Profile of a duck-billed platypus

Platypus

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

Rank: Species

Common names:

Duck-billed platypus

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Distribution

Map showing the distribution of the Platypus taxa

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.

Habitats

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.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

Least Concern

  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern

Population trend: Unknown

Year assessed: 2008

Classified by: IUCN 3.1

The platypus up close

e 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.

Diet

The platypus's most famous feature, their extraordinary beak, is used to shovel up invertebrates from stream or lake beds. They also eat the occasional frog, fish, or insect taken from the water's surface.

Habitat

The duck-billed platypus is one of the strangest-looking mammals in the world. It lives in the lakes and streams of eastern Australia and has also been introduced by humans to Kangaroo Island, just off Australia's south coast.

Social behaviour

Platypuses are solitary animals and spend most of their life in the water, closing their ears, eyes and nostrils when diving. They burrow into banks, creating tunnels that can be over 30m long and that have nesting chambers at the end.

Platypuses are most active at night and spend the days resting in their burrows. The most unusual feature of these animals is the way in which they reproduce. The male chases the female and catches her by her tail before mating. Two to three weeks later the female gives birth, not to live young, but to two (occasionally three) soft-shelled eggs. The female incubates the eggs for about 10 days before they hatch. The tiny, blind, naked, young lick milk from the mother's mammary gland, which has no nipple and simply oozes milk like sweat.

Interesting feature

Baby platypuses have teeth, but soon after leaving the burrow they lose them and rely on their duck-like bills to feed. They use their bills to detect prey and to help them navigate in murky water. The bill is soft, flexible and covered with sensory receptors that can detect electrical and tactile stimuli.

Classification

  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Mammals
  5. Monotremata
  6. Ornithorhynchidae
  7. Ornithorhynchus
  8. Platypus

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