Every weekday I will feature a new animal and some quick interesting facts about them! I will sometimes also include photos, videos, or links to articles where you can learn more.
The scientific name for platypus is Ornithorhynchus anatinus. The platypus is also sometimes called the duck-billed platypus. They are a semi-aquatic mammal native to eastern Australia and Tasmania. They live in burrows by small streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds.
Platypus are very unique animals. They have a bill like a duck, a tail like a beaver, feet like an otter, they lay eggs, males are venomous, and they have electrolocation! In 1799, scientists examined a preserved platypus and they believed it was a hoax and that someone had sewn different animals together.
Most mammals give birth to live young. The platypus is one of only two mammals alive today that lay eggs. The other mammal that lays eggs is the echidna, also known as the spiny anteater, but not related to the anteaters from the Americas. The echidna is also native to Australia.
The platypus is mostly nocturnal (active at night) and crepuscular (active at twilight), but occasionally are seen out during the day if the sky is overcast.
They spend up to 14 hours a day sleeping in their burrow along the shore. They spend the majority of their awake time looking for food. The platypus needs to eat about 20% of their body weight every day.
They are carnivores and bottom feeders. They eat worms, insect larvae, shellfish, shrimp, and crayfish. Their beaks dig into the gravel and mud on the bottom of the river or lake and scoop everything up including gravel and put it in their cheek pouches to chew up later on the surface of the water. They do not have teeth, so they actually use gravel to help chew up their food.
The way they find their prey in the mud and gravel is by using electrolocation. Their electroreceptors are located in the skin of their bill, and as their prey moves its muscles, they create tiny electric currents, which the platypus is able to sense. When the platypus is hunting underwater, they actually close off their sense of sight, smell, and hearing and rely on their electrolocation.
The platypus is also one of the few species of venomous mammals. It is only the male platypus that has venom. They have a spur on their hind foot that is connected to a venom-producing gland which allows them to deliver venom. They only produce venom during mating season, so it is believed it may be used to fend off competing males.
Their venom won’t kill a human, but it can cause severe pain and may be incapacitating. It is powerful enough to kill small animals such as a dog or cat.
Here’s a video by National Geographic. Its a few years old, but its still good!