hardened gum tissue serve as false teeth for the adult platypuses for their nutritional needs.
Platypuses generally engage in and enjoy a predominantly solitary lifestyle, feeding almost continuously when in the water, along bottoms of lakes, rivers, and streams.
Whenever they are not feeding, they rest in the burrows that they dig into the banks of these water bodies. They mostly enjoy crustaceans in freshwater and larval insects.
The electromechanical detection system of the Platypus serves the special function of locating its prey. Although the platypus’ main habitat is freshwater, where it feeds and does other biological functions that are peculiar to it, it can occasionally be seen swimming in some saltwater bodies.
Stream productivity, season, individual preference and cloud cover are some of the factors that determine the level of activity of the Platypus.
The Platypus in the Water
Platypuses hunt underwater, where they swim gracefully by paddling their front legs and guiding with their hind legs and beaver-like tails. Folds of skin shield their eyes and ears to keep water from entering, and the nose closes with a watertight seal.
In this pose, a platypus can remain submerged for a minute or two and use its sensitive bill to detect food.
These Australian mammals are the bottom feeder. They suck up insects and eggs, shellfish, and worms in their bill along with bits of gravel and mud from below.
All of this content is held in cheek pouches and mashed for consumption on the surface. Platypuses don’t have teeth, so bits of gravel allows them to “chew” their food.
Platypuses in the Land
Platypuses walk a little more awkwardly on the ground. However, the webbing on their feet withdraws in order to expose the individual nails and allow the creatures to run. Platypuses use their nails and legs to create dirt burrows at the edge of the water.
Platypus reproduction is unique. It is one of only two mammals (the echidna is the other mammal) that lay eggs.
Females seal themselves within one of their burrow chambers to lay their eggs. A mother usually produces one or two eggs and keeps them warm by keeping them between her body and her tail.
Eggs will hatch in about ten days, but platypus infants are the size of lima beans and totally helpless. Women nurse their young for three to four months before they can swim on their own.
The male and female platypuses normally attain full growth between 12-18 months and attain sexual maturity at about 18 months. Not much data have been collated on the life cycle of Platypus that has a permanent, wild habitation, but those kept in captivity or domestication have been extensively studied.
When platypuses clock about four years old, they proceed to mate, and, until then, the males and females avoid each other.
They continue to avoid each other again until subsequent breeding seasons, and then they mate again. The males normally fight and inflict wounds on themselves with their spurs during the breeding season.
Mating is quite a stressful activity for the platypuses. Courtship and mating take place during late winter through to spring in the water bodies that they dwell in, and the timing of this occurs with latitude—the northern parts of the range experiences earlier mating than the southern parts.
Gestation for the female platypuses takes place for a period of two weeks to one month. During this period, the females construct special nursery burrows to lay their two small, leathery eggs which undergo an incubation period of 6-10 days.
The eggs are incubated when the female curls around them in a manner and fashion in which her bill touches her tail. The eggs are hatched with the help of an egg tooth and caruncle.
The young hatchlings obtain their nutrition for a period of 3-4 months by suckling milk from their mother’s special mammary hairs, whilst enjoying protection from their burrows, after which they become independent and can fend for themselves.
The young platypuses lose their vestigial teeth shortly after they leave the burrow to go off on their own into the wild. Some studies have documented platypuses living up to 20 years in the wild and almost 23 years in domestication or captivity, which is a pretty long time for an animal so small.