In the Swim

Shaped kind of like a furry football, the platypus is a skilled swimmer. Its shape helps it dive deep and slice through the water quickly, in search of shellfish, worms, and small insects. 

A platypus is powered by rapid paddling, using its front webbed feet. The back feet are used, along with the flat, beaver-like tail, for steering and braking. The combination of body shape, webbed feet, slick fur, and flat tail allow the pudgy platypus to move gracefully underwater.

The platypus may feel most at home in the water.

This platypus's big webbed feet help propel it through the water.

The platypus’s versatile feet help it both on land and in water. 

front foot

Transformer Toes

The front feet of a platypus are built for both water and land. In the water, extra skin between the sharp-clawed toes stretches out to create a broad paddle. The extra surface area gives the animal a powerful push in the water.

On land, the feet transform. The webbing is retracted. The sharp toes stretch beyond the skin. This allows the platypus to walk on land and dig its claws into dirt.

The back feet are not convertible like the front ones, but they are remarkable. They have webbing that allows the platypus to steer and brake in the water. On land, they use their back toes and claws for grooming. 

Male platypuses have an extra surprise in their back feet. Hollow heel spikes are loaded with a painful venom! They use these poisonous weapons when fighting for females and for territory. Though not deadly, the venom can cause the unlucky recipient wicked pain and swelling
for weeks.

Male platypuses have hollow spikes on their back heels. They are filled with venom. The males fight each other over females and territory. 

The platypus’s tail helps it swim. It also stores fat. 

Tale of a Tail

Though it looks like a beaver tail, a platypus tail is not used for paddling or communication. The flat tail is really a body fat storage tank. When food is hard to come by, the fatty tail, which can hold almost half of the animal’s body fat, can be a lifesaver.

Now See This

A platypus’s eyes are loaded with extra color receptors. Yet, it does not use its eyes for hunting. These receptors are needed at the water’s surface or on land to better spot predators. 

When it dives deep, it closes its eyes tightly. The fur on its eyelids is much lighter than the brown fur covering the rest of its body. This gives the appearance that its eyes glow in the dark!

With sensitive duck‑billed schnozzes, retractable toe webbing, and poisonous heel spikes, the platypus has many adaptations that have been shaped over millions of years. Though these traits may seem like an odd combination to us, this mishmash mammal is a survival
success story.

Lighter fur on its eyelids make this platypus’s eyes seem to glow when closed underwater.