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Fun Facts About Platypus

This placid-looking male platypus has a secret weapon: spurs on its hindfeet that are connected to a gland that produces toxic venom. Males use them against predators or in battles with other males during mating season. A strike from a toxic platypus spur can kill a dog. Native to the rivers of eastern Australia, platypus are monotremes—unlike most other mammals, monotremes never evolved live birth, but instead lay eggs like their amniote ancestors. Monotremes produce milk for their young but lack nipples; instead, their milk oozes out of ducts of their mammary glands onto specialized patches of skin.
Credit: © AMNH/ R. Mickens

The first scientists who encountered the odd-looking platypus believed someone had sewn together the body of a beaver with a duck's bill as a joke. The animal appears to be an unlikely mix of the bill and webbed feet of a duck, a beaver-like tail and the fur of an otter. They are also one of the very few mammals to lay eggs.

Platypuses are amphibians native to freshwater lakes and streams in Eastern Australia and Tasmania. Males average 20 in (50 cm) and females are about 17 in (45 cm) long. Males are also very venomous having a spur on their hind foot that, when released, can kill a medium-sized dog and severely incapacitate a human.

These animals can swim well in water and are carnivorous bottom-feeders scooping up small crustaceans, larvae and worms from the floor. A platypus will store the food it scoops up in cheek pouches to consume on land. They do not have teeth, using bits of gravel to help crush their food.

Other facts about platypus

Platypus in Water
Credit: worldswildlifewonders /Shutterstock.com

The platypus stores fat in its tail to help it survive when food is limited.

When on land, their webbing retracts and the claws are more pronounced. They walk awkwardly on their knuckles to protect the webbing.

Platypuses live in burrows they dig near the water's edge. Burrows can be very complex and up to 100 feet long.

A baby platypus is very small and helpless. They stay inside the burrow for nearly four months before they learn to swim.

Platypuses spend nearly 17 hours a day resting in their burrows.

A platypus bill is flexible and feels rubbery to the touch.

Platypuses have two layers of dense, thick fur that helps them stay warm underwater. Until the 1900s, the animals were often hunted for their fur.

When swimming, the platypus shuts its eyes and ears. They usually remain about two minutes underwater before they come up for air.

Platypuses are mainly active at night, using their electroreceptors on their sensitive bills to navigate. They also use the bills to turn up soil for food.

Other resources:

Australian Wildlife Rescue Magazine - Platypus

National Geographic - Platypus

Australian Museum of History - Platypus

BBC Nature - Platypus

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