Behold, The Noble Platypus

I fell in love today with a bizarre and awkward creature.  A sort of bird/beaver/reptile mash-up – it turns out the platypus is pretty fantastic.  Check it out:


Things I knew about the platypus before today

  • They are strange looking.  They have webbed feet, claws, fur and a duck bill.

Things I didn’t know about platypus before today

  • In 1799 when the first platypus was studied by British scientists, many thought it was a hoax.
  • Platypus are small.  They weigh between ~1lb – 5lbs.
  • Their urinary, defecatory, and reproductive systems all open into a single duct, the cloaca.
  • They lay round, leathery eggs.  The exact egg gestation is disputed, but is likely to be around 28 days (sound familiar).  Once outside the body, they incubate about another 10. 
    • This led me to want to know about chickens – in case you’re curious, the hen forms the egg in about 24 hours and it takes about another 21 days outside the body to hatch.
  • Females lactate through their skin, they don’t have nipples.  The milk pools on their abdomens for the babies to drink. 
  • The ladies also have two ovaries, though only the left one functions.
  • Babies are born with teeth, but they fall out after a few days and flat plates grow in.
  • Platypus males have a poisonous spurs on their hind limbs.
    Their venom works different than a snake’s, it’s not life threatening or disabling (to humans and larger animals), but it causes excrutiating pain and gradually spreads outwards.  The pain can last weeks to months and does not respond to morphine.
  • Their snout is rubbery and used for electrolocating food.  They sense muscle electricity in their prey (shrimp, worms, etc).  They have a mouth underneath it.


I’m learning more reading "Platypus: The Extraordinary story of how a curious creature baffled the world" by Ann Moyal.  It’s pretty awesome.