Nature’s Most Peculiar Animal: Platypus

Have you ever heard about this animal called the platypus? Well, the platypus is one of the nature’s most eccentric animals due to both its appearances and behaviors.

Platypus has a scientific name of Ornithorhynchus anatinus. It is usually 40 – 60 cm tall and weighs 0.7 – 2.4 kg. Platypus has a life span of 15-20 years and they eat shrimp, insects, and fish eggs. It lives in the freshwater creeks, rivers, and lakes, although they do come out of water once a while.

Platypus has unique way of reproduction. Unlike most mammals which give birth to their babies, platypus is one of only two mammals that lay eggs. Females seal themselves inside the burrow’s chamber to lay their eggs. A mother usually produces one or two eggs and warms them by holding them between her body and her tail. When the eggs hatch after about ten days, females have to nurse their babies for three to four months because they are the size of lima beans and totally helpless.

Also, platypus has some weird physical features. It is like a hodgepodge of more familiar species: the duck (bill), beaver (tail), and otter (body and fur). The platypus has webbed feet similar to an aquatic bird like a duck which explains the reaction why nobody believed the Europeans who first encountered these strange animals.

Interestingly, the male platypuses have a venomous spikes on their back feet which contain enough poison that could cause severe pains to a human. They use this feature in the self-defense against their predators like fox, snakes, and crocodiles. During the breeding season, the venom amount increases as a result of them using it to exert dominance.

The platypus is a semi-aquatic animal that lives in the streams and rivers often in the colder highlands of Australia, Tasmania, and tropical rainforests. All of the special physical features help platypus to be an excellent hunter in the water. As platypuses hunt underwater, they swim gracefully by padding with their front webbed feet and steering with their beaver-like tail. Furthermore, platypuses scoop up insects and shellfish along with bits of gravel from the bottom of the water. They store all this material inside their cheek pouches. Since platypuses do not have teeth, the bits of gravel help them to “chew” on their meal.

Platypus spends most of its time in the water, eating fish but the platypus does come onto land for food. Platypus has another special feature in capturing its food. It is one of the only mammal to locate its prey using electroreception, which means that it detects prey by the electric fields that the prey produces.

Although platypuses look cute and have some cool features, these poor animals are at the state of near threatened. It is true that these animals have many predators which lead to its current state with numbers. Humans are also one of the factors that contributed to this state. The platypus species are very susceptible to dirty water. As people increase the levels of pollution, we are doing the very opposite of helping the platypuses. I believe that it is our responsibility to protect such a special animal, platypus, by recycling and reducing the pollution level!

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About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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