Platypus

The Flat-Footed Egg Laying Mammal

What?
The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is often prefixed with the adjective 'duck-billed' though there is only one species of platypus. This unique animal is a nocturnal, half-aquatic monotreme (primitive egg laying mammal), found only in Australia and Tasmania.

About
The word platypus means 'flat feet' in Greek. It has a 2 in wide bill, webbed feet, a furry tail, and a 2 ft long body. The bill is a stream-lined nose and mouth for sniffing and snuffling up pond-bottom delicacies like shrimp! The flat, furry tail stores fat for the winter.

It thrives in the deciduous forests of Australia. It lives in burrows and spends much of its time in freshwater streams and ponds. The Platypus is one of the few mammals known to have a sense of electroreception: it locates its prey in part by detecting body electricity. The males have poison, in spurs on their hind legs, which is used to inflict wounds on natural enemies and other males.

Why?
The platypus and the echidna, are the only egg-laying mammals to be found on Earth. They have body temperatures lower than that of mammals, and have legs which extend out and then vertically below them. These features makes monotremes appear more like lizards than mammals. The platypus is one of the unique symbols of Australia (along with the kangaroo and the koala) and is featured on the Australian 20 cent coin.

Your chances of seeing one in the wild
The platypus is protected throughout Australia and is widespread in eastern Australia. The species does not face immediate extinction but is vulnerable as it is sensitive to water pollution caused by damming and drainage.
Duck-billed platypus (<i>Ornithorhynchus anatinus</i>), Australia. / ©: WWF-Canon / Frédy MERCAY
Duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), Australia.
© WWF-Canon / Frédy MERCAY

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