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Platypus: Nature’s Mosaic of Evolution

What is a Platypus?

The platypus, scientifically known as Ornithorhynchus anatinus, is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. Belonging to the family Ornithorhynchidae and the order Monotremata, it is one of the only five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals known to lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. The platypus is distinguished by its duck-bill, webbed feet, and beaver-like tail, presenting an animal that seems to have been assembled from parts of other creatures.

What Makes it Distinctive?

The platypus is notable for several characteristics that distinguish it from other mammals. Its method of reproduction, laying eggs, is the most significant difference. Approximately 10 days after the eggs are laid, they hatch, and the female feeds the young with milk, though she lacks nipples; instead, milk is released through pores in the skin.

Equally fascinating is the platypus’s method of locating prey. It forages underwater, eyes and ears closed, navigating and hunting primarily through electrolocation. Sensory receptors in its bill detect electrical signals emitted by the movements of prey such as insects, larvae, and small crustaceans.

The male platypus has another unusual feature: spurs on its hind legs capable of delivering a venom powerful enough to cause severe pain to humans, a rare trait among mammals.

The platypus in the Aboriginal creation myth

She gave each creature the power to change their form to whatever they chose. However she was not pleased with the end result. The rats she had made had changed into bats; there were giant lizards and fish with blue tongues and feet.

However the oddest of the new animals was an animal with a bill like a duck, teeth for chewing, a tail like a beavers and the ability to lay egg. It was called the platypus.

The Australian Creation Myth

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