The platypus’s skeleton is similar to a lizard’s.
All in the Family
Found only in Australia, platypuses are a part of a group of egg-laying mammals called monotremes.
Millions of years ago, there were quite a few species of reptile-like mammals. They had characteristics of today’s reptiles, birds, and mammals.
They had fur and nursed their babies like mammals. Their faces had bird beaks. Their skeletons had the shape and stance of lizards, and like lizards and birds, they laid eggs. Hundreds of millions of years ago, these animal species began to divide into three groups: mammals, birds,
Over time, most egg-laying mammals died off. Today, there are only two egg-laying mammals left in the world: the platypus and the echidna. The echidna, a distant cousin of the anteater, is found in Australia and New Guinea.
The first thing you notice about the platypus is that it has the face of a duck. Yet, its bill is unlike any bird beak out there. It is flexible and spongy and covered with smooth, suede-like skin. Packed with three kinds of nerve cells to sense pressure, movement, and electricity, this bill is a super sensory organ that helps the platypus feel its way around the murky underwater world.
The bill has tens of thousands of sensory receptors known as push rods that are activated by pressure or touch. They are so sensitive that they can detect the slightest movements in the water, such as when insect larvae or shrimps move from
20 centimeters (7.8 inches) away.
Platypuses are found only in Australia.
new south wales
In addition to the push rods, the platypus bill is heavily speckled with two more types of nerve receptors. They are fine-tuned to detect tiny electrical signals produced by the muscles in the bodies of their prey. So, even if larvae or shrimps are hiding, they don’t stand a chance. A platypus can find them.
The sensitive bill on the platypus looks like a duck’s bill.
A platypus has no teeth, but that doesn’t stop it from crunching up its food. It scoops up a meal with a mouthful of river-bottom gravel. It swims to the surface to grind it all together. The pebbles help crush the food into a tasty mash. It swallows the food and spits out the stones.
Stomachs are acidic pouches in the gut that help animals digest their food. Weirdly, platypuses do not have a functioning stomach. They aren’t the only ones without a stomach. About a quarter of all fish have a throat that connects directly to their intestines.
Webbed toes help form a paddle for propelling the platypus through the water.
Waterproof and Warm
Being waterproof and warm is necessary for the platypus’s survival. Every day—even in cold winter—the platypus goes diving for food. The cold water might soak through an animal’s fur and take away their body heat. But not for the platypus. It has a handy hairy adaptation. It is covered head-to-toe in thick, two-layered fur that keeps heat in and water out.
Fine hairs are jam-packed together to make up a woolly undercoat. On top of this dense layer is a second layer made up of longer, flat guard hairs. Air is trapped between the layers. This traps heat next to the skin, keeping the animal warm and surprisingly dry, even underwater.