The duck-billed platypus, known scientifically as Ormithorhynchus anatinus, is a warm-blooded mammal that lays eggs. They generally live near or in freshwater lakes and streams. Their home is usually a deep burrow which can measure up to 100 feet in length; these burrows normally have two entrances and two exits. The burrows are usually above water level and have their entrances under tree roots or in lake or river banks; they are normally overhung by lots of vegetation to keep away predators. They normally build two types of burrows one for nesting and the other for camping.
Platypuses usually spend at least seventeen (17) hours each day in their burrows and leaves at night for its hunting escapades. Its food mainly consists of aquatic insects and freshwater invertebrates such as shrimps, pea-shell mussels and worms. They can also feed on fish eggs and frogs. To fully appreciate the glaring contradictions in this creature, here are some facts about the platypus that are bound to make an interesting read for anyone interested in knowing more about this beautiful marvel of nature;
- It is mainly found in Eastern Australia and parts of Tasmania and is featured in the 20 cent coin of Australia
- The platypus has some very smooth fur, as a matter of fact they hunted to the verge of extinction due to its two layered fine fur that it uses to keep itself warm.
- The plum colored fur is waterproof and the texture is similar in feel to that of a mole
- They have a long bill that is flexible and rubbery. These bills are used for hunting purposes to locate prey by electrolocation.
- There are hundreds of receptor cells on their bills which instantly respond to tiny electric currents and touch
- Apart from being used as a stabilizer when swimming, the tail of a platypus is also used to store fat for the winter season. About 50% of the entire animal’s fat is normally stored in the tail.
- The tail can measure up to five (5) inches or thirteen (13) centimeters and has an average age of 12 years.
- In captivity, a platypus has been known to live for up to seventeen (17) years
- When swimming, these mammals literally shut their eyes, nose and ears. It uses its forefeet to propel itself forward and its hind feet are used for steering and braking purposes.
- Platypus mate in water and the female usually lays one to three eggs which she incubates between her tail and abdomen.
- The females have two ovaries, but the ovary on the left side of the body does not function.
- The gestation period is normally twenty eight (28) days.
- Platypuses are normally born with teeth but they lose their teeth as they grow. A fully grown platypus therefore does not have teeth but grinds its food between pads that are in the animal’s bill.
- Platypus can also store some food in the pouches that exist in their cheeks.
- It is the only animal that suckles its young but doesn’t have nipples. The female secretes its milk from two circular patches of skin in the middle of her belly.
- It is the only mammal that has extra bones in its shoulder girdle; this includes what is scientifically known as the interclavicles.
- The male platypus has venom while the female doesn’t. The male can deliver its venom through a spur in its hind feet. This venom can kill small animals and has been known to incapacitate human beings.
- Naturally, the adult platypus is hunted by large cods, foxes, eagles, and owls. The young ones on the other hand are hunted by carpet pythons, Water rats and goannas.
- Due to increased pollution of its habitat, this mammal has been placed on the Red list of the IUCN and classified as near threatened.
- Because of its unique features, this animal is usually considered to be an assortment of several species. It is considered to be partly a duck due to its bill and webbed feet, partly a beaver because of its tail and partly an otter because of its body and fur.
Whichever way you look at it, this is an interesting creature worth a second look if you ever come across it in its natural habitat; even if it’s only to confirm some facts about the platypus.