Platypuses are both bizarre looking and unusually adapted. They belong to a sub-group of mammals that lay eggs rather than giving birth to live young (monotremes). When the first platypus was shipped to Britain from Australia, people thought it was a joke and that someone had sewn a duck's bill to a mammal's body. Even when accepted as real, it was thought to be a bird or a reptile as it laid eggs.
Scientific name: Ornithorhynchus anatinus
Miniature cameras illuminate life below ground.
David Attenborough filmed these strange creatures nearly 30 years earlier for Life on Earth. In the interim, miniature camera technology evolved to the point where small probes could be inserted into inaccessible places, without disturbing the burrow or its occupants. Viewers can now see for themselves what Sir David had previously only been able to describe.
Egg-laying mammals? The platypus defies expectations.
A similar sequence about platypuses, in terms of natural history, was filmed 23 years after this for The Life of Mammals. Together, the two sequences show how radically wildlife film-making has changed and what technological advances can bring to the arena. It's also one of many instances that has allowed Sir David a rare opportunity to engage with one of nature's most elusive and fascinating animals.
Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.
The Platypus can be found in a number of locations including: Australia. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.
The following habitats are found across the Platypus distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Population trend: Unknown
Year assessed: 2008
Classified by: IUCN 3.1
The duck-billed platypus is one of only three living species of monotreme (the other two are species of echidna), meaning that it lays eggs rather than giving birth to live young, but this is not its only extraordinary feature. Platypuses are also venomous, with males having a hollow spur full of poison that can cause agonising pain in humans and kill a dog. Then of course there is the duck-bill, after which the animal is named.
Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.