Platypus

The Strangest Animal in the World

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Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Monotremata

Family: Ornithorhynchidae

Genus: Ornithorhynchus

Species: Anatinus

Appearance

The platypus has several distinct features that look like other aquatic animals such as:

  • duck bill
  • webbed feet
  • beaver tail
  • otter body and fur
  • brown, grey, or black fur color

Distant Relative

The platypus is closely related to the five species of echidna (spiny ant eaters, shown right) who are also monotremes. They evolved from mammals over 200 million years ago. But they inherited and kept the reptilian trait of laying eggs.

Habitat

Platypuses typically live in freshwater lakes, rivers, and creeks. They are native to eastern Australia and Tasmania. They also live in the cold highlands or even the tropical rain forests of Australia
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Getting and Eating their Food

The platypus is an carnivore and will usually eat the freshwater fishes or shrimp found near their home. Other platypus delicacies include insects, larvae, shellfish, and worms gathered along with dirt and gravel that they scoop up from the bottom of the water. They use the gravel to help them chew their meal, since they do not have any teeth.


The platypus has a very unique method of finding fish in the water. They use electroreception to sense the electric fields that their prey produces. Very few mammals use electroreception and some species of sharks also use this to find prey.

Social Interactions and Mating

The platypus typically lives alone rather in groups. The male and female mate in the Australian winter months (northern hemisphere summer months), but do not stay together for life.


The female will typically burrow a nest very deep and uses wet leaves for bedding. Then she lays her eggs. The platypus is one of the few mammals to lay eggs. She will lay 1-2 eggs per litter. After ten days the babies are born very vulnerable, hairless, blind and the size of a lima bean. The mother nurses them for 3-4 months before they can learn to swim on their own.


When it isn't mating season, a platypus burrow is only 30 cm deep.

Moving Around

Platypuses spend most of their time underwater searching for food. They use their duck-like flippers to swim easily through the water. On land however, they are a little more awkward. The webbing on their feet can retract and expose nails which they can use to run or burrow. Their top speed underwater can get up to 22 mph.

Platypus Video

Hand Feeding & Playing With A Friendly Platypus

Interesting Facts

  • They can grow between 15-24 inches
  • They weigh1.5-5.3 lbs.
  • They cannot live in polluted water, so water contamination is harming their habitat
  • They live 15-20 years
  • The males have a venomous spike on their back foot
  • When underwater, their nostrils close to keep out the water
  • Folds of skin cover their eyes and ears to prevent water from entering
  • Platypuses can stay submerged for 1-2 minutes at a time
  • Their predators include foxes, snakes, and crocodiles
  • The males defend themselves with their venomous spikes
  • In order to feed her babies, the mother will excrete milk from her skin

Sources

Rare Footage of Baby Platypuses Hatching

Tree of life