The platypus is the most unusual animal on the planet, for many reasons. The
platypus is an oddity and one of very few mammals to lay eggs.
Strangely, such peculiarities as its rubbery duck bill and webbed feet help to
arouse interest and indeed, even fascination.
Two hundred years ago, academics at the British
Museum were deeply suspicious of the latest specimen to arrive from the Antipodes.
... Those colonial pranksters were obviously trying to pull
off a hoax, perhaps even scientific fraud.
Two hundred years ago,
academics at the British Museum were deeply suspicious of the latest specimen
to arrive from the Antipodes. Those colonial pranksters were obviously trying
to pull off a hoax, perhaps even scientific fraud.
Scientists at first believed the specimen was the handiwork
of a clever taxidermist, constructed using the body parts of different
original specimen is housed in the London Museum of Natural History, still
bearing the scars of attempts to prove it false.
Australia had produced some unique flora and fauna, this creature was just too weird. If it were true, it was a
zoological freak, a paradox - an egg laying mammal, without nipples, that breathes air but spends most of its
waking hours under water, eyes tightly closed and using it's duck-like bill to "sense"
the creature was difficult. The British scientist Dr George Shaw, in 1799, christened it Platypus anatinus
(flat-footed, duck-like animal). In 1800, a German biologist named Blumenbach named it Ornithorhynchus paradoxus
(bird's beak animal, a paradox).
scientific convention would have Shaw's name stand, it was discovered that the name platypus had earlier been given
to a genus of wood-boring beetles, so the strange little beast became Ornithorhynchus anatinus (bird-like
The scientists can call it what they like, to Australians
it's a platypus and, two centuries after it was discovered, we are only just
beginning to learn about the strange animal that has lived here for millions of
Platypuses are particularly difficult creatures to study in
the wild because of their aquatic and nocturnal lifestyle.
are few in captivity. They eat 25 per cent of their body weight each day, so
they are very expensive to keep in a laboratory.
They haven't been
bred in captivity in 50 years.
are considered a cultural icon.
There is nothing negative about this animal.
Cockatoos and emus can be difficult for farmers but platypus are not a problem, they regulate their own
population," she says. "People really react positively to them.
Platypuses are important in their own right;
they are beautiful and unique creatures and a symbol of Australia.
Not only are
they cute and furry, platypus also serve as indicators of the state of the rivers and streams. As a higher-order
carnivore, their existence in a particular area relies on the waterway being healthy enough to support the
invertebrates - yabbies, shrimps, tadpoles, worms, insects and small frogs - that make up the platypus
They eat about
400 grams of invertebrates each night, or they starve, and they feed continuously for about 12 hours. It is common
for them to move five to six kilometers each night.
their importance to the health of the water ecosystem, the platypus is a scientifically interesting creature. The
platypus teeth have been found in sediment associated with dinosaurs, which means they have been around for between
110 and 120 million years.
were surprised to find them living comfortably in urban areas, often under walkways and bridges with cars, cyclists
and pedestrians whoosing past day and night.
is one of only three egg-laying mammals (monotremes) in the world. The other two are echidnas. The female lays one
to three eggs that are about 17 millimeters long and covered with a leathery shell, similar to snake
lays in an underground burrow and incubates the eggs between her belly and curled-up tail for about 10 days. The
young remain in the burrow for about four months.
has allowed researchers to discover previously impossible information about the platypus' habits and habitats. The
tiny device stuck on the animal's rump does not cause discomfort.
named Diamond (he lives in Diamond Creek) has a home-range of 7.3 kilometres, which he can traverse in a night.
Each home-range incorporates a number of burrows.
feeds exclusively in the water and can remain submerged for up to 14 minutes. Their double coats - a woolly
undercoat and longer guard fur that is denser than a polar bear's - protect them in near-freezing water for as long
as 12 hours.
they keep their eyes shut and use the electro-receptor system on their bills to find food, by wagging their heads
from side to side. "They can pick up the flick of a shrimp's tail 10 centimeters away.
Litter is one
of the most significant problems faced by platypus, particularly fishing line and plastic six-pack holders, which
can strangle and drown the animals.
have managed to survive in urban areas, so they obviously have good survival practices and can compete with dogs