The first scientists to examine the platypus species thought they were being made fools of. The creatures called platypus appeared to be several mammals crudely assembled or stitched together, as if to perpetrate a great scientific hoax.
The Great Duckbill Hoax?
But how could they not feel this way? The Duckbill Platypus to the eye appears to be a chimera of a duck (replete with soft fleshy beak and webbed front and hind feet,) the flattened muscular tail like a beaver and the general body with the appearance of a furred river otter. And the males are unique, for they possess sharpvenomous spurs on their hind legs capable of delivering a defensive toxic blow to any would-be attacker.
Diet of the Duckbill Platypus
The platypus (which has been called various other names, including “watermole” and “duckmole”) use their sensitive flattened beaks to ferret-out worms, shellfish and snails, and aquatic larvae from the river-bottoms where they feed. They swim underwater for perhaps as long as a minute and one-half at a time in search of food, storing their procured quarry in cheek pouches and resurfacing to breathe, and to eat their catch.
Platypus does not have real teeth but paired grinding surfaces deep within their skulls. Along with their edible food prey, they scoop-up small gravel and sand from the river bottom and use this to help grind their food into a useful consistency that they can swallow and digest.
Meet the Duckbill Platypus
Awkward on land, the platypus are excellent swimmers with their strong front legs which they use for steering, and all four webbed feet.
Just one of three monotremes (egg-laying mammals) and all from the Australian continent, the platypus digs a nesting burrow up to 50-feet long, near the water’s edge. Here the female seals herself within for the hatching and raising of her defenseless pups. The other two egg-laying mammals are the spiny echidna and the spiney anteater (long-bill echidna) and these three creatures are believed to be a living linkbetween the transition of reptiles into mammals. Monotremes they have characteristics of both reptiles and mammals, characteristics that are generally delineated to just one or the other in nature.
Image via Wikipedia
The female platypus incubates her eggs in about 10 days, holding the eggs with her hind legs using her body warmth to incubate. Typically producing just one or two eggs per clutch, the defenseless newborns (sometimes and incorrectly referred to as “puggles“) when hatched are about the size of a Lima bean.
The juvenile platypus babies suckle milk from their mother until they are old enough to emerge from the sealed burrow and encounter the water the first time, where they learn to feed upon the small creatures of the silty and gravel-strewn river bottom.
DuckBill Platypus Skeleton
It would be easy to assume a hoax were being perpetrated if this skeleton were presented as sole initial proof of existence of one of the world’s strangest living animals: the duckbill platypus.