Platypus is a representative of the monotremes, which are the missing link in evolution between reptiles and mammals. It's an endemic species living only in Australia and Tasmania. Animal has the surreal appearance of a hybrid created from a combination of beaver, duck and otter. It is proof of the immense power of evolution and nature in general.
Monotremes are an order of primitive oviparous mammals.
Their Latin name - Monotremata refers to the fact that their digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems share a common duct named cloaca.
Monotremes are the missing link between reptiles and mammals.
They separated from reptiles in the Mesozoic Era (200-160 million years ago) and inhabited the supercontinent of Gondwana. Fossilized bones of monotremes were found not only in Australia, but also in South America. They were larger than those living today, could reach up to a meter in length.
The Ornithorhynchidae family, to which the Platypus belongs, appeared in Australia about 15 million years ago.
Nowadays they live on the east coast of Australia and in Tasmania.
It is an endemic and semiaquatic species.
Water is natural habitat for those animals. They can be found in small, turbid rivers and streams, but also on the Tasmanian hills, in the Australian Alps, in tropical equatorial forests off the coast of Queensland and in the northern part of the York Peninsula.
The Platypus was heard of in Europe in 1798, when the second governor of New South Wales, John Hunter, sent a pelt of an Aboriginal hunted pecker to Britain.
British scientists did not believe in the authenticity of the specimen, it was even assumed to have been crafted by an extremely skilled Asian taxidermist, by sewing a duck's beak onto the body of a beaver.
The first description of the animal was made by George Shaw, describing it as a most unusual mammalian specimen.
The animal was given the official scientific name Ornithorhynchus anatinus, which means in Greek "bird's mouth", and from the Latin adjective anatinus - "duck".
The Platypus is a small animal.
Its body length ranges from 45-60 cm (males 45-60 cm and females 43 cm). Its weight, on the other hand, varies from 1 to 2.4 kg. The platypus' body and flat tail are covered with thick brown fur that retains heat. The fur has the ability to fluoresce in intense green and blue. The tail stores fat as an energy reserve.
It has a characteristic beak that is large and soft.
It does not act as a mouth, it is a sensory organ, while the mouth is located underneath it. The nostrils are located on the top of the beak.
The eyes and ears are located in a groove at the back of the nostrils.
When swimming, the groove closes. The entrance to the ear canal is located at the base of the skull.
They have webbed feet.
The legs of the platypus are placed on the sides of the body, which is a reptilian feature of this animal, as mammals have their legs under the body. Another reptilian feature is that the platypus steps on its toe bones on land, so it does not damage its toe membrane. When it moves slowly, its torso touches the ground. It lifts its body when it is in a hurry.
The body temperature of a platypus is about 32 °C (90 °F) which is rather unheard of in other mammals, reaching 37 °C (99 °F)
This is an adaptive trait, resulting from the need to adapt to the conditions of the environment in which they live.
A young platypus has molars that fall out as it begins to explore the environment outside the nest.
In their place appear heavily keratinised pads with which it crushes food. It has cheek-pouches, in which prey is carried to the surface, where it is consumed.
The structure of the platypus' eye indicates that over the years of evolution they have been adapted to an aquatic and nocturnal lifestyle.
The structure of the platypus eye resembles that of sea lions and otters.
The cervical spine of the platypus consists, as in most mammals, of seven cervical vertebrae.
It has cervical ribs and additional bones in the shoulder girdle, such as the interclavicular bone, not found in other mammals, and the coracoid bone (which is well developed in birds, reptiles, and amphibians).
The platypus is well adapted to diving.
These adaptations include:
bradycardia (a condition in which the heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute)
Bohr effect (reducing the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen under conditions of reduced pH).
The platypus breathes using its lungs.
The lungs are not symmetrical. On the right side they consist of two lobes and on the left side they consist of one lobe. Below the lungs is the diaphragm.
A platypus doesn't really have a stomach.
Instead it has separate pouch where food collects. Digestion is carried out by the pancreas and the glands of the digestive tract wall.
Platypuses feed primarily on invertebrates that live on the bottom of bodies of water.
In rivers they find shrimp, crayfish, annelids, and insect larvae. They hunt by catching floating specimens or by digging in the bottom of the water body.
Platypuses spend about 12 hours a day foraging for food.
While diving they can stay underwater for about 40 seconds. Between one dive and another platypuses rest above the water surface for about 20 seconds.
They are active during dusk and night.
During the day, they can only be found when the sky is clouded over.
The territory of the adult platypus covers an area of about 7 km².
Platypuses live in oval-shaped burrows located near the water surface.
They have many natural enemies: eagles, owls, hawks, snakes, warblers, crocodiles and hydromys.
Platypuses are not an endangered species, their mortality rate is not high, but nevertheless they are under protection.
Platypuses are equipped with electroreceptors, which makes them a phenomenon among modern mammals.
Thanks to them, they track their prey through changes in the electric field. The platypus can perceive electrical stimuli from the environment, just like sharks. Electroreceptors are located in its skin's special grooves. The beak determines the source of the electric field by comparing differences in signal strength between different receptors. This is evidenced by the fact that during the hunt it moves its head from side to side and "calculates" the distance to the prey. It uses neither smell nor sight during the hunt.
They developed special spurs on the ankles of their hind legs from which venom is secreted.
Only males possess the toxin. Females pose no threat because their spurs disappear before the first year of life. The venom is not lethal to humans, but the sting causes severe pain, making normal functioning impossible. After a sting, swelling appears around the wound, spreading to the entire limb. Venom production increases during the reproductive period of platypus and it is believed that males use the toxin to assert their dominance rather than to kill the intruder.
Another feature typical of reptiles found in platypuses is the presence of a cloaca.
It is connected to both the intestine and the reproductive system. They have no scrotum, the testicles do not descend and are located in the abdomen.
The platypus has a large brain.
Observations of platypuses have shown that they can be both sedentary and migratory animals.
Platypuses lay eggs, which is also a trait inherited after reptilian ancestors.
The breeding season lasts from June to October. During breeding, females build a new burrow up to 20 m deep, with features blocking access to the rest of the den. The inside of the burrow is covered with wet leaves and reeds (the female bears the leaves by holding them under her tail). The female has two ovaries, but only one is active. In one litter she lays from 1-3 small eggs with leathery shells. Their diameter is about 11 mm. The female hatches the eggs for about 10 days and warms them by wrapping herself around them. After 10 days, blind and bald young hatch and are fed with milk produced not by the nipples, but through pores in the skin from which the milk comes out. The milk feeding continues for 3-4 months and after this time the juveniles leave the burrow.
Platypuses live up to 11 years in the wild and up to 17 in captivity.
In reserves, the platypus can be seen in special aquariums, as of 2013 only in Australia.
Until the early 20th century, platypuses were eagerly hunted for their fur.
Today they are protected throughout their territories.
The image of a platypus is featured on the reverse of the Australian 20-cent coin.
The platypus character is used in the American cartoon Phineas and Ferb, created by The Walt Disney Company.
Perry the Platypus is one of the main characters in this television series.