Okay, it’s time to talk about the platypus. Because why aren’t we ALWAYS talking about the freaking platypus? The platypus is also known as the duck-billed platypus…because apparently someone thought they ought to differentiate the duck-billed platypus from all the other types of platypuses that don’t exist. The platypus, in defining its own existence, pretty much looked around at all the other animals and said, “I’ll do what I want.” And so it did. His feet look a lot like otter feet, and his body is rather beaver-like, which works well with his tail, which he blatantly ripped off of the beaver. Then there’s his duck parts, which wouldn’t be that weird…I mean, if he was a duck. He’s got a face that looks like a duck’s bill, and webbed duck feet, and oh yeah, he lays eggs. Did I mention he was a mammal? Because I don’t know if you’ve brushed up on your mammal facts lately, but mammals don’t lay eggs. Except the platypus. Oh okay, and also the echidna which is awesome but I don’t have the time to go into that right now, because respect the platypus. So, to start things off, otter, beaver, duck.
The platypus lives along rivers and streams in Eastern Australia (including Tasmania, he can’t miss out on Tasmania). He lived there happily for some time before the Europeans came along in the late 1700’s and bothered to take notice. They figured out he existed, and promptly sent word (and pelt) back to Great Britain, where they had a good laugh at the hilarious joke of an animal that obviously didn’t exist. Good hoax though. I guess I don’t blame them for being sceptical, I haven’t even told you about the venom yet.
The platypus is semi-aquatic, and hunts underwater in rivers and streams. He eats shellfish, insects, and worms…not that strange, right? But here’s the thing: when he goes underwater, he closes his eyes. And his nose. AND his ears. So, how’s he finding the food? You guessed it, he’s got a crazy superpower. Inside his bizarro duck bill, he has electroreceptors. Yup. So add the shark to the list of animals he’s stealing traits from. He can sense the tiny electric currents emitted by the shellfish and insects and worms…he has a special section of his brain dedicated to it, so with nothing better to compare it to, he essentially has electric vision. Um, awesome. And shark.
The platypus’ webbed feet are excellent for swimming, he uses his front feet to paddle, and his back feet and his tail help him steer, and look awesome. He has some nasty skin flaps that come down over his eyes and ears when he’s swimming, keeps the water out. The platypus looks graceful and quite at home in the water, but his excellent swim-dynamics make the platypus rather awkward while on land. He can fold up his webbing a bit, so his claws are better exposed. Still though, when he walks, he pretty much looks like a lizard…which, come to think of it, it’s kind of weird that lizards aren’t better at walking. While we’re on the subject of lizards, platypus eggs are round and leathery…they resemble lizard eggs more than bird eggs. So, lizard.
Platypuses are mammals, as in, has mammary glands, right? Well the platypus has those, that’s all well and good. But she forgot to have teats. So she secretes milk through the pores of her skin, it pools up in her abdomen, and her tiny little hairless lima bean-sized babies lap it up, doing body shots of milk off of mommy for 3-4 months, until they’re big enough to venture out of the little river-side burrow into the water to hunt for themselves. The females also have two ovaries…but only one of them functions. Woops, I guess?
You’re ready to hear about the venom, aren’t you? First off, I will mention that only the males are venomous. Which I think sucks, because it’s not like the fathers are at home in the burrow, defending their babies from predators. Anyways, the male platypus has a venomous barb on each of his BACK feet. Because that’s where you want your venomous barbs, on your back feet, beneath your gigantic beaver tail. They use their venom for defense, it can kill an animal as big as a dog, and is extremely painful to humans. So don’t go around threatening platypuses. Those jerks who used to hunt them for their pelts (illegal now) were sometimes seen with a platypus hanging from their bodies. That’s right, the venomous barb can support the weight of the entire platypus. You want the platypus out of your arm? You take him out yourself. They are also theorized to use their barbs against other males when competing for females during sexy season. I know I would.
Eyeballs, you ask? Yeah, so they have double cones, trying once again, to prove that they aren’t mammals. You know who has double cones? Fish and reptiles and birds. And not mammals. Basically, the platypus has eyes that have more in common with a deep water fish than with a mammal. So, hagfish.
I’ll leave you with one final fact to remember the duck-billed platypus by: He stores fat reserves in his TAIL. So, tasmanian devil.
So we’ve finally answered the age-old question: What do you get when you cross an otter, beaver, duck, shark, lizard, hagfish, and tasmanian devil? Absolute perfection.