Platypus Facts — Questions Answered

Platypus Facts — Questions Answered

Platypus Facts — Questions Answered…

The platypus is one of nature’s most mysterious creatures. Just take a look at it. It has a bill like a duck, feet and fur like an otter and a flat tail like a beaver. On top of that, itlays eggs like a bird. No wonder some scientists once thought it wasn’t real and, even now, the platypus still raises eyebrows and questions. Below, we answer some of them.


Q: Is the Platypus Extinct?

Platypus-Eungella
Platypus, Eungella Nationalpark, Queensland, Australia. Image credit: Christine Ferdinand cc4.0

A: The platypus may seem like a mythical creature, but it is real and it exists in our world today. Scientists believe the platypus has been around for about 100,000 years, though it was only discovered in the late 18th century.




Q: Is the Platypus a Marsupial or Is It a Mammal?

Nelson J. Platypus
Image credit: Bob Canada cc2.0

A: Although the platypus lays eggs like birds and reptiles, it is actually considered a mammal. In fact, it is one of only five living species of egg-laying mammals (called monotremes). Like other mammals, the platypus feeds its young milk. It is warm-blooded, which means it can keep itself warm or cold, and it has fur. In fact, the platypus has very thick fur, and it’s waterproof, too.

The platypus walks like a reptile, though, because of its unique bone structure. And a female platypus has two ovaries, but, like many birds, only the left one works. Why? That remains a mystery.

Is the platypus a marsupial? No. The female platypus does not have a pouch. She lays her eggs and keeps them warm with her body. The females of the other four monotreme species (the echidnas, or spiny anteaters) do have temporary pouches where they lay their eggs, but are still not classified as marsupials, which by definition have permanent pouches.


Q: What Is the Scientific Name for the Platypus?

Vogelbekdier Duck-billed platypus
Duck-billed platypus. Image credit: Urville Djasim cc2.0

A: The scientific name for the platypus is Ornithorhynchus anatinus. Originally, it was Ornithorhynchus paradoxus (paradoxus meaning “puzzling”). Ornithorynchus comes from two Greek words – ornith, which means “bird”, and rhynchos, meaning “bill” or “snout”. Anatinus means “duck-like” in Latin (anatis means “duck”). So if you translate the scientific name of the platypus, you get “duck-like billed bird”, which quite suits it.


Q: Platypi or Platypuses?

Platypuses

A: Our word “platypus” comes from the Greek platopous, meaning “flat-footed”. We make plurals of words according to their language of origin, and the Greek language makes plurals by adding –es at the end, so the correct plural form of “platypus” is “platypuses”. When the word origin is Latin, –i is indeed the rule for plurals, but this one is Greek, so platypuses it is.


Q: Where Do Platypuses Live?

Wild Platypus
Wild platypus in a creek in Tasmania. Image credit: Klaus cc2.0

A: Platypuses can only be found in one area in the world — southeast Australia and the nearby island of Tasmania. They are found near rivers, since they spend a lot of time in the water and make their burrows on the muddy banks.


Q: What Do Platypuses Eat?

Duck Billed Platypus about to catch a shrimp
Duck Billed Platypus about to catch a shrimp. Image credit: Robert Young cc2.0

A: A duck-billed platypus’ diet consist of shrimp, crayfish, insects, insect larvae and worms. It hunts in the water, finding food through electroreception. What this means is that it has special sensors on its bill that detect the electric signals sent by other creatures in the water. When the platypus finds food, it catches it using its bill, and stores it in its cheeks just like squirrels do. Once it is out of the water, it eats. The platypus does not have teeth, but it has thick pads inside its bill to grind its food.


Q: Is the Platypus Poisonous? Is It Venomous?

Platypus_spur
The calcaneus spur found on the male’s hind limb is used to deliver venom. Image credit: Elonnon GFDL v1.2

A: Poisonous animals are ones that can harm you if you touch them or eat them. On the other hand, venomous animals are ones that inject poison by stinging or biting. Platypuses are not poisonous, but they are venomous, at least the males are. The male platypus has spurs on his hind feet through which he can release venom. These spurs are mainly used to show other males who’s boss during mating season, but they can also be used as defense when threatened. The venom is not enough to kill a human, but it can still hurt.


Q: Do Platypuses Sweat Milk?

Milk platypus

A: Female platypuses do feed their young milk, but not through nipples like other mammals. Instead, the female platypus releases milk through her skin, just like sweat. The drops of milk gather in her belly and the babies lap it up.


Q: Is the Platypus Endangered?

Platypus at the Sydney Aquarium
Platypuses at the Sydney Aquarium. Image credit: Christian Haugen cc2.0

A: At one time the platypus was found in other parts of Australia. Even though this is no longer true (because it was hunted for its fur for many years and also because of changes to its habitat), the platypus is not endangered. It a protected species, though, and its population is thriving, although it can still be threatened by pollution or by the construction of dams.




Q: Can I Have a Platypus as a Pet? How Much Does a Platypus Cost?

Where's Perry the Platypus
Image credit: Raffaele Esposito cc2.0

A: As wonderful as the idea of having your own Perry the Platypus might seem, you cannot have a platypus as a pet. It is against the law in Australia to capture a platypus, unless it is for research, for which you still need special approval. It is also against the law to keep a platypus as a pet, in Australia or anywhere else.

Even if it were allowed, having a pet platypus would be next to impossible. The platypus doesn’t deal very well with changes to its environment, so even if you did have a large pool of fresh water and you kept it filled with worms, insects and shellfish, your pet platypus would be likely to die outside of its natural habitat. In fact, outside of Australia, there are currently no platypuses kept in captivity, even though it has been tried several times.

As for the cost, sorry, but the platypus isn’t for sale, so right now — consider it priceless.


More interesting facts about the Platypus!

12 Duck-Billed Platypus Facts – Animal Facts !
Duck Billed Platypus Facts .
Platypus track their prey using electric current.

Want to know more?

10 Bizarre Facts About The Duck-Billed Platypus – Listverse.
Info and Facts about Platypus: The most unusual animal on the planet – Platypusfacts.
10 amazing platypus facts you should not miss – Enkicharity.
Fun platypus facts – interesting information about the platypuses – Sciencekids.


Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Platypus
http://www.platypus.asn.au/historical_background.html
http://kids.sandiegozoo.org/animals/mammals

To view the complete list of sources, please click here.

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